Like many women I know, I have frequently given up meeting my own needs in order to meet the needs of others. Even after committing to speaking up nineteen years ago after I experienced a breakdown, it’s been a work in progress to prioritize myself and run the risk of disappointing others. Many times I’ve succeeded in doing so. Other times, I’ve feared their disapproval. Thankfully, over the years I’ve found that I’m increasingly able to put my needs first when it comes to strangers, acquaintances, and friends. However, a recent experience has shown me that I still have some work to do in order to be able to choose me while possibly upsetting a loved one, especially one of my grown children.
With Covid thwarting our hopes for an indoor winter wedding, in September my fiancé and I decided to have a private outdoor ceremony while the weather was still warm. After much deliberation, we decided to go ahead with a simple wedding on the deck of my cottage despite the fact that, due to Covid, two of our children couldn’t be with us. Only one of my daughters, her boyfriend, and our officiant would join us in person whilst our two other kids, siblings, and moms would watch via Zoom.
It wasn’t easy to go ahead with the wedding while knowing that feelings might be hurt. In fact, I lost sleep over our decision and worried that my Toronto-based daughter would be deeply upset at not being able to join me for this important day. For my part, I felt sad that she wouldn’t be present as my bridesmaid along with her sister. However, I took comfort in the fact that she’d be able to attend via Zoom. Moreover, we decided that we’d celebrate our union again in the future, once all our children and other loved ones could be physically present. In any case, I knew in my heart that I just wanted to be married to my love and that the time was right for us in our hearts to become husband and wife.
Well, as it turned out, my daughter was understandably upset. Yet I held firm. In the days leading up to the little informal ceremony I invited my daughter to speak at the wedding and included her in the planning of the five-person event. Nevertheless, it was hard to know that she was hurting over my decision. Still, I didn’t change my mind.
However, as the day drew nearer I found myself increasingly hoping she’d tell me that she fully supported my decision. I wished that she’d relieve me of the feeling that I was hurting her by not postponing the wedding. I felt that old feeling of needing another’s approval creep into my psyche. Looking back, I feel proud of myself for not caving in and for choosing to do what I wanted to do at the risk of disappointing a daughter whom I love so much. Faced with the choice either of choosing to meet my own needs or of waiting to marry my beloved until some indefinite time in the post-pandemic future, I chose me.
And here’s the thing: I know with every cell in my body that if the tables were turned and she were faced with the same agonizing decision I’d want her to choose herself. Although I’d be terribly sad at missing her special day, I’d be proud to have raised a woman courageous enough to break the deeply entrenched cultural pattern of abnegating herself for the sake of others. I’d feel honored to have a daughter who loved herself enough not to deny her own needs in order to please me.