In reading your super thoughtful comments on my last post I realized something important. I left out the biggest obstacle that I’m up against.
As much as it feels comfortable to focus my attention on scheduling challenges and nap times, those things are nothing in the face of the real problem. They certainly don’t make life easier, but as you guys so rightly pointed out, they can be worked around. What I haven’t found a way to work around is me.
My wife and I have talked the No Mama Time problem to death (sorry honey) and have generated long lists of possible solutions. Unfortunately my brand of crazy makes every.single.one not really workable. A few examples to give you the flavor:
- Sure, I could let you handle bath and bedtime for both boys, but if I’m not doing that shouldn’t I be (insert chore here)?
- Yeah, I would love to have a Saturday morning to myself but we only get so much family time and wouldn’t it be better to just spend that time together? At some point they’re not going to want to hang out with us anymore.
I am sure to talk myself out of every idea we can dream up. It’s maddening. There’s a few things that contribute to this kind of crazy. Things like perfectionism, a tendency to see things as very black and white when problem solving about something anxiety-provoking, and worst of all….. A deeply held (seemingly unshakable) belief that it is my duty on this Earth to love and care for people. Unfortunately, I do not count as other people.
Now, don’t let this fool you. I am not saying that I am a lesbian, non-Catholic Mother Theresa. Not by a long shot. I’m saying that I have been known to focus my attention on other people’s needs as a way to avoid my own. I am also saying that down deep I believe that I have to make people love me (hats off to the Enneagram for helping me figure that one out). The way I’ve always done that is by helping everyone else meet their needs while having no needs of my own. Brilliant, don’t you think?
I see now that the only way I was ever able to make this even marginally work was by narrowing the field of people in my life (you can only force so many people to love you after all) and having plenty of time at my disposal. This strategy allowed me to care for a few people well AND still have time to care for myself. Then…we had kids.
As it turns out, having small children is the perfect storm for this kind of crazy. It is IMPOSSIBLE to hang on to this strategy with two kids and a wife. I will never be able to meet everyone’s needs perfectly. It’s not possible and it’s not even best for their own growth. I’m going to have to let this go, but it’s not easy. My head is entirely clear on the matter. My head knows that of course I have needs just like everyone does and that is perfectly as it should be. My head also knows that I am not actually responsible for the way other people feel. My heart feels otherwise. I experience real panic when I think about taking time away to do something wholly for myself. My heart says there is real danger there.
- What if I get out of the house and so my wife misses her run and she’s out of sorts and unhappy?
- What if the place looks like a tornado hit and it puts everyone on edge?
- What if the boys or my wife feel like I’m ignoring them?
It’s clear to anyone with some sense that none of these what-if scenarios are catastrophic, but they can feel that way to me when I’m at a low point.
The bottom line is that I’ve got to get past this. I want it for myself and I want it for my boys. This is not the model of self-care that I want to embody. Also, I’m just getting to old for it. I’ve been peeling back the layers on this one for the last fifteen years and really….enough analysis already. It’s time to trust my family to love me simply bc I’m me and to trust myself enough to acknowledge my own vulnerable human-ness. It’s time to grow up.
***I am happy to report that I’m writing this at the coffee shop while my wife manages Yogi’s nap and Monkey’s who-knows-what. Baby steps, right?
** Also, thanks for wading through all of this with me.