Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guilt part 1


“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”
-Ingrid Bergman

“I really want those ladies who are freaks about breast feeding to jump in the lake! They never have anything to say to those women with special kids who can’t. Never have I once seen an article for us. What is the alternative then? Are you saying that because I didn’t breast feed my child has this disability? Do you not think I have enough guilt already? What if your milk never came in? Or what if your child couldn’t swallow? Or what if they were in the NICU under a tent? Gee whiz people – give it a rest! I have enough other things to feel guilt over.” ~Hannah

There is no greater guilt trip than the inevitable, “Did I do this to my child? What about that drunken night at New Years? Or those x-rays? I didn’t even know I was pregnant! Was it something I ate? Or the antibiotics I was on?” This litany could go on forever. And does it really matter? Will it change anything now, at this very moment? NO! And who says it wasn’t your partner? Or global warming, air pollution, petrochemicals in the ground water or sun flares? Or just a freaking fluke?

“You wouldn’t believe how bad I was to myself when I found out my child’s disease. It didn’t help that my in-law’s kept asking me questions about my family because it just couldn’t be their fault. So I searched and searched for a reason, desperate to find the cause, knowing it was just me already being a bad mom. How could I do this to my child? What would everyone think? Could I be trusted? The doctors told me I wasn’t to blame, but I didn’t believe them, they were just being nice.” ~Andrea

Shouldering all the blame, or looking for someone else to blame, gets you nowhere. Actually it gets you less than nowhere; it gets you into an endless cycle of negativity driven by guilt. Blame and guilt hurt you. They hurt your relationships. They hurt your child.

”One Saturday I was putting away the laundry when I heard my daughter talking in her room. She was playing with her Barbies and saying the most outrageous things! Then I figured out she was repeating me. ‘Sorry honey, I can’t play I have to make dinner.’ ‘Can’t right now, I’m too tired.’ ‘Can you please just put your shoes on without opening your mouth?’ ‘Hurry! I don’t care that your arm hurts, just get your coat on! We’re late!’ I knew I needed to seriously chill myself out. That’s not the gal I want to see in the mirror. I think that guilt actually worked in my favor. I dropped everything right then and vowed to make life simpler.” ~Kelly

Once you unpack from that guilt trip, here is the next rotten train waiting at the station: Taking time for me takes time away from my child. I’m going to tell you from personal experience that unless you start carving out time to yourself, you will lose your identity and have to fight harder and harder to get to your inner happy place again.

”I realized one day that I only had 17 minutes to myself a day, but spent 15 hours with zero energy and in a bad mood snapping at people. I’m an educated woman, yet I didn’t put the math together. My son has a feeding tube, among other issues, so I’m constantly watching him. This just didn’t leave me any time for myself. When I talked to my mom she made out that sacrifice is what mothers do and I should just be happy my son is alive. Well, duh! Of course I’m happy he’s alive! I’m not a cold hearted bitch. I stopped calling her. I was tired of hearing that I was to die so my son could live. Why couldn’t we both live? Why do we lay the guilt on each other? Who is it helping?” ~Amy

It’s not just your kid (or kids) who are vampiring-up your time; it’s all of your relationships. If you’re in a significant-other/marriage/dating relationship it takes time to nurture, and when you have special needs kids, you don’t have time to pee, let alone make another adult feel validated. “You never have time for me anymore” is a commonly heard phrase from spouses to guilt you into pampering them. And don’t forget work, school, doctors, housekeeping, cooking, etc…. So, when are you going to notch out some time for yourself?

Guilt, and how to stamp it out of your life, will be the topic of my next few blogs. If you can find a few minutes, get a piece of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. Write down all the things you feel guilty about on the left. Then a few days later, start a list on the right of all the things you successfully do – this includes all the little things you take in stride and do automatically; like getting everyone’s teeth brushed before school, planning healthy meals, reading stories at night, remembering birthdays, keeping the Tooth Fairy alive….

Of all the things I used to worry myself sick over with guilt, I just enrolled my youngest in kindergarten, so I’m writing down that I’ve successfully parented her to that point….now just to calm the teachers about having a child with brittle bones in their classes.

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