I have been struggling with two main
emotions challenges stumbling blocks lately. And they are guilt and my struggle to be assertive.
I struggled with this last month when my in-laws were visiting. I have been struggling with it this month while I try to plan my upcoming Europe trip, as well as take some much-needed “me time” in the form of my monthly Bunco get-together. Hubby, understandably, is resistant to the times I spend away from the family. It places extra burden on him and he really doesn’t get anything concrete in return. (One could argue a happier, more rested wife, but we’ll get back to that in a minute…)
Things came to a head last week when I was discussing the aforesaid European trip with Hubby, complaining that there wouldn’t be enough time to comfortably see EVERYTHING, and he suddenly said, “I am not sympathetic; I am not supportive of this trip in the first place.”
I was thrown for a loop. Here I am, glibly planning this two week trip for next summer with friends and – heck- we’re almost ready to buy plane tickets, when Hubby suddenly brings to my attention the fact that, ahem, he is not supportive of this trip. I admit I never really asked permission to take this trip with friends -a trip that I have been saving both my money and airline miles for. I had, at first, mentioned to Hubby that we take a trip together, just the two of us. I suggested Alaska, a place Hubby had always wanted to see. I figured out a little itinerary (Denali! Kenai Fjords! A fishing charter!) and asked my sister if she would be willing to come out to Idaho to watch the kids while we were gone. I had it all planned, and presented the plan to Hubby on his birthday.
The response was not as I had expected. He replied that he didn’t want to spend that kind of money, that his idea of an Alaskan trip was much different than my idea of an Alaskan trip (think flying into a remote North Pole-ery location and rustic camping/fishing for a week) and he reminded me that we don’t travel well together. (Which is true, we have very different traveling styles). I told him that we had enough airline miles for both of us to fly to Alaska for no cost. He said, “I’m sure you’d rather go to Europe with those miles.” And I said, “Yes, actually I would. Can I go to Europe with those miles if you really really don’t want to do Alaska with me?” And he said yes. So I really really thought he was completely OK with me going to Europe next summer.
After the conversation (the one where he said he wasn’t going to support my trip), I was wracked with horrendous amounts of Guilt. Who was I, thinking that it was completely OK to ditch my young family for a couple of weeks, leaving my poor frazzled husband to deal with them? Who was I to make my husband take vacation from work to watch the kiddos while I gallivanted around Europe while he was forced to stay home and be stressed out? Why did I think I deserved that? What if something happened to the kids while I was gone? What if something happened to me? How selfish was that? How selfish was I?
While I kept trying to make sense of my emotions regarding this I tried to ascertain exactly why Hubby said he was non supportive. What he had said was he wasn’t supportive of my trip. What I heard is that he wasn’t supportive of me. When I asked him to clarify, he said he thought the expense of travel was too great and that he didn’t believe I would be able to save enough money beforehand to finance my trip. He also was unhappy about having to take work off, using up valuable vacation time that he would rather use for….um, vacation. He also was worried for my safety, in light of the terrorism that seems to run rampant in Europe these days. Additionally, and perhaps a little “selfishly” on his part, he was jealous. When had he gotten to take a two-week trip with his friends? I reminded him of the cool locations he had traveled to for work (Sweden, for example). Also, I reminded him that I had tried to get us to plan a trip to Alaska, a #1 bucket-list item on his agenda, but he had declined.
Nevertheless, even after finding out the reasons for my husband’s reluctance to this trip, I still felt guilty. I assured him I would try even harder to save money. I would sell stuff I was no longer using on ebay. I would pare down my spending. I also assured him I would try to figure out childcare options for while I was gone, perhaps hiring someone or seeing if a family member would come out to provide babysitting. I can’t do anything about terrorism or crime except to keep alert and stick with my traveling companions, and I told him I would be supportive of any travel scheme he came up with in the future – with or without me. But the guilt remained.
As a wife and a mother, and especially as a woman of God, we are taught the intrinsic value of sacrifice. We sacrifice for our spouse. We sacrifice, especially, for our children. Our sleep, our time, our energy, our bodies. We are happy to do it because our families are worth it. No one wants to be that mom or that wife who selfishly puts her wants ahead of her family’s needs.
So when, if ever, is it OK to say “Time Out! I need to focus on my needs a little bit. And they might look like ‘wants’ to you, but believe me, THEY ARE NEEDS!” Like rest and rejuvenation. Intellectual and cultural stimulation. Exercise time. Heck, a shower!
I guess, ultimately, I don’t want my kids to look back at me during their childhood as a woman who had no identity except that as their mother or their father’s wife. I want them to see me as a dynamic, interesting, and joyful woman who sacrificed for them but never forgot to take time out for herself. I don’t want them to remember me as bitter and frustrated and failing to be a person in my own right. I also don’t want them to remember me as a woman racked with guilt over following my dreams.
That said, I am forging ahead with the planning for my Europe trip. I will try to come up with ways to make the time I am gone (and the expense) less painful for Hubby. I am sure I will continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, but I need to focus on the actual goal which is to create enough joy that I come back to nurture my family even better. One can’t feel guilty about that.