Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's easy to be the martyr

I had had a rough day. I cooked three square meals and then washed and put away all of the dishes. I planned meals for the week, did the grocery shopping, and put the groceries away. I was the main care provider (and food source) of a 7 week old baby. I fed the cats and did some laundry and paid the bills. All while my husband worked his full time day job. I made dinner and washed up in between feeding the baby while he sat on the couch and watched TV. When I finally got my alone time (at 10 pm), it was a shower. And then off to bed before the baby woke up for her 3 am feeding.
I stood in the shower and felt terrible. Sad for myself. How is it fair that I do ALL that? Yet he just has his day job then gets to have the fun with the baby when he's home. I still feed her and feed us. I wallowed. It's not fair. Where's the justice. What about me?

Then it hit me - what about me? Did I ask for help with any of it? Did I give hubs instructions on how he could help with dinner prep while I breastfeed? Did I ask him to grab a few things at the grocery store? Or leave the laundry until he got home? 

No. No I didn't. Because when you're tired and alone all day with a slobbery babe, it can be easier to push away and stay isolated. It's hard to ask for help and find your place in the world, which has mysteriously kept moving forward despite the new baby or any other imagined trauma has left you alone. 

Last year, I read I Thought It Was Just Me, where the author discusses the isolating impact of sympathy. "I feel sorry for YOU," removes US from those feelings. It isolates the other person; they're sadness or pain is unique and I am above it. Martyrdom (or the feelings of it) is just as isolating. Except instead of being pushed away, it's a way to pull away. "I am the only one to feel this way. My suffering is unique. No one else on the planet works a full time job, with a baby, and still gets chores done..." Oh wait. What a selfish train of thought. Not only do people do all that, but there are people around me who want to help so I don't have to feel this way or do all that.

These thoughts usually crop up out of loneliness and are fostered in that void. By reaching out - either for help or support - it is possible to climb out of the pit (if we want to). Even the most introverted among us can benefit from a good gab session of "Me too!" and "You're not alone." 

And when I ask myself why I'm really upset, it often comes down to where I didn't want to have to ask for help. Are you kidding me, self? So I get into a funk because my husband isn't a mind reader? Real smart, self. If he doesn't cook dinner, how is he supposed to know that I finished the eggs? Sure, there are some mutual chores (like feeding the cats) that always gets done, but why do I have to feel so terrible about doing it? How can I possibly be mad at him for something that he wasn't even around to know? So it comes down to basically wanting attention and wanting acknowledgement. But how is he supposed to know I need this unless I tell him and ask for his support?

This is not just about marriages. How is my friend supposed to know I need her unless I tell her any of this?

Yes, sometimes we need a good sit on the pity-pot. But it's a selfish place to be. There's never room for two on that pot. Take that moment to be alone in the pain and suffering, if you need it. But then leave it there. Come out at the end of the day and tell that person (any person!) that you had a rotten day for no reason in particular. That hormones and sleep deprivation make you think terrible things. That you're not used to sharing every single moment of your life with a dependent squishy non-person and it's draining. That you need to work together to better divide the chores. And that you need a reminder that equality isn't sameness, and that you can both contribute to the future of this tiny human (or cat, relationship, house, etc.) to the same degree, but by different paths. These things are hard to measure, so the inequity is usually in our own heads; by being too selfish to see what the other is doing.

Take a deep breath. And look around. And ask for support. Share your feelings. And for goodness sakes, ask yourself if this is really worth being that lonely for.