On Facebook today I asked people to comment on their thoughts around the word “selfless.” The answers have been entertaining and interesting. Anyone is free to friend me on Facebook and also join the conversation. I asked the question because I am teaching a workshop on this topic on Wednesday and I wanted to take an informal survey of my peers. As mothers, the word “selfless” brings up a complicated bag of emotions. We give so much in terms of time, energy and emotional resources. Everywhere we look, there are products and services telling us how we can “take time” for ourselves, as if spending a day at the spa will solve all of our problems. We all know, of course, that it may temporarily renew our soul, but a new parental challenge always lurks around the corner. It’s the nature of this life we have chosen. Instead of forever looking outside myself for sources that are going to bring me peace in the midst of the lastest crazy sibling fight (today it is over the lego hat that everybody seems to want), I make a conscious effort to find that eternal spring of self-renewal within my internal stores. That doesn’t mean I never take a day off, or hour, or 30-seconds if I can be by myself in the bathroom for that long, it just means that I practice selfless parenting as a modus operandi. I can only define what this means for myself. Everyone will have an opinion based on a set of life-circumstances that are completely his or her own. My philosophy about selfless parenting is that it takes a certain amount of putting oneself in another man’s shoes (in this case, the shoes of a 2, 4 and 6 year old) to acquire a level of perspective helpful in the pursuit of paience. When I am selfless, I am taking the energy to act from a place of love, not from my ego (see Barbara Orendi’s comment in the Facebook thread). My ego distracts me with my “issues” that can mean all I see in front of me is stuff I have to deal with – including my children. Instead of just dealing with them, I would like to actually enjoy them. To enjoy them, I need to be able to understand their perspective in any situation and on any day (including today, which is a half day in our school district and means I am trying to work and keep them busy at the same time). To understand their perspective, I need to step out of my own head. To step out of my own head requires a certain amount of selflessness. To practice selfless parenting means to look for the best in my children even on their worst days. It also means that I devote enough time and energy to myself that I can happily devote myself to them during the majority of the hours they spend in my care. Selfless is NOT about being gloomily dutiful. Misery loves company and we all know that a miserable mom makes for miserable kids. My selfless parenting approach makes me want to help my children see the best that is in them. I don’t live for them, nor do I live through them. Instead, I live my life for myself in the most loving way possible. For me, that comes back to selfless. Our lives are equally as important. They need to know that I am there for them. I show that by being there for myself. Selfless parenting is nothing more than loving life no matter how it shows up. Even with a half-day and a ton of work to do, I appreciate each laugh and ride the wave of discontent until somehow, miraculously, the day winds down and we fall to sleep. Tomorrow I will have another opportunity to learn about myself through their words, actions and thoughts about life. That is the definition of selfless parenting. Learning about yourself by paying attention to your kids.