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.
“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 absolutely LOVE this statement! It is very recognizable to me, as a wannabe-perfect-mother with fibromyalgia, who sometimes seems to thrive on guilt…
Along the way I have learned to have me-moments, or even me-days, to recharge and get in touch with myself as a person (not a mother, wife, employee, neighbour…). Most of the time, I manage not to feel guilty about them. Most of the time…
Maybe we need to change our mindset …. not that it is easy to do that, but what if we considered that (if we DON’T take the time to “recharge”) we’re modelling the wrong thing for our children?
This thought just came to me … I wouldn’t want my daughter to think she HAD TO do everything for the family or be a “failure”, just as I wouldn’t want my son to think that it’s right to expect his wife to do ALL the chores!
I guess if I start thinking about my “me time” as teaching my children to NOT be like me (as I am now) then there’s nothing to feel guilty about after all, is there?
Hey, I like that perspective!
I was already taught about this kind of reasoning when it comes to for example arguing between parents or getting angry with your children. A really wise guy told me I should not try to hide disputes or frustrations that much (of course within some boundaries). Children need to experience that their parents are not perfect. If they don’t, they will try to live up to an unreachable standard. Moreover, they will not learn how to handle conflicts when they grow up.
So, yes, I really agree! Our kids need to learn that it is OK to ask help, to have me-time, to be ‘weak’ sometimes. Yes!
These are such tough questions Simona, and i wish i had some answers to share. I have my own daily pains that I live with (in my lower back – as I have a problem in that region). Because of my back issues I was not able to carry my son after he was around 2, because he got too heavy. There are days where I can’t do everything that needs to be done, since I am in pain and need to rest. I have learned that it is ok to rest when you need to, since you are no good to anyone if you are completely incompassitated. It’s important to listen to our bodies, otherwise you will run yourself to the ground (and end up with 3 infections). Now if I could only figure out how to do that! 🙂
Just 2 nights ago, I told my husband I was in a bad place mentally because I felt over-stretched and that I haven’t been at my best as a wife and mother. As I said it, I acknowledged that I was human and didn’t need to be so hard on myself. But still, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Admitting it out loud helped. But it’s hard when you are under continual stress, especially physically as in your situation. But by being as self-aware as you are, you can at least be real with how you feel. Lots of love and healing to you, and thank you for sharing your story!
You ask the big questions! I forgot to eat for almost all the day yesterday. I never stopped to think about me, but fed everyone else and was on the go. Thank you for this reminder!!
Everyone’s lovely comments feel like a big hug! Thank you all so much!! Love & best wishes xoxo
Let’s just get rid of our inner critic and go party!
Yup, women have been trained to think they ‘should’ be everything to everybody…I recently gave up ‘should’ and ‘ought’ and started saying, No. I love the sense of relief it gives me.
(Sending big hugs from here to there. xx)