By Jennifer Robinson
Shel Silverstein’s iconic book “The Giving Tree” tells the story of a boy and his life-long relationship with a tree. Depending upon your interpretation, the plot of the story depicts the boy taking and taking from the tree until she is depleted… or, the tree giving and giving to the boy until she is depleted. Either way, she ends-up as a stump.
Whether you view this story as one about the beauty of unconditional love and giving, or as a cautionary tale about not taking too much, I encourage mothers to look at it as a call-to-care for themselves. Like a tree, if we nurture and nourish ourselves, we can continue to give and love unconditionally!
I know this is not one of the more conventional interpretations of this book. But, my view of this comes from my evolution as mother. When I first read this book to my children when they were little I was honestly a bit horrified! I remembered loving Shel Silverstein’s writings when I was a child. I remembered the book as a love story. As a mother, I was almost agast at Silverstein’s depiction of a tree that gives and gives until she has very little left to give.
Now that they are teens, I see the parable of the tree very differently. When my children were little I was struggling to balance my career ambitions as an instructor at a major university with my parenting ambitions to be as present with my children as possible. Because of my mindset at the time I was feeling depleted. I was feeling like the tree who was not only giving to a boy, but to hundreds of students, my own children, my husband, my friends and my extended family! My branches were definitely bare!
Let’s fast-forward 10 years. I am now a life and wellness coach who supports other women to learn how to keep their branches full. I learned – sometimes the hard way, LOL – that nurturing and nourishing myself helps me to be the giving tree that I love to be while not feeling depleted!
Just like a tree, which is nurtured by water and nourished by sunlight, we too can thrive and be strong by taking good care of ourselves!
Mindfulness as Self-Care
What I learned, (and now use on a daily basis) for self-nuture and nourishment is the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of fully living in the present moment. This does not mean that you don’t think about the future or the past. It means that you do not worry about the future or regret the past. The key to mindfulness is to be in a place of acceptance without judgment.
The beauty of this is that mindfulness and self-nurture go hand-in-hand. Here are my top three suggestions for easily bringing mindful self-nurture into your life:
- Find a place to learn more about mindfulness and how to bring it into your life. Charleston is blessed with an abundance of yoga & meditation studios, and even a few wellness centers, where you can find classes and workshops. My favorite is Still Soul Meditation Studio on King Street. But, I have only had positive experiences at all of the studios I have visited.
- Spend time with treasured friends – without your children present. I know this one is a little harder to wrap your mind around… especially if you have little children. But, it is VERY important to do this! Yes, spending time at playdates with your friends and their children is fun. But, it is very challenging to be fully present with your friends if you are constantly being distracted by your children. Research indicates that being present in social connection with like-minded, positive people is one of the best forms of stress-reduction. And stress-reduction is essential for good health! It’s OK to have that “mom’s night out!”
- Spend time in nature. Again, both psychology and epidemiology research show that spending time outdoors in a natural setting is a top stress-reducer. We are very lucky here in Charleston to live in a beautiful place! From the beaches to the parks to the creeks to the walk/ bike trails we have many opportunities to commune with nature! My favorites are the beach at Sullivan’s Island and the hiking trail around Old Santee Canal Park in Monks Corner.
At the end of “The Giving Tree,” the tree provides a stump for the boy turned old man to sit on. The tree is happy to be providing this to the boy. As humans, if we allow ourselves to be depleted to point where we are just stumps we will not thrive emotionally or physically.
Nurture and nourish yourselves, mamas! You will be strong and flourishing like our grand Lowcountry live oaks!
Jen Robinson is the creative force behind the wellness brand Peaceful Living Wellness, which is dedicated to providing a wide-variety of high-quality wellness information. Jen is also the creator of the Peaceful Living Wellness life coaching division, Empowered Through Peace, and offers workshops , group coaching and retreats. The most important part of Jen’s life are her two very active teenagers, AJ and Layna.