In The Marriage Sabbatical: The Journey That Brings You Home (Perseus Publishing, $24.00) Cheryl Jarvis interviews women who have taken “time off”—weeks, months—from their marriages in order to do necessary self-exploration, adventuring, dream-following. Because the stereotypes (to say nothing of the bad jokes, and maybe even the reality) associate Jewish mothers with being overly devoted to their children, LILITH offers up these observations from the book as antidote to the chronic and self-eroding focus on the needs of others that characterize many women’s most energetic years.
The only thing we have to offer others—ever—is our own state of being. Many psychologists, Erik Erikson and Abrahani Maslow among them, established that self-care leads to a stronger identity, and a stronger identity makes it easier to give. When we ewe confident in who we are, strong in our talents and filled up within, caring for others becomes easier and more authentic. When we nurture ourselves, care-taking feels like generosity rather than obligation, derives from grace rather than guilt. We can wonder ad infinitum whether we’re being self-nurturant or self-indulgent, but it’s an energy-wasting debate. Since self-nurturance means “caring for ourselves” and self-indulgence means “giving way to our desires,” what difference does it make’.” Let’s just call it self-indulgence and ask a different question: What’s wrong with self-indulgence’? If a woman spends a good part of her life for ten, twenty, or thirty years caring for others, and taking time out for herself helps her to spend another ten, twenty, or thirty years caring for others, maybe self-indulgence Is exactly what more women need in their lives. In good relationships, people take care of each other and themselves, yet during the long, stressful years of raising children, few married mothers spend on themselves—even once—the energy, the time, the money, the care they lavish so freely and consistently upon those they love. Until I researched this book, I’d never known a married mother who had.