Posted by: angelnorman | April 21, 2009

because i felt like sharing.

Recently, I’ve come across a lot of reading material (blogs, articles, and books) that has almost magically provided me with the proper insight into some of the issues I have been facing for the last four years as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. It’s seemingly magic in the sense that I’ve been analyzing myself for about 10 years now and only yesterday did things click together. “Oh so that’s probably why I’m like that…” I’ve found myself saying at least a dozen times in the last 24 hours. Suddenly things are starting to make sense, my behaviors and personality “flaws” starting to seem less erratic and significantly more on purpose.

I owe this to two sources. The first one is an article I’ve recently come across that deals with internet addiction among new mothers. I know you will find this difficult to believe, what with my 4-8 hours of WoW playing a night and my daily blogging and facebooking and all, but I am slightly internet obsessed. Am I an addict? Yes, probably. Okay, fine. Yes I am an addict. I know, shocking, isn’t it? When I mentioned this to my mom, with real and valid concern in my voice, she said, “Um, ya think? I could’ve told you that and you wouldn’t have had to read anything.” Thanks, Mom. No, really. Thanks. (She said through gritted teeth.)

My mom is wrong though at least about one thing. I did need to read it. I knew the minute I began reading that I didn’t come across it accidentally. Lessons are learned in many different ways for different people, and the way I learn the best is visually. I need to see things, to study things, and in this article, I saw myself. I really identified with the mother in the article whose son was born prematurely. I was given those same instructions– no visits for two months unless necessary, unless everyone is 100% healthy, and make sure to avoid places where people gather like schools, churches, and restaurants. To be completely honest, I felt so lonely, so isolated, from the moment he began to make his presence known in my tummy. Perhaps it was because I was always sick, always moody, and I didn’t want to be around people. Or perhaps it was because I was grieving over the loss of my beloved grandmother. I withdrew, as I often do when overwhelmed emotionally, and fantasized often about running away and starting a life that was just my baby and me. When Nicholas was born prematurely, I felt even more withdrawn from the world. All around me, people tried to reach out in the only ways they knew how, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything but that baby struggling to live in his incubator. I couldn’t get close to anyone else, to rely on anyone. They didn’t understand, anyways, I assured myself. How could they know what I was going through, really?

When Nicholas came home in January 2005 after those aforementioned orders to avoid the public, I began really using Myspace as a tool for socialization. Before, it was just a way to keep in touch with my friends in Georgia. After Nicholas, it became the only way I could get through my days while Mike was at work and Nick was sleeping. I was so bored and so alone.

I met many friends through a local mom’s group on Myspace, like Ashlee and Emily, whom I wouldn’t have otherwise met. They are still my friends, very close ones in fact. My first mom friends! How cute, right? Later on, I met Carrie and through her I met Jen, who is to this day one of the best friends I’ve ever had (and our sons are best friends, too). The more people I connected with, though, the better I began to feel about myself as a person and thus as a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a friend. And I think that’s really the main reason I became so addicted to the internet. I think I needed connection, connection with other mothers, other women who understood how difficult it was to balance housework and diaper changes and successful marriages and still maintain our pre-motherhood identities. I needed most of all to feel less alone and more involved with life, with the world around me. The internet was just the easiest way to access that world and people with whom I could form real relationships offline.

The problem with this, however, is that the internet is way too high on my priority list. I particularly liked this part of the article:

“I called it my ‘avoidance cycle,'” says Jessica Rigby (her name has been changed), a pregnant mother of three from Idaho who used to write four blogs. “Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would escape into mindless web surfing. I’d find myself circling through the comments section on my blogs to my photos on Flickr to see if anyone had commented on them, and then over to Twitter to see if anyone was chatting with me there. I’d waste hours just waiting for someone to respond to something I’d said or posted.” Because she’d skip errands and allow her kids to make a mess of the house, she says, her stress only amplified, and she’d dive into the avoidance cycle all over again.

I’ve so been there. I’ve not necessarily went looking for comments on Flickr but I typically log on every morning and go through about 17 different webpages to socialize. It would typically go something like this: check email, check blog, check playgroup’s forum, check facebook and respond to requests, check twitter and respond to tweets, check myspace, read blogs on Google Reader, write a blog (maybe), answer emails finally. By the time it was said and done, I had to make lunch for my kid. Or dinner, depending on when I woke up.

Not good.

Moving on, though. The second source is a book, which I borrowed from Jen who borrowed it from Emily I believe, called What Every Mom Needs. It’s written by Elisa Morgan, the President of MOPS (moms of Preschoolers) and Carol Kuykendall, Director of Strategic Projects of MOPS, International. I’m one chapter in and already I feel as though all the emotions I’ve been going through lately make sense. Here is an excerpt that really spoke to me:

This season of life is a season of self-sacrifice, but as moms, we often lose our identities as we’re swept into the role of being a need meeter. We can’t help but feeling sometimes that we cease to exist for anything other than meeting the needs of others, and we not only begin to identify ourselves in that way, but we begin to measure our value and worth by our ability to meet those needs… For those of us who are married, meeting the needs of a husband can also preempty our own identities. We are the ones who support a husband through challenges at work… We’re often the caretaker who makes sure he has clean shirts and socks… advise him in his interactions with the children… we may serve as his only close friend and confidante. As we focus so much of ourselves on him, our identity can come to feel like simply an extension of him. Or he can seem less like a life partner and more like another child.What Every Mom Needs, pp 34- 35.

This is how I feel about my husband, that he is an extra child for me to take care of because he has so many needs for me to meet, a lot like Nicholas really. This has been a constant struggle in my marriage. I am always so angry that I’m having to clean up after him or pick up what I view as his slack!

I flagged the whole section for my husband to read, and after he was done, he turned to me and said, “Aw. You see yourself as a need meeter?” I looked at his face for a sign of a smile, because surely he was joking if he didn’t see it too. We discussed it, and it turns out that he found it bizarre that there was a book that has been saying the same thing I’ve been saying for four years. Also, he said that while he understands me taking on the role of need meeter (or at least why I feel that way), he wants me to know that he doesn’t expect anything of me. He then added something that hit home with me. He said that he thinks I would do this anyways, regardless of whether or not he expected it of me, as if I would choose to just martyr myself over and over, spreading myself so thin that I can do nothing else. The nerve of that man to say such a thing… who does he think he is? I mean, that would mean I did this to myself, as if I just sat down one day and said I’m going to pretend that everyone expects my best and that I was a failure if I didn’t give it to them. If I wasn’t the best mother, the best wife, the best daughter, the best friend, or the best whatever, then I would not be worth very much to anyone and–

Oh wait. There’s a good chance that I really did do exactly that. Maybe not on purpose, but subconsciously? Yeah, that makes sense. I know he is not completely innocent, but then, neither am I. What if it is truly exaggerated in my head? What if I can get to a point where I admit that maybe not everyone needs every little need met right away. Imagine the pressure that I could lift off of myself if only I could get there.

I am a self-sacrificer. It started when I became a mother, because before then, I was quite independent and selfish really. I was all about taking care of my needs and doing what I needed to do. And since becoming a mom, I’ve noticed that I lose myself most often when I am overwhelmed with meeting everyone else’s needs and ignoring my own. That is when I begin to resent Mike for not helping me more, and that is when I begin to look for ways to escape my responsibilty… like playing on Facebook for an hour while my kid watches TV because I need a break from piles and piles of laundry or dishes (or both), dirty toilets, floors that need vacuuming or moppings, puzzles that need working, books that need reading, kids who need entertaining, and dogs that need feeding, bathing, trimming, or walking.

Reading this one section may have saved my marriage. I am confident that the more I read of this book, the more I’ll come to realize that it’s saving me– from myself. Times have been tough, ya’ll, and now that I’m understanding things more clearly, I’m becoming more equipped to deal with the things that bother me. The more I learn about me, the more stable and in control I feel. It’s empowering really to know yourself, because knowing is half the battle, right?

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