This is a submission in our monthly contest. December’s theme is Growth. Enter your own here!

Laying on the paper-covered vinyl exam table I stared up at the ceiling pretending I was anywhere else.

The doctor came in and we made small talk above the muzak, all the while pretending things were not about to get incredibly personal. We caught up since last year’s appointment about the kids and work and life when I said, “It’s kind of sad when this is my break.” We both laughed and nodded as if it were a joke. But the words left a bitter taste in my mouth as my mind turned them around and around.

When had my annual gynecology exam become a break to look forward to?

As I got dressed and left the office the words kept spinning. I wanted so much to point the finger and blame someone. Clearly, this was because of the kids. Or how much is required of me in the house. Or maybe it was my husband’s fault that I got to this point. Or all of those expectations from family and friends and the PTO and the list never ends. Every time I tried to point the finger at someone else I had a deeper realization that I allowed this to happen.

I was not a victim of life; my interests, personality, and voice helpless casualties. I had made a series of little choices each day that brought me to this place.

So, I decided to take a step.

Now, please brace yourself because my step may, in fact, feel huge and dramatic.

I cooked butternut squash.

I told you … huge. But it was. Because I’m the only one in my family that eats it. No one else likes it, so buying that squash and cooking that squash was a singular decision for me. And it felt delicious.

Since the day of the squash, I have progressed a bit. I’ve gone for walks all alone, without even dealing with taking the dogs. I’ve gotten the tea I love or walked through a store I like. Just a few weeks ago I went to get a pedicure all by myself because I wanted to and I knew it was something just for me.

Now, before you start thinking I’m that crazy mom that puts herself before her kids, let me tell you what happens each and every time I do something for myself.

I’m a better version of me. I have more patience, smile more, and find myself more plugged in to my kids, husband and tasks before me. These benefits alone would be enough, but there’s more.

Doing little things just for me shows my family (and myself) that I consider myself valuable and worthy of happiness. It models how to love people well, including myself. It reminds me and everyone around me that before God made me a wife and a mother, He made me Becky, and she matters.

In her book “The Fringe Hours,” author Jessica Turner describes why putting yourself last on the list (or not on the list at all) is dangerous for everyone: “As women, we have a tendency to put ourselves last, caring for everyone and everything above ourselves. This approach will slowly suck the life out of us, and eventually we will be so empty that we will not be able to do anything well.”

Choosing yourself isn’t selfish. Choosing yourself fortifies you to better love and serve others.

I want to parent well. I want to be the best wife I can be. I want to do well at the tasks before me. Making time for things that make me happy and rejuvenate me will only help me be a better version of myself.