Wheelie True Stories

The Day I Realized I’m Not Superwoman

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.

Pushing on…

Sam (now excuse me while I go find my cape)

11 Comments

  • P Messling

    I am a SCI spouse also to a C-6 Quadriplegic. Many days are difficult. We have been married 26 years prior to his accident. He weighs 300 labs so he can only be transferred by hoyer lift. No hand function.
    I still work full time for insurance. We have to pay for caregivers out of pocket. 2 children. One in college one in middle school.
    A lot of days with little hope sometimes .
    His place of employment did not help him with adaptive equipment so he pretty much just had to retire early.
    Now he sits in his wheelchair and basically asks for stuff and watches tv.

  • Lindsay

    I had this a couple of weeks ago. I’m still recovering from a burn-out, and moved in with my SCI-love (thé love of my life) in October. But there were moments when I just couldn’t go to the kitchen and make dinner, and I hated it… I felt like I was letting him down, that he was counting on my support. At the same time I was angry at his wheelchair, I hated it, I wanted that HE could take care of ME 😐 As a result, I felt even worse because of these thoughts… It’s sometimes really a struggle of feelings, but honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love him with all my heart, and fortunately he understands the struggle as well.
    Thanks for sharing your story Sam! And you are a superwoman, definitely for Shawn and your little boy!

  • Sandra Stuart

    You are all that you need to be. There is only so much that anyone can do without feeling inadequate at the best of times. I do not have a spouse with a disability but I do have a child. Thank the stars that he is the greatest help for me (he’s now almost 21) and I feel torn between wanting him to grow up and be independent but also want him to stay with me for many years. I am the one with the disability and there are sooo many things I can’t physically do yet really want to. One of the hardest was being a single parent to a child who could out run me way to soon. Through understanding and patience, your child will grow up to be a big helper (if he isn’t already lol) and it will make those impossible days feel a little easier. Superheros come in all forms and you my dear, are a superhero to those around you. You’ve got this.

  • queencgb

    Really well written, Sam ! We too struggle with all of these things and still continue to take on more projects. I’ve sometimes wondered if there will ever be a time that I, as the ‘sherpa’ (my loving nickname for myself) will rest easily or be taken care of in the same way. I often dream of having our own assistant – one that can do all those heavy things especially. And if we will ever get past the hump of just making ends meet because one of us can’t work a normal job. Hell ! being over the ‘hill’ makes me wonder how much longer my own career will last to support us ! But one thing is for certain – when your heart shines so bright because of the person with the disability and what they CAN do and DO do for you, it doesn’t really matter that (we) have to make an extra effort. It proves the saying “we are not all created equally” and therefore, yes, some of us will have to always give a little more in some ways, but it comes back in other ways that we sometimes, in moments of exhaustion, forget how much we value. Keep on doing what you do, Sam ! You are raising a beautiful family filled with love !

  • Adele

    Sam. This was amazing. I feel like you are writing my story here. I went through this exact thing last fall while we were renovating the basement. I love my sci guy but his pride spills over to including my body and time too. The “we can do it” sometimes absolutely means “you can do it”and quite frankly even though I also know what I signed up for, it’s wasn’t apparent that would include being voluntold for some jobs. Its OK to ask for help, and sometimes moving past the pride is necesssary. Thank you for seeing me. I see you right back! Miss you two.

  • Jeanna Kay Clark

    We do what we can as wives of SCI men. Asking for help sometimes makes us feel defeated by SCI but we are still human too. I have a hysterectomy in my near future so I know now I’m not superwoman and can’t do it all but doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try until my body forces me to be down. Stay strong sister! Have moments of tears for those tears cleanse your sole.

  • Jayne Yeadon

    You are enough and more. I sometimes feel as you write about in this post. My partner is not in a wheel chair. ♥️ to you and your family.

  • Vicky

    Can relate to this, we is very rare more like me! I’m a very independent girl and always have been. Sometimes want to ask for help but pride takes over. But then get annoyed when family (mainly husbands family) can see I’m struggling or doing 10 trips to the car to load up but don’t offer to help!
    We’ve got this 🦸‍♀️🦸‍♀️🦸‍♀️🦸‍♀️🦸‍♀️

  • Shelley Dawn Siddall

    Hmmm. I didn’t read job descriptions above. I read love. Love love love love love.

    And started to read about self-love, but then a cape got in the way again.

    As Edna E Mode once sagely ordered,”No capes!”

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