Even though I hold a master’s degree (in Information Studies no less) you probably know me as the biggest airhead alive, and I’d have to agree! Not convinced? I’ll give you an example. For YEARS I thought the Chili’s low calorie menu read GUTLESS CHICKEN when it really reads GUILTLESS CHICKEN. I’m now convinced my extended brain fart was a Freudian sign of things to come.
Why? Because I am a gutless chicken. I say this because I am often paralyzed by GUILT, mommy guilt to be specific. I imagine lots of it comes with the territory of being an “autism mom” (you know how much I hate that expression, but I still haven’t found a catchy replacement phrase- your ideas are WELCOMED).
Sure it’s natural that I kick myself for not hanging on every word and implementing every last suggestion J.R’s first behavior therapist offered up. If I had, I wouldn’t be waking him up twice a night (at seven years old, fighting at 50 pounds of dead weight) to take him potty (or praying I didn’t ever run in to that same therapist in Target, wild J.R. in tow). I can’t speak for all moms in my shoes, but I can’t help looking back wondering what WAS I thinking? Did I not have any mommy intuition AT ALL when it came to J.R’s delays? Had I not ever played the game ‘which one is not like the others’? Too busy playing Spin The Bottle? Not to mention that if I would have had half a spine attached to half a brain, I would have told J.R.’s pediatrician to go shit in his hat for not diagnosing him sooner. Oops, correction- I meant to say for not diagnosing him at all. So much for early intervention. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Now that I think of it, mommy guilt has the tendency to breed other forms of guilt. For example, I feel horrible that my husband (and the rest of the block for that matter) has to witness me don my comfy, floor-length terrycloth robe from 3:30 p.m. on. Or that it never fails that I (ok mostly my hairdresser) run super late when he counts on me the most. Or that he is always last on my list of “those to please.” It therefore shouldn’t surprise you that nine nights out of ten I fall asleep the second a strand of my hair hits the pillow, in what I can imagine is a pretty unattractive pose.
I’m depressing myself by writing this, so let me switch gears before you too walk away from your screen and head toward the Ben & Jerry’s. I must admit though, mommy guilt couldn’t be an emotion exclusive to awe-tism moms (okay I was grasping at straws with that one).
Lots of women feel badly for not being “perfect moms.” I’ve researched this phenomenon extensively by running these 3 simple statements by my (not surprisingly dwindling) set of friends:
(1) Television is a frequent babysitter in my house.
(2) I find potato chips are easier to prepare than steamed veggies.
(3) Underwear alone is an acceptable outfit as long as they fit like boy shorts (I mean for my kids, not myself).
The results? All “guilty” as charged.
Before I admit how awful I feel for writing this while my kids are asking for their dinner, I will say this: I refuse to beat myself up over wanting certain things that could ultimately produce that mommy or hubby guilt.
Here’s why: one of the reasons why I don’t have a clear memory of J.R.’s early years is because an awful, dark cloud of depression hung over me. I felt ugly, useless, and hopeless. Blame and shame made up the exciting second course. Now that I have somewhat come to terms with J.R’s diagnosis (coupled with the fact that I am not getting any younger) I feel like I can finally enjoy things that the pretty, useful, and hopeful Kristi deserves. Mostly I NEED TO ALLOW MYSELF to enjoy said “things,” because doing so makes me a better mother and wife. In other words, what autism drains from me I am determined to replenish, any way I see fit.
If loving clothes is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Did staying up too late last night shopping online, trying to get the most of my Express coupons affect how I parented today? Probably. I felt and looked tired but I Sephora sells a great eye cream to disguise that. Plus, just imagining myself in my new wool pencil skirt (on sale!) put a much needed spring in my step. Taking the time to exercise builds my muscles a hell of a lot slower than my laundry pile builds, but the energy I gain from it allows me the strength to wrestle J.R. (if not physically, mentally) another day. Writing, or attempting to pursue writing as a semi-career is another major distracter in my life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yanked a crayon out of my mortified little one’s hand to scribble an idea down before it escaped my brain. Or how I craved to keep at least one child in after-care while I finished viewing a webinar on character development . Do I dare ask where would I be without having writing as an outlet?
Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that a girl must remove the I-L from G-U-I-L-T and allow herself anything she may “need” (within reason of course!). I’d love a Porsche, specifically the new 911 GT2 RS (silver please), but at the moment one hot, uninterrupted shower sounds just as appealing. Hey, I never said I wasn’t a cheap date!