I’m the type of woman that MAKES DEMANDS on my birthday and on Mother’s Day. Sometimes it’s gifts – like if there’s something I want that we can’t afford but I know if Donnie plans ahead with the budget then it would be a great birthday present: LIKE MY TRIKE! Or when I wanted one of those fancy collapsible canvas wagons – another thing we didn’t have space in the budget but I REALLY wanted so it became a gift idea.
But often there’s no gift ideas on my mind so I always…ALWAYS make demands about A) activities and B) mealtimes. Those two days are MY DAYS and I make sure the whole family understands that. Now, I’m not crazy, like this year we had a swim meet on my birthday so I just made a dinner request, but still! I MADE THE DEMAND BECAUSE IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY.
I make these points because I spent – a decade maybe? Being disappointed when no one did anything special for me on those days. Donnie thinks Mother’s Day is just something the kids do so he never did anything for me and he’s just not the kind of person who really puts thought into gifts and celebrations for birthdays. Many years those days came and went with very minimal fanfare and often no gifts and I found myself hurt. Not because I didn’t get a gift or a cake or anything, but because no one offered to rub my feet or take me to dinner or even any small gesture to recognize it was MY DAY. I just wanted someone to recognize ME on those days in ways they didn’t every other day of the year. And you know what happened? THOSE DAYS MADE ME SAD.
So now I plan my own days. Some years – if there’s enough good movies out – we do Mother’s Day Movie Extravaganza! Some years I make everyone go hiking with me. Most years I use one of those days to force everyone to let me take pictures of them together. I basically use the “Mother’s Day” or “Birthday” card to do all of the activities I love but they usually hate or just kinda don’t care about. AND LIFE HAS BEEN SO MUCH BETTER BECAUSE OF THIS! I basically claimed my days and held my space and now I don’t ever get disappointed except when I don’t have enough time or if there’s no money in the budget to do the things I want. But those are practical disappointments, not disappointments in people which is what I felt the years before. I MADE DEMANDS! I CLAIM MY DAYS AND MAKE THEM WHAT I WANT THEM TO BE!
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, about how on those two days I demad attention and feel no real guilt about it. I have friends who often feel disappointed like I used to, but feel too guilty to make demands on those days and I am always in awe because it blows my mind that I don’t feel guilty on those days. It’s like – because they are called “Mother’s Day” or “Kim’s Birthday” I have somehow allowed myself to make demands and not feel bad about it and part of me is like: YOU GO, KIM. YOUR CHILDREN NEED TO SEE YOU MAKING DEMANDS AND NOT JUST LIVING TO SERVE THEM. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!
But then there’s the other 363 days a year where I feel like I am – as Lisa Leonard put it recently on her blog – “just a vehicle to take care of the other people in my family.” Especially now that I’m not working, and even MORE now that we are down to one car, I live my days in service of my family. Yesterday I took Nikki to the bus stop, came home and took Wes to school, then came home and loaded up Donnie and the dog and went to the vet. Then we took the dog home and I took Donnie to work. Then I went to the dealership to get my car serviced where I was constantly watching the clock because Nikki had not felt great (not sick, but not well) and wanted me to pick her up from school early so as soon as I finished at the dealership I had to go get her.
OH! BUT WAIT! I had to run by the YMCA first and drop off our “cancellation” forms because Donnie decided to join a Yoga gym so we had to cancel our Y membership to make room in the budget. THEN I went to go get Nikki from school on the other side of town and when I finally got home it was time to work on laundry and get dinner going before picking up Wes. Once I got Wes we had to switch into homework mode (I HATE HOMEWORK MODE) and there were some major issues so I went to pick Donnie up from work and asked if he could drive Wes to swim (after he ate dinner which was on the stove) so I could stay home with Wes’s laptop and figure out his homework so I could be more help when he got out of swim. When he got back from swim we went over the homework (UGG. THE HOMEWORK. I HAVE SO MANY RANTS ABOUT THAT) and then at 7pm I found myself going over my day in my head and thinking of all the ways I failed my family.
ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME, KIM?
Yes. I thought about how I had been soooo grumpy with everyone. I had missed a chance to chat with a friend amidst the chaos. Then, it’s also been raining for several days here and gray and muddy and wet and my sinuses hurt and I’ve been in SUCH a bad mood. I also didn’t get the gutters cleaned and I feel bad about that. And I really should have seen the homework earlier so it wouldn’t be so last minute. And…AND…AND…
I just don’t understand how the girl who makes ALL OF THE DEMANDS on her birthday and Mother’s Day is the same girl who expects to serve her family in perfection the other 363 days a year. I never ask for anything and when I do (like when I asked Donnie to take Wes to swim) I feel TERRIBLE for it. Like, “Who am I to ask for something like that?” WHEN THE WHOLE REASON I ASKED WAS SO I COULD USE HIS SCHOOL LAPTOP TO FIGURE OUT HIS HOMEWORK. I felt guilty for asking his DAD to take him to swim, so that I could conquer the tech issues with the homework. WHAT IN THE HELL?
And then…here’s the kicker…as I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week after reading Lisa’s blog last week, I realized what I do INSTEAD of asking for attention or love or help or anything else from anyone else. Do you know what I do? I EAT. Eating is something that triggers those little happy chemical surges that I don’t feel like I can ask for from anyone else. EATING IS JUST FOR ME. I can run down the road and buy a pint of ice cream and eat it in my car and it’s not for anyone else BUT ME. It gives me that little feeling of a “TREAT” – a type of reward for all of my hard work when no one else notices it. It’s like my way of thanking myself. “Here, Kim. You’ve worked really hard today and no one noticed so have this milkshake.”
I mean, I’m not doing this consciously of course. But I realized this week that the part of me who sometimes feels unseen or overworked without recognition, that is the same part of me who chooses to binge when the day slows down. I don’t have time or money to go get a pedicure or go get my hair washed (I don’t like haircuts, just the washing part) but I could spend $4 at the grocery story for chips and dip and inhale them in the parking lot before I head home to cook dinner for my family who probably won’t even eat what I’m cooking.
So I’m thinking back to the end of Lisa’s blog about her own personal journey of finding her voice in her family.
But in that lightbulb moment I realized I DO COUNT. I matter. I matter just as much as my husband and children. I have thoughts and feelings and needs and preferences just like they do–and they matter. There are four people in our family and I am one of them.lhttps://www.lisaleonard.com/blog/inspiration/my-brave-love-journey?_https://www.lisaleonard.com/blog/inspiration/my-brave-love-journey?_
So I started saying what I thought.
I started saying what I needed.
I started speaking my mind and sharing my feelings.
I started making time for naps, walks, time with friends, alone time and so many more things my heart needed.
I started being a whole person with my own thoughts, feelings, needs and preferences.
Now, obviously I think this would be easier if I owned a successful jewelry business. (I could never justify buying anything of her jewelry, but I follow her because I love it so much.) It’s harder for me to convince myself that I deserve anything more than those two days a year when I don’t work outside the home. BUT. I do? I guess? Maybe?
LOOK AT THAT CONVICTION!
I mean, I read her words and thought Yes, I need to start doing that stuff. But then I think, but the budget…or I think but then who would do ______. And then I start to question how much I even deserve any sort of voice to give my own preferences. And do I even know what I want? I mean…time with friends sounds AMAZING. I miss my running friends who I don’t see as much now that I’m not running. I miss my Knoxville friends. I miss my book club friends. Maybe I need to make more time for all of those people? Put days on the calendar and claim my time?
But then I think but why? What about your life is so hard that you have to have time with friends? Get over yourself and just eat that cake.
I don’t know. It’s hard. It’s like part of me KNOWS that I need to make my voice heard on the other days a year. I am not here JUST TO SERVE, dammit. But the other part of me is not sure what I’ve done to deserve other than the position of servitude.
Okay. I just typed another whole 4 paragraphs about misogyny and the patriarchy and how it tears all of us women down and I realized I basically had taken a detour on this blog and it was becoming WAY TOO LONG so I’m backing up and saving THAT tangent for a different blog post. My point? How do I learn to use my voice on days other than Mother’s Day and my Birthday? How do I harness that feeling…that “I DESERVE THIS AND IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO PLAN SOMETHING THEN I WILL” self confidence that I have those two days and use it EVERY OTHER DAY? I mean, is it too much simply remind everyone, “Hey. I am the one who magically delivers the things you tell Alexa to put on the shopping list every day. DO YOU MAYBE WANT TO SOMETIMES REMEMBER TO THANK ME AS MUCH AS YOU THANK HER?”