Today we received an extra day on our calendar, February 29th. It's a leap year again. I have seen some amusing memes on my facebook feed today that ponder why we had to have our extra day be on Monday. As if that meant we have 2 Mondays this week. Given Monday's usual reputation, hopefully not!
I thought I would use some of today to talk about guilt. Guilt can take many forms. Those partaking in the criminal arts field are guilty of lawbreaking. Judges and juries decide the guilt of a defendant in the courtroom. Delinquent students are guilty of skipping out on school or assignments. But I want to talk about a different kind of guilt, a kind that I have struggled for many years to tame. That is the internal guilt that comes from feeling inadequate, the feeling of not being enough, the feeling of not being good enough. For me, those feelings firmly entrenched themselves most frequently in the areas of being a mom and a spouse, and they waged a fierce battle in my head for many years.
It was an internal dialogue that took a toll. It has been said that if you hear something often enough and long enough, it becomes true for you, even if it's not at all the real thing. Perhaps you know the lines. "It's my fault my kid did or didn't do XYZ. If I had been a better mother, it wouldn't be so hard at home. Why can't I be like other parents whose kids do as they should? Why can't I get my kids to behave? Why can't we ever do things like other families? Why can't we be like normal families?" It was a never ending loop in my head, and it played over and over and over. I heard and believed this dialogue in my head for so many years that it was hard (nearly impossible) for me to believe anyone who said I did the best I could, and yes, I was a good parent, when I felt like a complete failure. Comparing oneself to others is not only destructive, it ignores the fact that everyone has patches of brown grass mixed in with the green. That's when the guilt kicks in, and it not only feels like a millstone around the neck, it robs you of the joy that does exist with your kids. Unless you have a nightmarish existence, your kids do bring you joy among all the stress.
So, why am I talking about this? Well, for me, it ties with the other kind of guilt that I have struggled with over the years. Spousal guilt. Yesterday, Chris started cleaning up in the kitchen and doing the dishes while I was having something to eat, and I felt guilty. Guilty that I hadn't done them sooner, guilty that I let them pile up during the week, and guilty that I was sitting down while he was busy working. Guilty that I let him down yet again. I told him I was about to get those done, repeating myself a couple more times (almost raising my voice) when he didn't stop and leave it for me. It started to really upset me. I thought it was a Mars-Venus kind of thing, and maybe he didn't understand me that I really needed him to stop doing them, but then I had a completely different feeling overpower me. One that convicted and challenged me. The guilt came from the fact that he's the main breadwinner, he has a long commute to and from work, and with the workday, mentally taxing hours. I confess that I am guilty of comparing myself to him, which is unfair to him and to myself. I have struggled for a long time with feelings that he is the overachiever and I'm the underachiever in the house, even when it's not true.
What hit me, though, is the fact that when I let guilt take over my head, I am focusing on the absolute wrong thing. Instead of getting upset that he's helping me with dishes (and "making me look bad,") I should instead be thankful. Thankful that I have a spouse who is willing to pitch in with housework, even when he's bone tired, just because he knows I'm tired out (and stressed or worn out at times.) Not everyone has a spouse who is willing to do the "women's work." I realize that this is not the 1950's anymore, so it's really not women's work vs men's work, anyway.
In that moment, I chose to let go of my upset feelings and simply let him help me. Chris washed, and I dried & put everything away, and the kitchen got cleaned up quickly. It was amazing how calming it was to carry gratitude in my heart instead of guilt. Freeing, actually.
So, my advice to y'all is to replace all those feelings of guilt, hurt, cranky, whatever, with thankfulness. Focus on the positive. It is much harder to be harsh with yourself when you're feeling thankful about things and people in your life.
I am thankful for Chris. He's put up with me for a long time now, and he's still here. He's seen the good, bad & ugly in me, and it hasn't scared him away. He does his best not to take my hormone related mood swings personally, although I know I owe him apologies at times. Is he a better housekeeper than I am? Sometimes he is, and that is not guilt talking, it is the honest truth here. He helps me with household chores, makes breakfast on the weekend, keeps me company on errands (even though that results with sweet tooth related contraband coming home with us.) I am especially thankful that Chris takes care of bugs/critters, yuck! I love that he's handy around the house and can figure out how to troubleshoot/fix things. I'm thankful that he can help the girls with left brain themed homework (like math & science) while I handle the right brain stuff. He and I have been to hell and back, and we're finally in a good place. I guess God knew what He was doing when He gave me this man, even when we had not a clue.
Choose gratitude over guilt.
You are enough.
It is okay if some of your own grass is brown.
Without the trials & hard stuff, it is impossible to appreciate the good stuff. I am finally learning that some of it is pretty damn good, too.