On some level, I believe all women struggle with guilt, and, when we become mothers, I think the condition only worsens. I was a very different person before I married and had my son. I was always dressed impeccably, had my hair done once a month, and never missed a pedicure or manicure. I knew I’d worked very hard and believed I’d earned these simple indulgences.
In short, I thought like a man.
Trust me when I say that men do not feel guilty about relaxing in front of the TV when there is a sink full of dirty dishes. Rare is the man who puts aside getting himself dressed until he’s fully satisfied his toddler’s clothes all match. Most of the time, my husband isn’t even bothered if the toddler’s clothes even fit.
Just an aside…
I have NO idea how my husband does this. I regularly cull through The Spawn’s clothes and pull out what is out of season or no longer fits. Then when I delegate “dressing The Spawn” to Hubby, he somehow manages to dress our toddler in the ONE 18 mo shirt I missed and swim trunks…for church. I love my husband, and have THE BEST husband in the world, but seriously????
Believe me when I say that “clothes not fitting/matching” DOES NOT BOTHER A MAN. Neither do a handful of other things…
I recall, years ago, being a bit judgy when I’d see some frazzled mom, her hair (much in need of a dye job) pulled back in a scrunchee. I’d think, Good grief. Yoga pants and stained t-shirt? Does this woman even TRY? Her kids aren’t even wearing clothes that match. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Be careful how you judge, and, as my mother warns…NEVER WONDER.
I Deserved It
I look back at the way I used to judge struggling moms and I now know that I deserve this. I recall thinking, She’s married. Why doesn’t she just get her husband to dress the kids while she does something with THAT HAIR?
Now I know. I didn’t listen to Mom.
NOW I know that this mom probably did delegate. She probably managed to get her hair in a scrunchee just as she caught sight of her husband dressing their kids for church in their bathing trunks and part of their Halloween costumes. This mom then likely stopped doing her hair to intervene and at least get the kids in regular clothes.
Actually, this mother likely would have even had her child’s clothes all matching, but she forgot to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. Why did she forget? Because she heard the crash from her toddler unsuccessfully trying to scale the cat’s scratching post. And, by the time she stopped the bleeding, she’d long forgotten about the clothes…and this is why she is in yoga pants and the kids are still wearing their Halloween costumes…in MARCH!!! So just back the hell off!
I never feel like I am doing enough. Though I practically live in an apron, I can’t seem to ever feel caught up. My house isn’t clean enough, and I don’t read for an hour a day to my child and teach him French and art appreciation.
Then we have the magazines full of starlets posing in bikinis three days after they give birth. Despite working out with a trainer and living gluten-free, dairy-free, almost carb-free, I still can’t even wear my pregnancy pants. At a size ten, it is easy to feel like a lazy slacker because I’m not a size 0.
When did 0 become a SIZE?
Oh, but THIS is the standard. Terese Guidici right after giving birth. Yep, I hate her, too.
I need to get the gym more *scribbles on list.*
Regular Guilt is Bad Enough
Okay, I admit that I need to work on the guilt thing. I should be able to wear makeup without thinking that those 15 minutes would be better served sorting the recycling.
Crap! I threw away that jelly jar in the REGULAR trash. I’m destroying the planet! Worse, I am teaching The Spawn that it is OKAY TO DESTROY THE PLANET!
Most women (okay, maybe just me) already feel like we are not doing enough. If we have a choice of a day at a spa or a day baking for the church or school, donating stuff from the garage to the needy, or volunteering to shuttle Great-Great-Great-Aunt Thelma who’s 97 to CVS for discount butt cream, you can count on us for the cheapest butt cream in town.
Wal mart will price match.
But then there is Super Guilt. Super Guilt is often inflicted by strangers who don’t know diddly about our lives, but they feel they need to be extra judgy because they are your Facebook “friend.” I love social media. I love my WANA peeps and you guys make every day a joy. But then there are those other people…
Can I Donate My Kidneys? I Have One Extra
November was really hard. I work from home, and most of the time, I do this work with a toddler trying to scale my head…when he isn’t destroying the rooms I just cleaned (and yes, I make him pick up, but I have to stand there and hand-hold this grueling process of making my child a better, tidier citizen). Anyway, I worked all of November without a day off, often stranded in airports. I did the working Mommy thing all week then was on the road speaking and teaching in a new city every weekend.
I love what I do and serving writers is ALWAYS a joy, albeit a lot of work.
Anyway, I hadn’t had a haircut since the summer, and, having naturally wavy hair, I was looking like the cat sucked on my head. I’d spent the week cleaning and sorting and three days cooking gluten-free, dairy-free, organic dishes for Thanksgiving (after stumbling in from a late flight at midnight on Sunday/Monday).
In fact, I’d been so busy cooking and cleaning, I almost forgot that I had an appointment for a hair cut. Since I’d been posting pictures and GF recipes on Facebook all day, I posted that I’d almost forgotten my hair appointment.
But then I got THIS comment, which I deleted.
And, yes, the commenter was male and didn’t know me beyond Facebook. Ironically, this person is also in business selling services to indie authors, which might sell better if he wasn’t a %!&*.
What I found interesting was my response to this crappy comment. Immediately, I felt bad about getting…a haircut. I felt I needed to tell him about my seven years in Rotary, and how I spearheaded an effort to send mosquito nets to Africa, water wells to Honduras, and wheelchairs to Mexico. I wanted to show him my c.v. of mission work in Syria and Belize, and my intentions to teach poor orphans in India how to read, after I taught my own child to read.
Note to self. Read more books to The Spawn.
Wait, maybe I could multitask, and teach The Spawn and the poor orphans in India at the same time. But I couldn’t, like, GO to India, because I have writers depending on me, and, besides, I couldn’t get wi-fi from the dumps in India.
Or could I?
Then I could teach writers how to blog, while teaching The Spawn and poor Indian orphans to read.
Yeah, but then I would so SUCK waving around my fancy laptop in front of kids digging through garbage for their meals. And The Spawn couldn’t go with me because then I’d be a bad mother exposing him to germs. But if I didn’t bring my child to India to read Dinosaur vs The Potty then I could be raising a narcissistic sociopath who cries when he doesn’t get a Porsche for his 15th birthday…so then he’d kill me and my husband for the insurance money.
Wait, I never got around to filling out the insurance paperwork. Got sidetracked cleaning the science experiments out of the fridge. Whew! Safe on The Spawn going all Menendez Brothers on me and Hubby.
Then I caught this STUPID thinking.
THIS was the final straw.
There was a time I would have left his comment and defended myself. And, as you can see from the image, I still did some defending. But come on! There has to be some middle ground here. I do feel very blessed. When I was in Belize, I tried to take a shower after swinging a sledgehammer and cutting rebar all day. Simple, right? The shower curtain rained SCORPIONS on me. I thank GOD for scorpion-less showers every day. In Syria, the Bedoin villages…okay, NOT going there. Just believe me when I say that every day, I say a prayer of thanks for electricity, running water, having a CAR.
But why do I feel the need to show my resume, that I DO CARE? Why do I feel sucked into this trollishness? Why am I thinking thoughts like, Well, you really only need ONE kidney, and there are people out there who need a kidney.
And why is it that I am not giving enough? Why is it wrong to want a haircut? Why does being excited about a haircut make me THIS person in John’s mind?
After the drama and angst, I can say that I’m grateful for the experience. The comment hurt, but when I saw my immediate reaction, I knew I was out of balance. I need to work on feeling good about feeling good. It is okay to be blessed so long as we remember to be grateful for those blessings and to share those blessings at every opportunity.
Sure, I could work 90 hour weeks serving even more people and teaching even more social media…but then I’d end up on a roof with a shotgun and pan of GF brownies…and it would be harder to serve others from a mental institution blubbering Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
So, I deleted the comment and wrote an embarrassing (now) and highly defensive (*head desk*) note justifying why I was allowed to have a haircut. And, looking back, I wish I could delete that, too. But I DO know that a$$hats are alive and well, and likely this won’t be the last time I’m told how I suck for not caring enough.
Next time…next time I will do better. Hey, I’m a work in progress too :D.
What about you guys? Do you suffer from guilt? Is it hard for you to rest or do things for yourself? Do you feel guilty when you do? Have you managed to find a nice balance? Could you share tips or advice? Do you think guilt is worse for women than men? Or, do you think they just experience guilt differently? Guys! I’d like to hear from you, too!
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of November I will pick a winner for the monthly prize (will announce October’s winner at the same time. Been on the road too much to effectively tally). Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.