Thursday, July 31, 2008

guilt and other mind-sets

i read a post by another blogger about motherhood and guilt that got me thinking. i believe her when she says she's noticed that most mothers she knows are riddled by guilt when they take time to do things for themselves. her post reminded me of a time when i was married to mister ex.

it was early on a saturday morning, and jamie and his baby sister were watching television in the playroom next to my bedroom. i was still half-asleep when i heard jamie say to meg, let's go get breakfast.

they thumped down the steps and into the kitchen, where the sounds of chairs being dragged across the floor from cabinet to sink to fridge punctuated the early morning stillness.

don't you feel guilty, asked mister ex. lying here in bed when that poor little boy is getting his breakfast for his sister?

well, i remember i said, with perfect equanimity. i suppose i could feel guilty. on the other hand, i could also lie here, enjoy my rest, and when i get up, congratulate jamie on being capable of not only feeding himself but also feeding his sister. that is an enormous lifeskill he has already acquired at five years old, and who am i to take the opportunity to learn it away from him? shall i squash his burgeoning sense of responsibility and independence by rushing to help him when he doesn't need help? or shall i encourage it by hanging back and allowing him to handle things all by himself?

which not only shut mister ex up, but also put to rest any guilt-demon that might've been lurking on the edges of my psyche. you can't take care of anyone, honey, until you take care of yourself, my wise daddy advised me in the dark days of my divorce, and that advice shaped the tenor of my decisions of over the following years. if i had put my children's needs ahead of mine, i would not have been capable of pushing that rock of sisyphus who was my ex up the mountain of our divorce.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.


Kathy said...

Very True. Our purpose as parents is to help children grow up to be independent. It's scary, but that's the job description.

But my thought in reading was, if Mr Ex wants you to feel guilty, why isn't he feeling guilty? He's lying beside you.

When my first son was a baby, I went out with friends while my husband watched Robert. One of my (male) friends said, "Is Bob babysitting?" I said, "No, he's at home taking care of HIS son."

Iva said...

I still am working on the balance of self and others, it is wearing on me and my marriage that I give more than i take.
My son (who is gonna be 4 in 2 weeks and has Autisim) feeds him slef, he wont even ask for help, makes me nuts but I am kinda proud at the same time. He even will get stuff for his brother everynow and then too :P