Can we talk about guilt when you’re a chronically ill mother? Well, I’m sure there’s guilt for any chronically ill person, but I can only speak from my perspective.
Yesterday, as I was telling my husband how the endodontist appointment had gone, he exclaimed, “How are we going to pay for this?”
See now, modern society has conditioned us to believe that our worth lies in making money. After all, though I educate, ‘nanny,’ nurse my children ‘for free,’ I’m doing my husband a disservice by doing so. My mother said I’m making him “work too hard.” (Because he’d give less effort at work if I was working!?? How does that make sense? It’s not like he’s taken on a second job because I’m not earning money!) And my mother-in-law said we should not have adopted because I will take longer to go get a job. Can’t ever imagine that being my concern when some one adopts? It’s none of my business what they do. It’s not like they are asking me for money!
When I was taking care of my first two, baby and one year old, husband had a job that made him travel a LOT. It was so often and for so long that what prompted him to look for another job was my son at age six saying that when he’s old, he’d also have a job with a laptop but he would take his wife and children when he goes away.
I was alone. No help. I was everything for weeks on end sometimes. When he’d be home, Sabbaths he’d sometimes be elder on duty at church, or preaching. I still felt ‘alone.’ And when your routine is mommy day and night, it gets tiring. Add postnatal depression, and it becomes deadly. Let me rewind to where I was going regarding guilt! Forgot my train of thought.
When I was pregnant with our second, our first was still an infant. I had a belly, and my husband would carry our baby as we walked into church. A White deaconess stopped me one day and asked, “Why don’t you love your son?” I was taken aback, “Excuse me!?” She continued, “Your husband is always carrying him. You don’t carry him unless he’s on duty.”
Let that sink in as you imagine yourself chronically ill, pregnant with a big belly, and with so much back pain and sciatica that you sometimes hid in the bathroom or in the mother’s where there was a bench to lie on. What kind of accusation is that? And what about the fact that I was mothering my son during the week and any time his dad was NOT carrying him? And what about his other baby that I was carrying 24/7?
Society is messed up and sure knows how to make women feel guilty. What makes it worse for me is that it’s women doing it other women. Why didn’t she ask my husband instead? Or, why didn’t she think, “Aww, division of labour! And Thandi gets a break from parenting BOTH!”
Same with my mom, if I visited them without the children, she’d ask where they were. I’d tell her they were with their dad, she’d tell me I was making his life hard. That I was “unfair” to leave him alone with the children. She told me I was burdening him. What about me? I should parent as if my children have no father? I should be alone with them every day, even weekends? And why not appreciate the few minutes I got to be an adult, a simple adult, having adult conversation? Or be glad he bonding gets time with his children.
Wow, typing this really hurts. I’ve never been SEEN. Nobody saw /sees a dedicated, loving, 24/7 mom who MOSTLY does it alone. While unwell. No wonder the guilt is real and deep.
It became so bad (the guilt of not bringing money IN) that I started sewing baby bib sets. They sold well. But my husband’s thing was, “You’re making it look like I’m unable to provide for us. Like I’m failing.”
And that what these people didn’t get. All blaming me for our lifestyle, but we chose it together. He ALWAYS wanted a mom who’d be present for their children. A mom who would be home when the children got home. It was his dream before he met me.
But that dream means I don’t provide an income. Nor do they see that we then save on school fees, babysitters etc. They don’t see it. Nor do they see the benefit in a mom being with her children..unless it’s when the dad is with them. Then suddenly the mom must be mom 24/7. It’s twisted. But it’s ingrained in me.
Now add not MAKING money, to TAKING MONEY AWAY, and you have a very unhappy me. The guilt is heavy. I feel like a burden. It’s one of the reasons I begged God to just take me. I can’t be the mom I want to be, can’t be the woman I want to be, and what we pay for my health would go to other needs that aren’t being met because of me. I can’t bear it sometimes. And I’m sure there are others out there who also can’t. You feel useless and like a burden. A pain.
I have no encouragement to give to those in my shoes. All I can say is that I don’t let the guilt and heartache take over. The children think I’m happy. And that’s all I want. My peace comes from worship music while washing fishers. I find Strength to exude contentment I don’t feel. May He help me bear it too.