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Where’s your oxygen mask?

By on July 18, 2008

photo by Brewcaster
sleeping dog

It’s summer, and I’m surrounded by people going on vacation. I’m receiving automated e-mail replies that tell me so. My community forums are filled with members going on cruises, camping, cross-country trips and luxury vacations. My appointment at the dentist is delayed because he’s on vacation. Heck, even my mail carrier is on vacation. I’ve got a confession: I went on vacations as a kid but not once in my adult life. We go on a lot of day trips, though.

I like to be busy. My time off is generally spent doing productive work such as gardening, decluttering, finally washing those windows or cleaning the garage. I come from a long line of busy women.

My husband is the relaxed type. He can fall asleep sitting up in a chair. He’s always encouraging me to relax. I feel my best when things get accomplished. I pace myself and get by fine until everyone in my house gets sick. Then I realize how much I pack into a day. That’s when I slam on the brakes and care for myself and my family. My husband isn’t a mind reader. I tell him what I need from him, and he does what he can.

I’ve noticed a lot of my female readers aren’t allowed to get sick. Barb said: “If I have a cold, then my husband has the flu; if I have the flu, then he has bronchitis; if I have that, he has pneumonia; if I have pneumonia, then he’s already dead and no one told me!” She added: “He is always much worse than I am, so I still tend to everything.” Basically, the women get sick, but they can’t rest and care for themselves. There’s no such thing as a real sick day for them. They’ve got households to run, and no little elves are going to do it for them.

I’ve heard all about their husbands’ whining and carrying on over sniffles or a cough. Some of you know the drill. They want soup in bed and tissues handed to them, and if only there were a little bell handy so they could ring it for special requests. Lori said: “My husband can be a big wuss. One time, he actually told me, ‘You’re not feeling sufficiently sorry for me!’ I laughed so hard I hurt! And when my boys are sick, I put them to bed and get them a bucket, but I won’t coddle them because I don’t want to make their wives miserable in the future!” She continues: “A few years back, I had a nasty flu bug hit me. I ached so bad that all of my joints hurt and were swollen. He walked in the door and asked, ‘What’s for dinner?'”

It’s time to stop being a martyr. Sometimes your husband isn’t supportive. I understand that. But often it’s the women who overwork themselves and teach their families how to treat them. You know the saying about taking care of yourself first? In this scenario, you’re on an airplane and you’re told to put the oxygen mask on yourself first in order to be able to help others. It’s time to demand more and let go of some tasks. You’re accountable for what is going on. The blame game and victimization has to end. You shouldn’t do everything for your family. It’s OK for you to be the priority. It’s healthy selfishness. There’s no trophy for ignoring yourself. Figure out exactly what you’re trying to prove. People will continue to take whatever you’re willing to give. Take a day off when you need to.

Or like my mom says with an evil laugh that only a mom with years of wisdom can….You married him.

One Comment

  1. Thevail

    2/3/2009 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve seen a lot of this over the years, heck I’ve BEEN a lot of that over the years.

    Many women have a bit of a martyr complex, and they feel tough, and capable, and strong because of all the things they do for others. And all the things they sacrifice for themselves.

    Aside from the psychological aspects, this can have some pretty serious consequences for most women.

    While you’re busy being super mom, and thriftily not having your hair done and buying “sturdy” “sensible” clothing and shoes, saving money rather than “wasting” it on dinner out or a vacation..

    Maybe he misses that beautiful, outrageous, just a bit silly girl he married. Maybe he even feels that “you’re no fun anymore”..and, like clockwork, you’ll answer, “but I do this and this and we have that responsibility and this bill and..and..”

    It is good to be tough and strong, and every parent should do a bit of self sacrificing in the name of the kids. But that should never be who you are. There is room in life for you to be practical, strong, and happy. Needless suffering has no value. It does not make us strong, except in the face of more suffering.It does not make us morally superior to anyone. And it usually just makes us grumpy.

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