The therapeutic sofa, part 3
Bucket #2. Seek social support. I cried when she said this. I was like, I tried, and it’s soooo hard for me to try, and my attempts failed. And she was like, yeah, you have to try again. Not a very sympathetic response, but what more is there to say? (Actually, she said a little bit more. She suggested I treat it like a JOB, in the sense of getting serious and systematic about it. She also suggested I generate a list of reasons why someone’s failure to respond to, say, a request to hang out is not about me. You know, like, people are busy and tired. And having kids with conflicting schedules is a huge obstacle. Et cetera.
Of course, it probably IS about me, because I am loathsome.)
I have done jack shit about this suggestion. It’s just not worth the effort, and besides, I have YOU PEOPLE. You are my social support. I haven’t mentioned you to her because…I don’t know whether she’d say, OH! Sweet. You’re covered. Or OH. Listen, you’re deluding yourself into thinking you have people in your life, but you don’t, and then I would feel pathetic.
Bucket #3. Replenish the personal well. This one is obvious, and hasn’t every mother been told a thousand times to make herself a priority, and to make time for herself, to not forget how important she is. Yeah. And none of us pay attention. Because there’s enormous cultural pressure NOT to pay attention, and also, who has the fucking time, right? And life with babies should be a little tough, right? There should be sacrifices, right? I mean, if I have time for like 40 manicures and a movie, where are my priorities? I chose to have children (boy did I ever!) so didn’t I sign up for a few difficult years?
But again, it’s a question of balance. I can do nothing for myself, make no extra time for myself, but…there will be consequences. I will be tired, I will lose my temper with the babies, and my spouse? Well, he will get only the cold, gritty dregs of my extremely limited cup o’ energy.
So what have I done about this suggestion? I will tell you when we cover our next topic: Marriage = hard. (But I think SRB’s series presents a lovely approach to self care, if you’re in the market…)
In addition to these buckets, which I’m sure are a big disappointment, because DUH, YOU KNEW THAT, but you know what? Being told obvious things can still be helpful, because if you know it, why aren’t you DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT, she also said some encouraging things:
1. Things get exponentially easier every year. Like, I won’t be able to believe how much easier life is in a year, and that will just continue year after year. SWEET. Lookin’ forward to it.
2. Some people parent exactly the way they were parented, which is only a good idea if their parents did a splendid job. Some people are so passionate about not repeating their parents’ mistakes that they do the opposite of what their parents did every time, thereby creating a negative (in the sense of a photo negative) version of the same pattern. The people who are on the right track are those who are attempting the middle road, and are at least thinking about their choices, and not always reacting based on past patterns. That’s me! That’s many of US! Many of us are trying, thinking about it. Many of us are awesome.
So, wrapping up babies = hard.
Babies really are hard. It seems silly, because they’re just babies. But they’re HARD. And they should be hard–providing quality childrearin’ should be at least a little bit taxing. But there are things a parent can do to make babies less hard, which will vary depending on the situation. In my case, changing expectations about how my time is spent, and anticipating situations that are going to result in total loss of temper. But seeking social support–people to whom you can complain and of whom you can ask questions–and actually making time for yourself are quite likely to be every mother’s list.
Next time: The MANY hours of effort I have to expend in order to be willing to have sex with my spouse!