When my husband goes out-of-town, I allow myself an indulgence or two to make the absence a little easier to bear. I may not make the bed, for example. Or I’ll check out a TV show on Hulu that I know he would not like. Last week, I watched several episodes from this season of The Biggest Loser. It’s edited in an emotionally manipulative manner and completely melodramatic, and of course I’m in love with it.
One thing I picked up from many of the female contestants is that they have put their family’s health and well-being ahead of their own, so their own health was put on the back-burner, causing their weight to go out of control. It made me realize how much I have put my own wants and needs on hold for my family. This is not necessarily a bad thing, you realize. When I want a new pair of boots but instead save the money for our family, this is not a bad thing – I’ve put pressure on myself to put the needs of our family above my superficial wants. But sometimes, the self-imposed pressure I’ve put on myself to put my family first can go to far. Sometimes, it manifests to “I shouldn’t do anything for myself, don’t worry about me, I’d rather take care of everyone else first.”
Several months ago, my psychiatrist recommended that I begin getting regular massage therapy to relieve my anxiety. This was at a time when I was getting daily panic attacks and it was having a massive impact on my quality of life. I started the massages – one every two weeks, but every time I went I felt guilty about going! I thought, “I’m imposing on my husband to take care of Jack so that I can go get this frivolous indulgence. I’m abandoning my family, my child so that I can be selfish”. I see how ridiculous this is, you know. The idea that doing something for my health was “selfish” is completely ridiculous. But I still felt that way.
Tomorrow, I have another massage. I’ve since calmed down a bit on the self-imposed guilt. But now Jack is sick (nothing serious it seems, but he has a fever that we’re managing with Tylenol and fluids), and my first thought was “I should cancel the massage”. Not because I don’t think that Erik is more than capable of taking excellent care of our child for the short time I’d be gone. He and Jack will be fine. But it’s because my first thought was, “My child may need something, and I should be there no matter what to give it, even at the cost of my own needs. If you get a massage to make yourself feel better, you should feel guilty because you’re not spending the time making your son feel better.”
To the other mothers out there… do you ever feel this way? Keep in mind that I battle severe depression and I sometimes don’t know if my reactions are in tune with how others feel, or if they are stronger because of the depression. Does the motherly guilt ever get easier?