I started both of my children in therapy early on in their lives for a reason. Nothing was going on that warranted therapy at the time (aside from the normal social struggles), but I am adamant about getting rid of the stigma around mental health and therapy in my family. I go to a therapist, and my kids know her by name. It has always been an open discussion in this house, and always will be. I taught them early on that if we were meant to get through this life alone, we wouldn’t have 7 Billion people on this planet. I’ve drilled into their heads that our mental health is the foundation of how we go through life, and it should be cared for deeply and consistently. Ok, back to the blog…
“Mom? Can you come upstairs for a sec? Dr. A and I want to talk to you about something.” (it’s telemedicine, for the record.)
My stomach dropped. I felt like I was about to walk the plank. What could it possibly be? She’s not even a teenager yet! My mind raced with irrational and highly unlikely thoughts. Thanks to my OCD, this was nothing new.
I know she can’t be pregnant – too young.
Drugs? No – too young, and she doesn’t go anywhere. I’d know, right?
Fuck. She found a sex toy, and now I have to explain. No worries, Neen – you’re a Sex Coach – you got this.
Did she get her period? Yeah, maybe that’s it. It would make sense. But, why the hell wouldn’t she tell me herself? We are so open in this house! Or maybe we aren’t as open as I thought? Am I failing her?
The thoughts didn’t stop there, but for the sake of this blog, I’ll spare you.
I walked upstairs. I could hear my heart beating in my head (is that a thing?). I walked into her room. My adorable, spunky tween daughter was plopped down with the laptop across her legs. She had this look on her face as if she was unsure about how this was going to go down, which only made me more nervous.
Trying not to vomit, I sat next to her. My face was in full view on the telemed screen. I forced a broken smile and did what I do best…made some awkward joke.
“Is it my turn now?” I chuckled and waited to see how her therapist responded.
“Nina, calm down. I know you, and can tell you this isn’t a big deal at all – so exhale.”
Her soft facial features and smile were always so comforting.
“R wanted me to help her explain how she is feeling about something that has been bothering her lately.”
OH. MY. GOD. Get on with it already! I’m going to shit myself!
She began. “So, R is worried about you.”
Wait, what?! She is worried about ME? Is this some sort of reverse psychology magician shit?
R turned to me and had a smirk on her face. She knew I had been expecting so much worse. No doubt she enjoyed seeing me squirm, only to throw me a curve ball.
“Mom? You seem stressed. I see you running around all day long trying to get work done, taking care of the house, and helping us with school. You don’t do anything for yourself, ever. You go to the gym, and that seems to be the only alone time you get. I want to be able to help you with something, and I don’t know how.”
Damnit. Did she really feel this way, or was she just parroting the stuff I say out loud?
Her therapist chimed in.
“Nina, Mom to Mom here. Do your kids have chores?”
“Not really anything set in stone, but I ask them to put away their laundry. Does that count?”
She smirked. She knew it was all bullshit, and I clearly haven’t delegated half the things I should.
“So, Nina, when do you have your own down time?”
I paused. That was not a new issue for me.
My daughter chimed in and called me out, “When she goes to the gym, or when she scrolls social media or watches Netflix at…like…midnight.”
Dr. A looked at me, and I instinctively tried to look away. Was that shame I was feeling, or embarrassment? Both?
“Look, Nina. You’re not doing anyone any favors. Your kids are old enough to do way more around the house. You’re a family, and this is a joint effort. It’s a little ridiculous that they aren’t really doing anything to help.”
It hit me. Did I truly think these responsibilities should be a joint effort? Did I truly believe I should get more help around the house?
No. I didn’t. But, why?
Well, after my daughter’s…I mean MY therapy session, I did what I do best. Reflect.
Why haven’t I jumped on the idea of getting help around the house? My kids are absolutely old enough and capable. Why haven’t I asked?
Here are the thoughts I saw when I took a peek into my brain…
I work from home. Being self-employed is my choice. If I’m home, it’s my job to take care of all the shit that comes with it.
We’re in a Pandemic. These kids deserve to be kids, and enjoy what few opportunities they have to be play.
You’re lazy, Nina. You have the time to do it all, so why ask for help?
What if my kids think I’m lazy? What if my husband thinks I’m lazy? I want them to see how I can grow a business AND do everything else.
Well, fuck. Now I get it. Once again, it’s an ego issue with me. God forbid someone – yes, even my own family – thinks I’m not some damn superhero. Is it possible that my self-worth is tied a bit tighter to outsiders’ perception of me than I care to admit? Seems so, no?
Ok, Neen…what did you do about it? (FYI, that’s you, the reader, asking me.)
The next day, I asked my kids to empty the dishwasher – and refill it. I asked them to clean up the snack wrappers on the couch from the night before. Instead of doing things for them when they conveniently “forgot” to do it, I asked them again…and again…until it was done…by them.
These things may seem like minutia to some, but like most things in life, it goes deeper. You see, we tend to avoid things that create emotions inside of us that suck. When things suck, we don’t want to do it, right? The trick is not to stop there. Figure out why it sucks. For me, it was clear once I took the time to reflect. I have a set of beliefs that state that in order to be seen as a productive, successful, and worthy woman, I need to do it all. Alone. If I ask for help or take time for myself, I am selfish and lazy. So, I flipped the script in my head to challenge myself.
Is this the set of beliefs that I want my daughter to have? Is this how I want my kids to gauge their worthiness as a human being? If my daughter becomes a Mom, do I want her to do it all simply because she can? Absolutely not.
My commitment to myself is to continue to ask for help, and train myself not to see it as selfish, but rather necessary. To see it as an effort to make sure my kids don’t ever attach their value to being overworked and overwhelmed – two words that seem to carry an oddly positive connotation in our society today.
Productivity over self-care. That’s the message, right? Hustle harder. Work longer. Make more money. Post more viral content. Get more likes and follows.
Ya want to know what my thoughts are on that? It’s bullshit. All bullshit. You can make all the money in the world, but if you’re not mentally “available” to enjoy it, it’s meaningless. Relationships are struggling HARD right now. Parents are breaking down. Children are feeling isolated and confused. You want to make more money? I don’t blame you. Money gives us options, and pays the bills.
You want to work hard at something, though? Look in the mirror.
Oh – and when your kid’s therapist yells at you…listen.
So much love,