Thursday, July 09, 2009

Maternal Guilt: Inevitable

I've never had trouble feeling guilty when doing things that I felt were important to do for my children, but taking care of myself even when they want me not to sure does cause me some difficulty.

Today my 11 year old came to me tearfully to ask if he could accompany me to my grandmother's funeral. My husband and I had already made the decision for me to go alone for several reasons which include an out of state trip, not very good accommodations for our size family, my husband's work schedule, finances, my daughter's pet sitting gig which is ongoing during the time we'd need to be gone, and so on. In addition, in nearly 17 year of parenthood I've never gotten to visit with my mom, siblings, or extended family without my children around. Not that having my children around is a bad thing, but I have been looking forward to doing some visiting that is all adults and without me having to constantly be doing or thinking about doing for my children. Meals, clothing, sleeping arrangements, entertainment, supervision, etc. all take a lot of energy. I was already low on that, and grieving for my grandmother doesn't exactly energize me. Nor will a 13 hour drive to New York.

So it all makes sense. I'm going alone. The kids are staying home.

Except that I have a tearful little boy that loved his great grandmother and feels that he would like to attend the funeral.

And then I feel guilty. Perhaps I should be willing to do the extra work to give my kids this opportunity. Perhaps nothing should stand in the way of every family member making the journey to the funeral and participating. Perhaps I am too selfish to not want to have to play whack-a-mole at bedtime while trying to stay in my uncle's smallish home with 6 other people.

I could say yes to this one child. Except that there is no way that would be the end of it. Other children would want to come as well, and next thing you know I'd be on the road with the back seats full of squabbling children asking how long til we stop at Cracker Barrel. (ask me how I know. I took three kids with me to visit my grandmother in May. I'm glad they got to see her one last time, but it was an experience that left me saying, "Next time, No Way. I'm going alone."


In trying to explain to my husband that I just need a break, he says he understands, yet doesn't really seem to accept it. Once again I find myself wondering why it is that it is not automatically taken for granted that normal, healthy, decent, good, loving mothers and wives would also like some time off. When a single person or pair of childless yuppies wants to get away from their normal life that is seen as normal. When a mother wants to get away from her normal life, she is seen as "wanting to leave" her family. What the heck is up with that?

My husband actually said to me, "I'll try to figure out how to help you get some more breaks so you can get away from us."

Don't you just love the passive aggressive message embedded in there?!

(I will give credit where it is due: He called to apologize and said that he really did understand. I will try to believe him.)

It is crap like this that causes me to remember that it is no wonder that mothers suffer from depression, exhaustion, and similar ailments. So many messages tell us that once we are mothers we are on lock-down, no longer free to care for ourselves without a hefty price tag of guilt. It makes sense to me that I, like so many others, have gotten to the end of my rope at times. The whole thing turns into a warped scene where you can't get a break unless your life literally depends on it. (Hopefully your break won't need to be at Shady Acres. But it might.)

I have been thinking a lot over the past couple months about being a warrior as a mother. Fighting for what is best for my children, even when it is costly, frightening, and exhausting. I've done it. I do it. I will continue it.

For the past several days I have been looking toward my grandmother's funeral and have been thinking of needing to be a warrior to speak up and offer a tribute worthy of this amazing woman who has meant so much to me and our entire extended family. I may stand up there and cry like crazy, but I'm unwilling to let the opportunity go by.

Today I am thinking that at some point I have to be able to stand up with confidence and be a warrior on behalf of my own needs. Yes, it always has to be couched with wisdom and the realization that once you are married and a parent your life is never really your own any more. But I know that there have got to be ways for me to care for myself without having to get to the end of my rope. It will help me be a better version of myself, and better for everyone that is in my life.

And still I feel conflicted about saying no and driving away solo...


SiouxsieQ said...


Anonymous said...

Goodness knows that we all feel guilty most of the time as wives and moms in my estimation. I know I do...and it is something I've really started to work on. You have nothing to feel guilty about! We all need time to ourselves to replenish our reserves to that we do have something to give to our families. I'm going to tell you something that is not a very popular message in many evangelical circles...YOU DESERVE IT!