My husband is a very competent, caring person. While I was away on a recent trip to Israel, he managed to successfully get all four of our children off to camp. Although this is an impressive feat, let’s be real – yours truly made the fifty trips to Target and did the actual packing prior to my trip.
I called him on my last day in Israel as he was driving our son with special needs, the remaining child at home, to sleep-away camp.
“Ben had a bad day yesterday,” he reported.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“It’s not your fault,” he replied.
I appreciated his kindness. I felt sad that my son had a bad day and that my husband had to deal with the unpleasantness for several hours. Usually I am the one at home who has to deal with these episodes. I am thankful he’s a hands-on dad. And that he didn’t try to make me feel bad for being away from home.
I hung up the phone and told my friends what had happened.
“I don’t feel guilty,” I explained, “I just feel badly for them.”
“What a novel concept,” one of them said, as if a light bulb had gone off over her head.
Feeling guilt, like so many other things in life, is a choice, and it is one that I don’t often choose to make. I come by a guilt-free disposition naturally. My family doesn’t do the stereotypical “Jewish” guilt. In fact I hate when people act like guilt is part of our heritage. Am I perfect? No. Do I make mistakes? Yes. I try to learn from them and do better the next time. Done. Let’s move on people, there is nothing to see here.
Women often feel self-centered or selfish when they do something for themselves or not with their families. I say nay-nay. In the blink of an eye my kids will be gone. I want to keep growing and enjoying life in ways that are sometimes independent of my family. I don’t want to get mired in feeling badly for what I have or have not done.
When I got home, my husband was quite proud of how he managed all of the household duties and challenges on top of his job. It reminded me of the time he came home from a business trip and my chest heaved with pride having fixed a broken toilet, as if it was a major engineering feat. We both praised each other even though I’m pretty sure each of us was secretly thinking, “Do you want a freakin’ medal?”
I returned from my trip energized. A whole week of being Susan, not someone’s wife or mother, was refreshing.
Selfish? I don’t think so. Self-preservation is more like it.