I think all parents hope to raise their daughters to be intelligent, strong, independent women; women who can think and do for themselves, who are successful and who don’t rely on anyone else as a source of their happiness.
I believe my parents did that very well. I have always prided myself on being independent to the point of stubbornness and although some people may see that as a character fault, I don’t. I believe that because of this I am able to constantly learn and accomplish things that are far outside of my comfort zone. I think for myself, I do what I want, I feel successful and I love my life.
Society pushes us to be everything. I feel that, as women, we are not only groomed to believe that we can do it all, but that we should do it all. The career orientated woman, the family woman, the socialite and the self care guru who has time for everyone and everything and still manages to exercise, do her hair and sleep 8 hours a night. And you know what, up until last week, I was all on board. I could do it all; I was doing it all. I am married to an amazing man, we have the worlds cutest little boy (yes, I realize I’m biased), I have a career as a nurse, we are able to travel and we have a tribe of friends and family who support us and help us out constantly. We may do things a little differently than other families because of Shawn’s SCI, but that’s ok. I’ve never had an issue with having to be the heavy lifter, the top shelf reacher, the back of the truck loader and unloader, the main parent or any other role I’ve had to take on. I’ve been doing all the housework and errand running, while raising our very energetic toddler, working a 4 on-4 off rotation and now that we are in our new (and unfinished) house, I’ve been trying to help Shawn out with the construction too.
I was superwoman. Until I wasn’t.
After a morning spent chasing our toddler around, then, while he napped, hooking up our 16 foot dump trailer to the truck so it could be emptied, then loading it full of construction garbage, I went for a shower so I could get ready to go to work for my 8 hour shift. And while I was standing under the hot water, I burst into tears. Usually I would feel fantastic after being so productive, but I didn’t. I just felt exhausted; physically and emotionally exhausted.
And I guess it just took that one thing, the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camels back’, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t superwoman, I was just a woman; tired and realizing that I can’t do it all. Loading the trailer is something I’ve done a million times, but this time, I felt resentment. A moment that I am not proud of it, but there it was nonetheless. Shawn told me “we can do it”, but there was no we… it was just me. I cried because I was hating Shawn’s wheelchair for making him unable to help me, I was mad at his pride for not allowing him to ask for help; and then I cried more from the guilt of thinking these things.
What is wrong with me that I have all of a sudden reached my limit when there are women out there who do a hell of a lot more than I do and manage to keep it together without having breakdowns in the shower? Why am I failing? Am I even allowed to feel resentment towards Shawn’s injury when I knew exactly what I was getting into when I agreed to marry him?
And as I’m sitting here writing this, I’m wondering why we always seem to be comparing ourselves to others; our situations, our children, our bodies, our income, our relationships, our happiness. Why can’t my limits be different than someone else without me feeling shame? Life is hard enough to balance without basing our expectations of ourselves on how someone else’s life looks from the outside.
So I am deciding today that it’s ok.
It’s ok to be tired as hell and admit that maybe I can’t do it all, all of the time. I’m going to give myself the time and space to feel the resentment towards his spinal cord injury and to move past it, because honestly, it’s always a fleeting emotion anyways. I’m going to talk to my husband and make sure he realizes and understands that I would like some help, even though it appears that both of us have a hard time asking. It’s ok that my life doesn’t look the same or maybe even as glamourous as another SCI couple that I follow on Instagram, it doesn’t make me any less successful. And if all these things are ok, then it only follows that it’s ok that the limits of what I can handle would be different too. I don’t have to be everything nor do I have to do it all and this doesn’t mean I am a failure; it means I am human, and being human doesn’t make me any less of a superwoman in my own right.
So to you, the wife, the mother, the career woman, the SCI caregiver, the chef, the chauffeur, the personal assistant, the heavy lifter, the handy woman and every other hat that you may wear, I see you and you are phenomenal. But, it’s ok to ask for help. You are still superwoman.
Sam (now excuse me while I go find my cape)