SOUTH AFRICA: Why Are We Women So Hard on Ourselves?
Several years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It’s a common disorder affecting about 5% of all women and is characterized by widespread pain and many other symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is not a psychiatric disorder, even though a particular kind of anti-depressant or anti-seizure medication is sometimes helpful in controlling the nerve pain.
In my case, on a “good” day I feel the same body “achiness” and fatigue normally associated with the flu. On a “bad” day any movement brings tears to my eyes.
The reason I mentioned my Fibromyalgia is just to illustrate a point – as moms we tend to put everybody else’s well-being ahead of our own. My daily pain and fatigue is my new “normal” so for the most part I don’t even mention it. Despite my daily pain, I hold down a full-time job, do chores, do charity work and study online. Do I think I’m “special” for doing all that? Absolutely not!
Yet I still feel guilty because my husband cooks most night. I also rely on my teenage daughter to do a lot around the house and on my son to clean up the yard. I constantly feel that I’m not doing a good enough job of taking care of my house and my family. I want to be a better wife, mother and employee but I’m physically unable to do more than what I already do.
My husband and children are very loving and supportive. They don’t have a problem with helping out. I’m the one who feels like a failure when I can’t do everything I think I should be doing.
Even knowing that I’m doing the best I can, my inner critic doesn’t seem to cut me any slack. My best is simply not good enough. There, I’ve said it. I don’t think I’m a good enough wife and mother and that’s all I care about. What’s funny is that I know (in my head) that I can’t be all bad. I know I must be doing something right because I have a great relationship with my husband and I’ve helped to raise two really amazing young people.
Recently I started feeling worse than usual but I just chalked it up to my Fibromyalgia and kept on going. I finally went to see my doctor when the bad days weren’t letting up.
It turned out that I was feeling so awful not because of my Fibromyalgia (although that surely didn’t help) but because I had a bacterial infection that had spread from my sinuses to my chest. I was diagnosed with sinusitis, laryngitis and a chest infection – all of which required antibiotics and bed rest. I didn’t even know it was possible to have all three at the same time.
Obviously my doctor booked me off work. I stayed home but of course I felt guilty about not going to the office. I know I’m far from unique in this regard. No matter how “good” we moms try to be, we always feel that we’re somehow dropping the ball.
Why is that? Why is it that we are able to be so supportive of each other and so compassionate towards others, but we’re so harsh with ourselves?
I know that I need to learn a new way of living. I need to find a way to stop feeling guilty about things that are outside my control.
If you were hoping for some answers from this post, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I don’t have any answers, just a lot of questions.
How do you change more than 40 years of conditioning so that your children learn a different way of being through your example? How do you learn to accept your limitations with grace and gratitude? How do you start being as kind to yourself as you are to others?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mamma Simona from Cape Town, South Africa. She shares her home with a husband, 2 kids, 2 cats and 2 dogs.
Photo Credit To: Hans Van Den Berg : Flickr Creative Commons
This photo has a creative commons attribution license.