The Guilt-go-round

So I went to the doctor for me today. About a fortnight ago I got this cough. It’s really kind of a funny cough — it tickles my throat all the time, but I can go for quite a long spell without coughing, especially when I’m not talking much. But when I get a coughing fit, I find myself coughing every 5 minutes for even hours at a time; this barking, irresistible impulse.

I ignored it.

Saturday, I spiked the fever and slept the day out. I felt better on Sunday, so despite the remaining cough I figured I was better! Yay better! You know how coughs are sometimes trailing indicators.

But by the end of the day yesterday, I was so darn wiped out I had to admit: I’m not better.

I hated taking the time to go to the doctor. Yesterday I had Thane’s 6 month checkup. (More later on that — all it well.) Then I had Grey’s open house for preschool. (See also: more later.) I pump twice a day. I visit my sons at lunch almost every day. There have been sick days and paranoid days and doctor’s appointments and dentist appointments. And I just didn’t want to spend any more time on all that. (I’m very fortunate to have plenty of sick time TO take, I just don’t like to bunch it all together, you know?)

Then when I got to the doctor, the eyebrow was raised when I said how long I’d been sick. She looked at my chart, and noticed that I’d completely blown off my prescribed well-grownup cholesterol tests etc. (In my defense I went to take them once, only to discover that they were 12 hour fasting tests. Then I gave up.)

“You need to take CARE of yourself” she said censoriously. If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard that, I could pay for all-day preschool. It’s hard to be the mom. There are these stacks of things that need doing. You can only defer laundry so long before you run out of super-hero undies. (Note: I have purchased sufficient super-hero undies that this extremis only arrives after about 16 days if there aren’t an undo number of accidents.) We only have so many sippy cups AND counter space, so the dishes really do have to happen periodically. And people get grumpy if their bills don’t get paid after a week or two. And let’s be clear here — my husband pulls his weight. But even with two oxen in the harness, the furrows just don’t all get plowed before the sun sets. If you push off the chores because it’s a fantastically beautiful Sunday in spring, then you better not pull the “oh and I think I have pneumonia” crap on Thursday. (And by the way, chest x-rays confirm it’s not pneumonia. It’s bronchitis.)

I find myself in this untenable position of trying to do what needs to be done, do those things which make life worth the living, and making the compromises in my own life to permit it to happen. Then I get called on the carpet for my martyr syndrome and told that it is somehow self-indulgent of me to make choices like toughing it out when I’m sick because I’d rather have that sunny Sunday than an afternoon lying in bed drinking tea. There’s this aura of disapproval around how much I try to do.

I have been accused of martyr syndrome. I do admit that sometimes I get caught up in a martyred attitude of “look how selfless I am!” but I think I’ve done that less and less lately. These days it’s a more intentional and aware tradeoff. I have come to realize that at this time of life, it’s just not going to be about me. I’m not going to get to read many books cover to cover. I’m not going to get to stamp cards while listening to baseball every week. There isn’t going to be this big reliable block of time that is all about what I want to do. But this won’t be forever. And there are the moments of grace when suddenly there ARE two hours available for wine-dark seas. Someday, my boys will be readers too and time I now spend wiping bottoms and putting away onesies will be time I can instead spend reading on the couch with my guys.

I don’t resent the choices I’m making (most of the time). We’re having an awesome time together as a family, but because our boys need so much attention, there is more corporate time and less individual time. That’s ok.

I do resent being told that I should feel guilty about not having time for myself. I resent the implication that I’m making up how much there is to do, or doing work that doesn’t really need doing.

Grey and monkey think mommy needs more coffee
Grey and monkey think mommy needs more coffee

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

One thought on “The Guilt-go-round”

  1. Get used to it!

    The trouble with not being a martyr is that what you have to give up is what you want to do. The must do stuff just must get done!

    I burn the candle at both ends
    It will not last the night
    But oh my friends and ah my foes
    It makes a lovely sight!


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