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Big Dude has been helping out around the house more as of late. Instead of milking this phenomenon for all it’s worth, I am having my own guilty freak out reaction that goes something like this:


For more than 10 years, I have begged, pleaded, cajoled, shamed and/or threatened my husband into helping out around the house with chores such as taking out the trash.

(I despise taking out the trash, specifically dragging the cans to the curb on pickup day.  Don’t ask me why this particular chore annoys me so much because I have no answer.)

All of a sudden — and I can’t even pinpoint the day — Big Dude started doing things around the house.

On his own.

Without being asked.

He’s been doing dishes, putting dishes away, even folding laundry. Just this morning, I came down the hallway, made the right into the kitchen, and found Big Dude putting the finishing touches on Little Dude’s lunch.

Do I stand in the hallway and beam lovingly at my husband, giving thanks for him and the five extra minutes he just saved me (hey, which I can use to shave my legs!)? Nope, not me. I, in all of my Guilty Glory, feel guilty that I’m not the one that made Little Dude’s lunch. I feel guilty that I’m not the one who emptied the dishwasher.

After years of preaching equal participation in household duties, I should be throwing a party now that Big Dude seems to have heard my pleas. I should at least go shave my legs with those extra five minutes. But instead, I find myself wanting to pitch in and help with whatever task he is doing. If he’s emptying the dishwasher, then I help empty the dishwasher because even though he’s finally participating in chores around the house, when I seem him emptying the dishwasher, I feel like I am not pulling my own weight.

Crazy, I know.**

Why can’t I just sit back and appreciate this new helpful side of Big Dude? It could leave just as mysteriously as it came, so I better appreciate it while it’s here, right?

Here’s my lovable husband shuffling from sink to cupboard as he waits for his morning caffeine to kick in, putting away last night’s dinner dishes to help out his wife. Then his wife comes in, hairy legs and all, and rushes to put away the rest of the dishes before he can.

It’s a sickness, I tell you. A sickness!

My brain ping-pongs back and forth inside my head:

Guilt Goddess:  No, I won’t interfere. I should let him finish with the dishes.
Me:  I really should help out. It’s only fair.
GG:  What’s fair is you cooked dinner and washed the dishes last night, it’s his turn now to put away the clean dishes this morning.
Me:  But I can’t just stand here and watch him put them away while I sip my coffee.
GG:  Yes you can.
Me:  Well I can, but I feel guilty.
GG:  Is he complaining?
Me:  No.
GG:  Are you annoyed, angry or resentful that he’s helping out?
Me:  No, I’m ecstatic.
GG:  Then if you feel guilty watching, don’t watch. Take your coffee in your bedroom and go about your morning.
Me:  Yes, ma’am.

Sigh. I wish either of us was motivated to do laundry. I bet I wouldn’t feel guilty if he sorted his own underwear and socks.

**BD thinks this entire line of thought is beyond hilarious.  He said if him helping out causes this much anxiety, he will happily go back to sitting on the couch.  Um, I didn’t ask for THAT.  I just need some time to adjust.  I’m hoping in a few weeks I’ll be the one on the couch watching TV and he’ll be in the kitchen making dinner.

A girl can dream, right?

I recently bought a dry erase calendar to put up in our house to better keep track of everyone’s schedules.  This also gives Little Dude something visual to follow along with and see when things are happening.

So, I’m standing in front of this brand-new calendar I just hung on the wall, diligently filling in the days of the month, and it hit me.  It’s September.

September.

Two-thirds of the year is behind me and the holidays are around the corner.

Huh?

What about all the things I still want to do this year?  The goals I have set out but have yet to accomplish?

Ironically, Big Dude always talks about ‘when things slow down.’  As in:
‘When things slow down, we’ll have a chance to clean out the garage.’
‘When things slow down, we can each take a day off and (fill in the blank).’
‘When things slow down, you’ll get a chance to use the bathroom without multi-tasking.’
Ok, I made the last one up, but really, it’s how I feel.

I just laugh whenever I hear the ‘when things slow down’ preamble come out of his mouth, because things never slow down.  Life just keeps moving faster and faster with me running to catch up.  In the next week alone, we’ve got an open house for Big Dude’s business, Little Dude’s fourth birthday, a new school for Little Dude, and kicking everything off, the busiest weekend of the year at my frozen yogurt store.

Sometimes I wish I had the super-human power to freeze time.  (You know, like Eve from Out of This World. Remember that show?  Eve would freeze time by putting her index fingers together.  Then she had all the time in the world to figure things out until she unfroze time again.  Wow, I loved that show.)  I would be so efficient:

  • Laundry done AND folded AND put away.
  • Every last email and piece of paper dealt with at work.
  • Abundant quality time with the Dudes.  (Because, just like Eve, I could unfreeze select people to spend time with me in the time-frozen world.)
  • Every blog post in my feed reader read and commented on.
  • No worries over getting enough sleep because I would be so well-rested and efficient.

I keep thinking if I could be better organized and wrap my arms around life, I could accomplish everything I want to accomplish.  I would have plenty of time to achieve every goal I have set out and make every dream I have dreamt come true.

But alas, I do not possess superpowers.  I will have to continue doing what I can, like using the new dry erase calendar and having marathon errand-running sessions like we did this weekend.  And yes, I will take one day at a time.  I will do what I can do with the twenty-four hours a day we humans have been alloted.  But, I am still entitled to freakouts from time-to-time and to wish for super-human powers.

Guilt Goddess says: Ha ha ha ha ha.  My dear, you’d still freak out if  you had 100 hours in a day.
Me: True.  But I’d be more productive. 🙂
GG: Give it up, girlfriend.  Stop wishing for more time and start using what you’ve got.
Me: I know, I know.  For everything there is a season, time is on my side, one day at a time, etc., etc.  But super powers sure would be nice.

I was doing so well this week whipping through projects and meeting deadlines.  I even had a great marketing meeting and focus group for my yogurt store.  Then the momentum came to a crashing halt, a five-car pileup crashing halt, worthy of a freeway closure at rush hour.

I do better with a plan.  I’m a planner, with schedules and lists to make me feel like I’m in control.  This works semi-well.  Because there are weeks like this week that are so busy I forget about the plans and schedule I have made, I take on way too much, and then I end up stranded inside the bottom car of that pileup.

Image courtesy Giovanni Sades.

I had planned all week to take Friday off of work to spend with Big Dude for our anniversary.  (The anniversary is actually next week, but BD will be out of town.  It’s a long story that would just make me angry to recount. Trying to just let that one be.  Regardless, we had both agreed to set aside this Friday as our day to celebrate.)  Thursday was suppose to be for wrapping up the week — submit payroll for three companies, bill paying for those same companies, banking — crossing all the financial Ts before my weekend started.  On Wednesday, I got an opportunity for my yogurt store to participate in a community-wide concert event Friday evening.  We were the only local business invited to give out samples and market our product, so we could not pass up this publicity opportunity.  But, this meant I only had Thursday — one day, 24 hours — to put together some sort of booth, signage, publicity materials and coupons, plus the samples we would serve and the containers, utensils and everything we would serve with/give out with the samples.  I had to fit all this in with the full day of payroll and finances I already had planned and still be able to pick up Little Dude at school by four, go home, make dinner and be a mom.

Faced with all this Thursday morning while getting my son ready for school, I had a monumental breakdown.  The tasks in front of me seemed overwhelming and insurmountable.  Why couldn’t I just have some confidence, realize I could delegate and use my resources and get done what I get done?  Nope, not me.  I needed to fit in a week’s worth of work into the eight hours I would have at work, and I would need everything to be perfect.  Just so.  Exactly like the picture I imagined in my brain.  So, it’s no wonder I ended up in my metaphorical car overturned on the 405.

How did it end up, you ask?  I delegated what I could to my awesome staff, prioritized the rest and did what I could.  At the very least, everyone got a paycheck Friday morning, I still had my date with Big Dude on Friday and a successful event for the store Friday night.  Was it perfect?  No.  (By the time of the event Friday night, I didn’t care if we were scooping yogurt directly into people’s hands for them to slurp up as they walked away.)  Did I get everything done that I should have?  No.  Am I currently staring at a pile of checkbooks and an even bigger pile of unpaid bills on my dining room table?  Yes.  But, I can say that even though I had a big ol’ freakout, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and did the best that I could.

Guilt Goddess says: And it sounds like it turned out well.  You know you can’t do everything all at once.  You have to pick and choose and prioritize, honey — some things just have to wait.  Remember, tomorrow is another day.

This whole whirlwind trip to San Francisco in the middle of the week to participate in someone else’s wedding and events really forced me to go with the flow, especially with Little Dude in tow.

In his wedding finest.

After putting Little Dude to bed about 10:00 pm the first night after a rehearsal dinner in Chinatown (a good 2 hours after a normal bedtime), Big Dude had to go to the wedding site early the next day to set up all of the audio equipment. This took A LOT longer than expected. It took so long, in fact, that by the time he was done, we ended up with about an hour in which to take a twenty minute cab ride back to the hotel, shower, change and become decently gorgeous for the wedding, and a twenty minute cab ride back to the park. Not a small feat. Consequently, Little Dude had to hang out at the wedding venue with us all morning, have a slice of pizza in the cab on the way back to the wedding site as his lunch, and hold it together during a 2:00 pm wedding which meant sitting still and being quiet during what is normally nap time. That’s asking a lot from a three-and-half year old.

None of this set in for me until later that evening when we had some friends up to our room (which had a gorgeous — and fortuitous — rooftop patio) to enjoy a few cocktails and appetizers as we watched the sun set. I started to have all kinds of anxiety about not providing enough structure during this trip for Little Dude, not being able to stick to his regular schedule, dragging him around and expecting him to hold it together wherever we ended up. And now, we were having an adult get-together in our room and he had to once again go with the flow, playing with his toys and competing for attention.

Putting on a show.

Interestingly, when I couldn’t take my own anxiety and guilt anymore and unloaded it all on Big Dude, his take was the complete opposite. He said this unstructured time was good for our Little Dude. He got to use his imagination during the whole wedding day setup, playing with the decorations and helping Big Dude with all the speakers and microphones. (LD actually took a microphone and started to entertain the setup crew with his favorite hits- We Will Rock You, Octopus’s Garden and Hey Jude. Priceless.) The little man had to think about his own needs and communicate when he needed to use the bathroom and when he was hungry, and he had to flex his socialization muscles talking to and interacting with adults.

Well, darn. That made me pause. Here I am at the impromptu cocktail party imagining this scene being reenacted in a Movie of the Week to illustrate Little Dude’s neglectful childhood and here comes Big Dude saying the kid was not only happy but probably learning from his environment, too.

So why am I so uptight? The rational part of my brain realized it’s probably pretty hard to scar and/or screw up a kid in three days. And everything would return to normal when we get home. But the irrational part of my brain worried that I wasn’t providing a good enough environment for Little Dude, yielding too much to circumstance and/or my own wants and needs instead of putting his first. But I always put his needs first, so what’s a couple of unstructured days of adult-focused time where he still got to have fun, too?

At the end of it, all this ping-ponging back and forth just wore me out. One side of my brain having a total freakout, berating myself for not doing more, planning better, etc., etc., while the other side of my brain kept saying relax, it will be fine, you’ll be home in twenty-four hours. By the time we were on the plane home, I just wanted to close my eyes and let my brain switch off.

Guilt Goddess says: Honey, give both those voices some Advil and just relax. Did Little Dude eat three meals a day? Did he sleep 8-9 hours each night? Did he come home with all his fingers and toes? Then he’s fine. A happy, healthy toddler. You work on switching off that brain of yours and being a happy, healthy mother.

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The Guilt Goddess

Giving guilt a voice one post at a time.

I am your average guilt-ridden mother of one (or 2, if I'm being honest and including my husband), trying to balance running my own business, running my household and now writing a blog. Someday I hope to have vanquished all of my myriad pangs of guilt and be living blissfully free from moment-to-moment. But, until that time, my guilt will live here.

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