There’s no time to post much lately because of what’s going on in “real life.” My days are usually a monotonous and draining series of chores, errands, and obligations. As household accountant, caregiver, shopper, babysitter, etc., there’s a LOT OF SHIT going on in my world. On top of the predictable responsibilities of a working mom, I have frequent requests for my time and services from friends and relatives. Almost without fail, I say “yes.” So, after wiping butts, washing laundry, cooking two or three meals per day, shuttling kids around, making and attending doctors’ appointments, housekeeping, paying bills, working a part-time job-I could go on, but I’m boring myself-I have to field requests from others on an almost daily basis.
A degree in English literature miraculously qualifies me to do all manner of editing and writing gigs for free (and not much else-don’t get an English degree). As a pretty organized person, I also qualify for free research and financial consultant. Maintaining the personal accounts of a relative has gotten her completely out of debt while I am sinking under the weight of my own. Because I have performed the ridiculously simple task of E-filing my straightforward tax returns, I have somehow become an expert in the filing of complex ones of several friends and relatives over the years. Those under the illusion that I have my shit together often seek my counseling services. (I am happy to listen to friend in need, but multiple calls on the same boring-ass, trivial issue is just plain annoying). A relative lived in our home for half a year without paying for food, rent, or utilities AND I did his nasty laundry. We “sold” him some of our furniture when he left, but the debt was promptly forgotten.
My husband is the King of Selflessness. His phone rings around the clock, all calls from people asking him or guilting him into doing something for them. Need your washing machine fixed? Call my man. Same goes for oil changes, flat tires, moving services, home renovations, brake-jobs, and rides. He almost never turns down a request. Sometimes I get jealous of his time away from home, doing for others. He’s MY husband! He should be doing stuff I need him to do! That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I’m a bitch.
Helping people makes me feel good, most of the time. Until it doesn’t. It starts to feel like I am being used. Which makes me feel resentful. And when a person makes several demands without any reciprocation, it gets old. How many times have I heard “I owe you one.” One what? I would like some specificity. How about ” I owe you one evening’s worth of babysitting so that you and your husband can take time to notice each other?” OR, “I owe you a home-cooked meal and I will take care of everything from grocery-shopping to washing the dishes.” OR “I will devote (x) number of hours to help you finish all the unfinished projects around your house that didn’t get done because you were taking care of my sorry ass.” Those are good ones to start with.
Even as I am typing this, I feel like an asshole. Sometimes the well runs dry and needs time to refill before the next person takes a sip. I hate to say no, so I just wish people would stop asking. The only people I usually say “no” to are the kids. “No, I don’t have time to push you on the swing, no I can’t sit and make a collage with you…no, no, no.” I don’t have time for fun stuff. And when I do, I am so exhausted and depleted, I want to be alone.
Learning to say NO is a MUST. I owe it to myself and my family. Being pissy about doing things for other people is not a good feeling. It all comes down to wanting be liked, I guess. And I’m too proud to admit that I am barely holding it together with all of the demands on my time and energy. It’s not easy making my life look easy. The worst part is watching the time just speed right by. My kids are growing up, soon to leave my nest. I will never have this time back, there will never be another chance to kiss their boo-boos and play with them. I kick myself for being too busy for them. The guilt I feel stifles me.
As a child, I remember asking my parents to play with me. The few times they did stick out as some of the best memories of my childhood. Dad teaching me how to throw a football-I throw a better spiral pass than my husband! My mom washing my hair and singing to me in the tub, playing pretend and dress-up games. Then there were the many times they had no time for childish things. “Later, later,” they always said. When later came, mom had left and shortly thereafter, dad had passed away. There was never a “later.” These are the things my father regretted when he was leaving this world, the things I am sure my mother may reflect on now that it’s too late.
Already, I have some of these regrets. Though I promised myself to never lose sight of that lonely girl I was and to remember the feeling of being overlooked, I do the same to my own children. I recognize this and resolve to do better. I want my kids to have many memories of fun and laughter and just being together. Eating around the dinner table, hiking to a waterfall, mining for pretty rocks, playing catch in the backyard…
The best thing I can do for myself and my family is to say NO sometimes. I will be selfish for them. No matter what favors I might ask of others, the one thing people will never be able to do for me is give me back the precious moments that I lose when I am too distracted, tired, or stressed to treasure them. I enjoy helping others, truly. I want to be there for my friends and family and I’m proud that I am someone they come to when they need a loyal friend. Finding the right balance between helping others and being a martyr is the key. There’s no sense in giving my time and energy begrudgingly. I’m challenging myself to say “yes” to my kids more and “no” to the next person that asks me for something I don’t want to give.