I’ve been finding it difficult to go through cancer and at the same time be a caretaker to my two children. There are so many things that were once just part of the routine that I don’t want to do – referee fights, help with or monitor homework, cook meals, deal with teen aged attitudes. Let’s face it, I just want to be the Disney mom; the one who does the fun stuff with fun kids.
All of this goes against who I’ve been as a parent and a wife. This isn’t to say I’ve been the epitome of the perfect mother, the always devoted wife, the one who gives up everything for her family. Because I haven’t, and I’ve often had to struggle because I thought I wasn’t enough of those things. I love my husband, but I’ve not taken on the roll of waiting on him, or even letting him be the only one who wears the pants. I adore my kids and have liked day to day life with them, but I’ve always needed my “me” time. And yet, our family has always been the number 1 priority. It’s part of the reasons why I’ve not worked full time since the kids were born. Its the reason I chose my husband (besides his dashing good looks): I knew that family was his priority, too.
I’ve been feeling a lot of guilt over what I can or can’t do, over what I want or don’t want to do. I feel guilty about taking more of the family resources, whether it is cash to buy plane tickets or flying to retreats by myself, leaving the family at home. I’m doing some fun stuff, and they’re not. I feel that I should still be able to take care of everything, but in reality, I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed by the needs of my kids and, to a lesser extent, the wants of my husband. When I become overwhelmed, I start to retreat from my family. I become more disconnected. I can see the disappointment in my kids, especially my daughter. What I’d like to do is spend time watching Doctor Who with them, or painting watercolors with my daughter, or just hanging out with them. Just being fun.
I spent the past weekend at a cancer retreat at Harmony Hill in Washington. (I’ll write more about that in another post.) The participants, volunteers and faculty were all incredibly supportive, and gave me a lot of advice about how to deal with this struggle. The main piece of advice I got was to say “No.” Instead of accepting a responsibility I don’t want to take on, doing it half assed or not doing it at all, and then seeing the disappointment from my family, instead let them know, “No, I cannot do that.” The advice is so difficult to take and use. Aren’t we moms supposed to do everything, in high heels, and backwards? And do it with all possible grace and flair?
But then I came home, and yesterday, after school, when I was completely wiped out, hands and feet hurting so much, my son approached me about making a costume for homecoming week. He wanted to go buy things somewhere, and all I wanted to do was lie on the sofa to try to recharge. And what did I tell him? “No. I can’t take you out. I am too tired. Why don’t you look in the closet and in the shed in the yard for something you can use?” And he did. And we spent the next hour talking about what he wanted to make and how he was going to make it. We’d discuss a step, he’d go do the work while I snoozed a bit more, then he’d come back and we’d move on to the next step. We accomplished what he wanted, and I was able to do what I needed to do to take care of myself. Amazing!
I also have the worlds best husband, who was initially a bit freaked out by what my saying “No” might mean. After a little bit of discussion, he realized it just means that he might have to take on a few more responsibilities, become less of the fun time dad. And he’s totally up to that.
My job now is to make sure that I’m taking care of myself, too.