Wanna know what really messed me up for the first … hmmm … 6.5 years of motherhood?
No, no, scrap that. It was the first 28 years of my life.
I’m a nurturer. An empath and a giver. I show my love through service, always going that extra mile to ensure those around me are happy and supported. It fuels me, giving me a pride in myself and my surroundings.
Yet, even though my internal coding compels to thoughtlessly nurture, I don’t point the tenderness inwards. I spread myself around, without pause, giving and working and loving until I find myself falling apart at the seams. I keep going until the love tank that fuelled my service is running on fumes, until I don’t even remember what I’m doing or why I’m doing it.
I push myself to the brinks because, without really thinking about it, I expect those around me to reciprocate. I expect them to care for me in the same dedicated way that I care for them. I just assume that, when they see me waver, they’ll swoop in and catch me. Picking up the slack, sending me to bed despite my martyring protests.
I would wait for other people to tell me that it was an appropriate time to rest and then I would get upset when it didn’t happen. When no saviour came.
Writing it all down, it sounds a little ridiculous…
Not everyone works that way. Their mindsets and skill sets lend to other affinities. Care-taking may be my superpower, but it’s certainly not everyone’s.
Today I am in bed in the middle of the afternoon. Cocooned under 3 quilts, wearing nothing but my comfiest granny-panties and my husbands T-shirt. A to-go mug of hot tea and a pack of supersized Twizzlers, watching orange-hued housewives with giant lips and stiff expressions yell at each other on my iPad.
Because, today, my gas tank hit empty. I hit my wall and even though I would normally just keep going, angrily chucking laundry into the machine and holding back tears of frustration and exhaustion, I decided to call in the reinforcements instead.
My husband doesn’t bat an eye at the piles of laundry in the kids’ room. He doesn’t avert his eyes away from the grubby floorboards and has no problem flipping his undies inside out to steal another day in them. Attentive, nurturing, empathetic supports aren’t his “superpower.” He doesn’t step in to take over as soon as I start dropping my subtle hints of excessive sighs or harder-than-necessary dryer door slams. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love me. That doesn’t mean that I’m not appreciated or valued. It just means that it’s on me to communicate, then to pass the baton with trust and gratitude.
Unspoken expectations, frustrated tears. Exhausted, feeling alone and unappreciated. Looking at those around me with hurt, deducing that their lack of empathy meant that I wasn’t valued. When in reality, all I really needed to do was ask for help.
This is my downfall. I break my back for my loved ones, not realizing that sacrificing myself isn’t necessary or helpful.
My superpower needs to be maintained with balance. To pour my love into my family, but to hold myself responsible to…well…myself!
Taking what I need, when I need it, from whatever support is available to me. No guilt, no doubt.
Today I need solitude. Multiple blankets, trashy TV and over-processed, chemical-filled treats. Tomorrow it’s back to laundry, Lego and scraping little boy boogers off of the stair railing.
Thankfully, by then, I’ll be ready (and willing) to be superwoman again.
Mommy’s Inside Voice is a bi-weekly column by Amie Jay, a Vancouver Island mother of three.