As a woman and a mom, I know what it is to give of myself.
As a young parent, I gave of myself in giving birth to and caring for my newborn children. I gave of my sleep, of my time, and of my energy. Over the years I gave of myself in going with out so they could have, canceling appointments and commitments so that they could be where they needed to be, and exchanging wants for needs that fit the family and not my own personal preference. I gave of myself as I moved from state to state with Mr. Mom of Many Hats as he moved up the corporate ladder. Believe me, I know what it is to give.
There is a difference in this giving of self that is a part of my everydayness and selfless giving. In all of the giving of self that I have done, there has been some sort of reward in it for me. I am rewarded for the care, sacrifice and giving to my children by the smiles, thank yous, and joy in seeing them become successful and empathetic young women. I have been rewarded in my halfway across country moves and back by seeing new places, growing closer with my kids and husband, and a quality of life that I have been fortunate to have. In my giving I was rewarded.
Selfless giving on the other hand is something very different. In selfless giving, there is no reward and no expectation of anything in return. There are no pats on the back or exchange of benefit. Is done simply as a gesture of good will, caring, and love by the giver. My daughter- my middle baby hat recently modeled selfless giving to me.
Baby Hat B is about to enter her junior year in high school. (If you've had a daughter, you know that this is the time of their teenage years that appearance becomes important and part of their identity. )She had been growing her hair for almost two years. It was a long and lovely set of locks. Even though she had put so much effort into growing it, she made a sacrifice for the benefit of others through it. She went online and researched how to donate to Locks of Love , an organization that supports cancer patients through providing hair to replace what they have lost as a result of treatment. She went to the salon along with her information and had her hair put in two ponytails. After a few cuts, the stylist had two bunches of my beautiful B's hair bundled and ready to be sent to look beautiful on someone who had lost their hair to the ravages of cancer.
Her choice was a selfless act of giving with no expectation of reward or gain. Although she knows the recipient will be thankful, she will never see the person who benefits from her hair and get a "thank you" in person. When she got home after her hair cut, she simply posted on her Facebook status "Got my hair cut", not even mentioning her donation nor wanting recognition for it(although I admit, I was so proud of her that I posted it on my status.) Her actions were done out of goodwill, and care for others.
It is funny that in my Fortyness, after all my years of "giving", I strive to be a better giver. Although I will always continue to be for and give of myself for my family, I want to be the person that isn't made smaller and lessened by the "sacrifices" , and expecting some sort of gain for it. I want to be like my daughter - the person that gives selflessly with no expectation of accolades.
Although our forties are a time when we think we should reap the rewards of what we have given to life so far, it is also a time of life that we should realize how much more life we have, and how much more we have to give; to give without expectation of return. It is a time to not focus on what we can gain by our actions, but by how we can impact by them. In Fortyness, it is the time give not because we are obligated, but because we can and should - a time to be intentionally selfless.