Continual Conundrum

I’ve had this conundrum in my head for as long as I’ve been with M, more so after the girls were born, and even more so since we began living this way – I feel as though I have to be available to them every waking moment. I can’t rest until all my stuff is done as well as all the picking up from all of them. I feel selfish and guilty taking time for myself, as if doing so denies someone else of something they’d rather be doing or as if it adds to M’s plate. The thing is…it’s me doing it, not M. He doesn’t mind. But when I weigh it in my head, what I’d like to do or even mentally need to do to recharge, against being in the same room with him or doing something for one of my girls, they always win. Always.

That’s what I’ve been grappling with for at least the last 14 years, some of the time managing it better than others. For many years, I expected M to read my mind, to see that I was overwhelmed and jump in to help, instead of asking for what I needed. There were even times I pushed him away because he didn’t live up to those unrealistic expectations, or because I was too depleted to have anything to offer him.

Over the years, there were times I’d ask for delineated chores and time to exercise, so that I could better manage my time. There were times that worked well in practice, but eventually I’d end up feeling guilty and just get up really early so as not to cut into anyone else’s time. Or, I’d just let it all slip away and keep going at 100 mph, stuffing away the hurt and pain from the stress, internally building regret and hurt and all sorts of ugly feelings and negative self talk.

In the last couple of years, I’ve struggled with it more than ever, over and over again. I have such an honor and deep appreciation for all M does for me and for our family, more than ever before. And I feel his stress or exhaustion, I feel when his body hurts, even if he doesn’t express it, and that makes it doubly difficult to ask for time for me – I don’t want to add to his plate. As we’ve grown, we’ve brainstormed numerous ways to try to provide time for the things we both need and it never seems to work. I end up making sure everyone else gets there’s, but not me. There’s been a lack of follow through from the both of us.

Now, I’ve hit a wall, my body is telling me so. My immune system has repeatedly told me so, and I recently had a serious anxiety attack that took me to urgent care and scared us both. I’d never had one before and it was a wake-up call.

My job is noisy, long, and demanding and on top of that I’ve felt like I’ve outgrown it for the past several years. It no longer fits, but I can’t leave right now. We have two daughters, both of whom have their own set of demands, and I feel like I’m ‘on’ every hour of the day. I ignore my body’s cues, put my wellness below other things on my priority list, and I get to a point where I get internally overwhelmed easily. I cycle to a place where I’m mentally and physically exhausted, below empty, all reserves depleted.

What I’ve learned is I am such that my physiological and psychological make-up requires quiet, contemplative time. My senses get overloaded and I need a time to have only the input of my choosing, without the pull of responsibility. That may be in the form of exercise, writing or reading, or even talking to a friend. But I NEED it – not tons of time, just some time set aside, but I very rarely get it. I also need time alone with M, time when he and I can set aside all our hats and just be us. This is something we do well, and I’m so grateful. It’s been my saving grace. It fills my well enough to get through each day, but there comes a time when even that isn’t enough, or it isn’t possible due to his work schedule, and there I go, back to that place of being overwhelmed and stuck, feeling terrible about myself and not knowing how to proceed.

Last night, M and I talked again. We discussed all the things we’ve tried that haven’t worked and why, all the flawed thinking and poor choices, all the possible unrealistic expectations and what may be realistic for the both of us, things we can try with which we can actually follow through. We talked about ways this dynamic can help to alleviate stress and work to our advantage. I’m hopeful – we may not always get it right the first time or the tenth time, but we seem to always get there sooner or later through trial and error, with continual communication.

9 thoughts on “Continual Conundrum

  1. These words, these thoughts are a daily struggle for me also. My children have grown, to be replaced by grandchildren that I need to give more of myself to. My job has now become a partnership with responsibilities to employees and their families. Our home has become, not in all ways but certainly in some, another set of tasks that must be completed. Oh, how I hear you!

    At this age, birthday just passed (where did 6 decades go?), I would have thought I would have figured more out, become a rat that had a little more control over the race, become a woman that needed less time. Ha…not the case.

    I don’t have any answers but I can tell you that the love, commitment and communication that you and your M share will forever be your port in the storm. We are programmed from birth to think we have to do it all not only well but to exacting standards that no one can meet, whether that be man or woman. That doesn’t diminish our judgement of our own needs. It is a call to our inner soul to find, create, demand of ourselves that we listen and follow that voice. My Grandmother used to tell me that you can’t get water from an empty well when I was little. I had no idea that the well was within me. Hugs, and thank you for touching so deep within all of us.

    • Oh, thank you, R. Your Grandmother was a wise woman! So are you. I absolutely believe that what M and I share will allow us to weather whatever comes our way, while also providing the port in the storms. The ability to constantly communicate and adjust or evolve to meet needs is pretty amazing, even if we don’t get it right the first or twelfth time, because we just keep talking and trying. That alone is something I never imagined could be such comfort and solace. But…I do need to look at those demands I place upon myself and listen to that inner voice! She usually has the answer, right there, waiting. Sometimes screaming. 😊

      As always, thank you! Your insight and your sharing always touch me.


  2. I can completely relate to your predicament. I know that feeling of emptiness, having nothing more to give and leaving yourself wanting. Here is something that I have done that has helped me. Give additional responsibilities to your girls. It won’t hurt them, in fact, it will prepare them for the real world, where Mom isn’t there to pick up all the pieces and fix all the problems. Pick one night a week where they make dinner. I have done this with my daughter and it is AWESOME! She tells me what she wants to make each week, I get the ingredients and I let her succeed or fail all on her own. Now, of course I have given pointers along the way, but we have also eaten some pretty disgusting meals, but never the same disgusting twice. She also has chores. Her bathroom is her responsibility and all the vacuuming belongs to her too. I made it very clear that it had to be up to MY standards, not hers. I did something similar with our son also. You have to understand that I love my kids more than anything else in this world, but I decided it is not just my job to care for them, but to teach them to care for themselves and others. Give yourself a break by requiring help from those you love. If they asked you for something, you would absolutely do it. Expect and require the same of them. Take care of yourself, it’s the most loving thing you could do for them. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Amelia. Such good advice and I appreciate your sharing so very much. We do these things, but we have times of inconsistency and need to do a better job. In times of stress, things falter, and this is complicated right now with shifting job roles and responsibilities for the both is us, as well as summer break. But, we know the issues and are trying…and communicating. Continually. And I’m taking time, figuring out how, no matter what. I need to. Thank you, again.


  3. My money is on you and M. You will get there. As mothers, wives and submissives, it’s our nature to always put our needs last. We gain fulfillment from fulfilling others needs. The problem arises when we ignore ourselves so much that we start to break down. You are no good to yourself or anyone else if you are sick. In order to take care of them properly, you must first take care of yourself. You might not be able to change your work situation, but you can take more time for Kay. The world will not stop spinning if the laundry or the vacuuming waits because you need a little “me” time. Take it and don’t feel guilty. And please, take care of yourself. I love you too much and it hurts me when you’re not well. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  4. Darling,

    I think the wise women above have all stated exactly what you know I would tell you. If you don’t fill your own bucket – you have nothing to pour out on those you love.

    Like mist, I’m finish up the fifties and now have the added requirement of see that our grandson’s needs are met (you know the circumstances). I need that time for ME to be the best for them.

    Communication is the key, but follow through is the engine my darling friend. If you don’t stick to a plan for yourself, even if the girls have to take on a little more responsibility (dirty word) then you will be talking about this every time you hit those barriers.

    They are there to tell you, you’ve gone too far. Please listen.

    • I’m listening. And communicating!! Continually, because you’re right, it keeps cycling back and getting worse, so we are finding ways to make that engine (follow through) work. Consistently. It’s important for everyone.

      Your amazing grandson is loving all that you have to offer him…your filling your well is absolutely seen in his smile and heard in his adorable laugh!

      Love you,

      • I love you so! He is my delight. Last night he had me put his pop pop’s work shirt and tie on him because he wanted to have a meeting with grandpa. It was HILARIOUS!

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