Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Guilt, resentment and the female brain

I am one of those people who always tells new moms that they need to take care of themselves in order to care for other people. I think with just one child, I did a pretty decent job of that and felt OK about taking a moment for me. I remember talking walks, going for a massage every now and then and never having a day without a shower when Peanut was tiny. With a toddler and a newborn, I am finding myself apologizing for taking a moment to take care of me.

The past two days I have said to honey - "I'm going to jump in and take a really fast shower" and he has said - "just take a shower - no need to be speedy". Yesterday, I realized it was only about 20 minutes that I had taken to shower, dress, do my hair and look and feel presentable. 20 minutes! That's nothing! A drop in the bucket in a day or a week. So why do we women feel badly about "taking" 20 minutes for ourselves? I think that is the key - we feel we are "taking" it from someone else and guilty about that instead of just doing what we need to do for our own sanity and self love.

And why do we resent the men in our lives who seem to blissfully do their own thing - shower, sleep, etc. without realizing they are "taking" that time from others? I know that Honey goes to bed after me, and he usually is holding Pumpkin for a while after I nurse him so I can go to sleep. Clearly he is a man who pulls his weight in terms of housework and child rearing - I couldn't ask for better. But I still get incensed when he is sleeping and I am dealing with whatever crisis is going on. For one, it is probably not as big a crisis as I am making it out to be. Sleeplessness can make mountains out of molehills. And secondly, if I need him, I can just wake him up and ask him to help! And he always jumps in. So why do I feel badly about waking him?

It seems nuts, but I think it must be genetic. I have this need to care for my family and put their needs before mine. Me, who has spent years working on this - I learned to put myself first on the list and learned to say "no" to people instead of yes to everything. So I know I can do it - I just think a switch gets flipped when you have kids. This may be a ridiculous example of what I mean, but food is important to me so it is a good one. Anyone who knows me will tell you - I hate to share food. I hate when people want to "split" dessert. Even my dearest friends will order separately if we are all very full already and we should obviously split something. I will give Peanut anything off my plate - will share anything with her and will give away the "good parts" without regrets.

So I guess this is where the balancing act comes in. Providing the love, security, and presence that each family member needs, while still proving the same for myself. I also want to show a good role model to my children of what taking care of yourself looks like. I know I will be using some self talk over the next few weeks to decide how best to do this. Oof, it is harder than it sounds sometimes.

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