Friday, April 3, 2009

Guilt part 2

We’ve all been on a plane and heard the flight attendant say, “Put the mask on yourself first, and then put the mask on your kid”. Why do you think they tell you that? They don’t even know your kid, so they aren’t trying to kill them off. It’s because if you don’t make it, your child is certain to perish.

What? I have to take care of myself FIRST so I can be a better mother? What the hell kind of concept is that? You’d never hear any other generation of mothers in the United States tell you that.

Nope, you wouldn’t, especially about mothers with kids who have extra needs. Your grandma is spinning in her grave at the thought and your own mom probably wasn’t much more feminized (talked a good game though). Why is this so important in the guilt blog? Because time for yourself is the number one “guilty” pleasure special needs mothers crave. It’s the thing we feel most guilty about after any physical or emotional pain our children must endure. Selfishness is the hardest thing we find to justify, as society isn’t on our side about it. Personally, I think there are degrees of selfish but no one pays attention to that detail. It’s a load of piddle and we’ve caused that part of the guilt factor just as much as the media and Donna Reed.

“I probably have the worst confession you’ll hear. I have wondered, more than once, what life would be like without my son. If I had aborted like I was told to do, or if he had died as an infant. I have no life, I’m in a prison. I never thought this would be my motherhood. It’s not his fault, I don’t blame him. But there are weeks that I never leave the house, literally. We can’t afford to hire someone who is qualified enough to watch him, no daycare will come within 50 feet of him and we don’t have the money anyway – his medical bills are just too much. I’m on payment plans to every doctor within 100 miles. I can’t trust my husband to take care of him, so I’m stuck. I’m not trying to be a martyr. I don’t have choices like everyone else. And it’s all because of my son. I’ll never be free unless he goes to an institution. What kind of a mother would I be if I put him in there just for me? There’s selfish.” ~Michele

This is the cheerleading section and it’s full of logic: You come first because you are your child’s first line of protection. You are their emotional rock. So you do what you have to do to put the mask on you first. Other people can do an okay job of taking care of your children in your absence, but you need to do a superb job of taking care of you now so that you don’t have to worry about your kid’s future without you.

The first step in trampling the guilt is to recognize the issue = it may be there, but we can control how it affects us. The second step is to actually take a step forward: Go get your calendar. Now, find one chunk of time (meaning at least 3 adjacent hours) that is just for you each week. Stop screaming at me and just do it. I use Wednesday nights to play sand volleyball in the summer, and watch movies at the $2 theatre in the winter. This means you have to give your children over to someone else for a few hours. You HAVE to trust that they can handle things (different from you, but still adequate). Swap babysitting with another mom if you have to.

That new “Mommy time” on the calendar each week is sacred! You are not to do chores or errands. It is a time to rejuvenate. Plan your weeks around that time. Turn down outside requests that conflict with Mommy time with the “Sorry, I already have plans” excuse. Also turn down activities for your kids. GASP! Now, there may be times when something comes up that is drop dead important (like someone actually dies or a school conference) so you’ll need to then SWITCH to another day for that week. Notice I didn’t say to skip your time out, but to switch it.

The people in your life are not going to understand the “who, what, when, where, and why” of life with your child, or your life as an individual person. In their minds, you no longer have a life; you’re now a martyr, dedicating each moment of the day to your child. Funny, they still have their lives but think you shouldn’t just because you have a special kid…..hmmmmm. So, when they see you out “living it up” they will try to guilt you back down. Stand strong!!

Yes, this will make outsiders uncomfortable – you having happy emotions, passion, and vibrant thoughts – but tough cookies for them. Remember, that you belong to a special community that they don’t understand and it’s okay. Their lives are their lives, and yours is yours. Your job is to be the best woman you can be and the good stuff can then filter down into your children. Not the best June Cleaver. The best honest you.

My goal this week is to dig out my yoga tapes and do a few routines. I want to stretch the winter out of my body. Have a wonderful and blessed week!

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