For me, chocolate is a food group. It is my go-to, feel-good solution to whatever ails me. I am aware that in this respect I am a commercialized stereotype of a woman, but I own it. So, you are now forewarned that you should never leave your chocolate unattended around me (while I have started to become much more of a chocolate snob, your average Hershey’s bar would still be devoured in a fraction of a second). That is, until now.
I am two months into what looks to be a year without chocolate. I have not done this to myself out of some desire to test my willpower or some sort of spiritual deprivation practice. It’s not even for health reasons. Well, not my own. The simple fact is that my newborn daughter howls in agony every time I eat chocolate. She spits up. Prolifically. It’s like a waterfall. For two days. What choice do I have? I intend to nurse her for a year and if this sensitivity doesn’t clear up before then, I will be spending the year away from my beloved (a little melodramatic, I know). I am also currently off dairy, eggs, nuts, coffee, and wheat, though dairy and wheat are not kind to me so I have been off them for some time. This means that one of my favorite foods, Nutella, is verboten as it contains three offensive ingredients. Insert sad face here.
I have made light of it, but as we sat around collectively trying to come up with a permissible dessert for Mother’s Day, I got a few, “You poor thing,” and “The sacrifices we mothers make,” comments. These got me thinking. Is it really a sacrifice to go without chocolate for a year? Or nuts, dairy, etc.?
Our culture seems to be a bit obsessed with the idea that we must and do sacrifice every day. “Don’t sacrifice taste,” “No pain, no gain,” “Pay your dues.” These are messages that bombard us on a regular basis. Are we really sacrificing this much? How can we possibly be happy in our lives if each choice is a sacrifice? What does this say about motherhood? Can we enjoy it, really, blissfully enjoy it if it is such a sacrifice?
The definition of sacrifice is:
The act of offering something to a deity in propitiation or homage, especially the ritual slaughter of an animal or a person.
b. A victim offered in this way.
Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
b. Something so forfeited.
Relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value.
b. Something so relinquished.
c. A loss so sustained.
My foregoing chocolate obviously does not rise to the level of ritualistic animal slaughter (thank goodness because I hear that is a messy business and I can barely keep this place clean as it is). That is the obvious one. But, I can’t say that it rises to the level of any of the other definitions either. I am not relinquishing chocolate at less than its presumed value. What I get in return is so much greater. Who would willingly watch their child suffer? Moreover, when I get up in the night (many, many times) to feed my daughter or my husband gets up to check on our son, those hours of sleep, while precious, are not worth more than the nourishment and comfort our children receive from those acts. Likewise, the money we spend on our children instead of the international travel I am itching to do is not worth more than their care. If we valued our sleep and money over the alternatives, we would not have had children. And many people make that choice and good for them for knowing their hearts.
I note all of this because I think in many ways we have become or are drifting towards a society of victims. Terrible things befall us all the time if the commercials and news are to be believed. This is in no way meant to belittle the truly terrible things that have been happening to people, rather I think we need to make a distinction between what is awful and what is simply what it is. Would it be nice if babies slept for 12 hours through the night right away. Absolutely. Is it asacrificeto get up with them? I don’t think so. It’s not fun, but it is what it is. It’s part of the package I signed up for.
Having refreshed my recollection on the definition of sacrifice has been a really helpful personal exercise for me. I had forgotten just how serious and sacred a sacrifice really is. It is easy to do that when you let other people define words for you. My contract with my children is something I consider sacred, and there will be nights or even days when tending to them will feel like offering myself up as a sacrifice to a little, vengeful deity. But, knowing the real meaning of the word will help me keep me duties in perspective and help me keep a smile on my face as I do the less fun things, without chocolate.
So, if I mention my sundry dietary restrictions or my incredible lack of sleep, please commiserate with me. But, please don’t refer to it as a sacrifice. Or I will have to school you. And then I might end up a sacrifice. A terrible chain of events would ensue from there, so I’ll just leave it here where we are happy and literate friends.