There’s nothing like a close encounter with cancer for focusing the mind.
A dear sister-in-law of mine was recently diagnosed with bowel cancer. She’s much too young and far too sweet to be facing such a terrible disease, and yet she is. With courage and grace to spare. She’s done the hardest bit. She’s noticed the symptoms, taken the tests, faced the diagnosis and come through the surgery. Now she’s doing the second hardest bit; waiting for the pathology results so that she can find out what further treatment, if any, is required.
My darling sister-in-law and I have the best talks. Honest. Open. Real. We discuss the hard stuff, and we’re pretty good at listening to one another. Our chat today got me thinking about one of the special talents that mothers have: noticing what our family members need.
I don’t presume to speak of behalf of all mothers everywhere, but I think that on the whole, we’re pretty good at seeing the signs that one of our family members isn’t quite right. We might notice that one of our children is “coming down with something” before they even know that they’re sick. Even if our husbands aren’t good communicators, it’s pretty clear to us when they’re unhappy at work. We notice when people need haircuts, a kind word, or just an early night. And we try our very best to ensure that our family gets what they need.
Because when it comes right down to it, for most mothers that I know, the following is true: as long as my family is ok, I’ll be ok.
Here are two other thoughts that I think are important:
1. Mothers often forget that for the rest of the family, as long as mum’s ok, they’ll be ok. Mothers forget the importance of their own needs being met. I think it’s good practice for mothers to make sure that they know what they need and how to get it. I also think that it’s good role-modeling for mothers to make their needs explicit (“I’m going to sit down and have a cup of tea now, because I’m tired and thirsty and I need a little break.”) and ask for help if they need it. Mothers who tell their children and husbands what they’re feeling and what they need teach their family members valuable lessons about self care.
2. Though it’s awfully clever that mothers can seemingly read the minds of their family, I don’t think that it’s a good idea for the family to learn to rely on a mother’s insight. I think instead it is a good idea to teach children and husbands to clearly communicate how they’re feeling and what they need. Even if they don’t really know what it is. Everyone should know that it’s ok to say that you don’t feel 100% well but that you’re not exactly sure what’s wrong, or that you’re feeling a bit down but don’t know why. It’s ok to say that you’re feeling frustrated at school or work, even if there’s nothing that mum can do about it. Because everyone, not just mothers, should learn the important skill of making sure that their needs are met.
What do you think? Are you good at getting what you need? Are you good at noticing what others need?