Falling into the Guilt Trap and Reflections on Dance Camp

[I have no idea why this is showing up without a title, but the title of this post is : Falling into the Guilt Trap and Reflections on Dance Camp]\

For me, at least, there’s been a profound disconnect in my life between things I know intellectually and things I know experientially. I’ll know something in my head and my heart and gut will disagree profoundly. It leads me to question myself a lot (Do I really like this guy, or do I just think I do? And does it even matter?), beat myself up (I know I should be over this by now! Submit, emotions!), and overestimate how well I’m dealing with some things (Of course I’m over this, I’ve thought about it enough and I’m bored with it now). This has been brought home to me recently when it comes to O.

With going back to work full time, the hagim, and O getting more mobile and self-motivated, and therefore more demanding, I’ve gotten really overstretched. I’m glad I recognized this might happen and didn’t sign up for another year on a committee, but there are other ways in which I haven’t dealt with this well. I’m still taking on more stuff than I should, especially around the house, where having the only car often means that the big errands fall to me, and being the owner means that eventually, the buck stops with me. And I’m not getting enough help.

I’ve fallen into the working-mommy-trap of feeling guilty for getting child care when I need it, and I hate that I have, since I knew about it and know how damaging and wrong the expectations that go along with it are. I know that it’s okay to get a babysitter even when I’m not at work or another external obligation. If I need to get stuff done, it’s totally legit to pass O off to someone else for a while. But I’m having a really hard time actually enacting that, and the root of that impasse is guilt. And fear of judgement and failure, but mainly guilt.

It always frustrates me that I can’t logic my way out of emotions. Okay, that makes me sound a bit like a robot, but it’s true. I know the root of the problem, I know that it’s irrational, and that isn’t enough to fix it. The overstretchedness is changing, but not enough, and it doesn’t look like it’s ever really going to be fixed; I’m pathological about over-committing myself. But I’m working on asking for help, and paying for help, and letting myself do things other than work without O. It’s harder than I thought it would be.

Since all this came up in therapy on Wednesday, and I went to Dance Camp on Friday, I ended up talking to one of the other dancers about it a lot. She has a grandchild who I met when he was O’s age, is a single adoptive parent, and she’s always great about this sort of thing. She told me in no uncertain terms that I really need to get over the fear and guilt of asking for things I need. There were also other friends who went out of their way to hold O so I could dance (there’s no way I can dance wearing him anymore, at least not for long). I’m so grateful they offered, because asking can be really hard, especially when I feel like I’m preventing others from doing something they really want to do. Recognizing my loudness and privilege, I’ve become really reluctant to take up space, and I’ve arguably swung too far in the other direction, at least when it comes to the intensely personal stuff (friendship, dating, parenting).

Another thing that really hit home at Dance Camp was loneliness. There is a lot of love and beautiful people at camp, as well as flirtation and wonderful established couples. At the last camp, I felt more connected to the flirtation than I had before, but at this camp, I felt more outside of the whole dynamic. I’m not sure if that was because I wasn’t dancing as much, I was more conscious of my body (because of bad back pain), or because O puts me at a physical remove from other people. (I’ve noticed that I miss real hugs, because I’m generally holding O, and that prevents the real body connection. I do get hugs from O, but they are more involuntary clinging and not the same. I love them, but they aren’t the same.) Anyway, before camp I got together with a friend to set up a dating profile, but since going to camp, I’m back to feeling needy and unready. And recognizing how overstretched I am makes it harder to justify making time for such things to myself, even though they are exactly what I need to be making time for! It’s not the first time I’ve been in this trap, and I hate it; it makes me feel stupid and boring. Stupid, boring, and totally typical, running into pitfalls that I knew were there all along.

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2 thoughts on “Falling into the Guilt Trap and Reflections on Dance Camp

  1. Though the situation was entirely different on many levels, I was primarily raised by a loving hard-working mother and a loving nanny. I know that my mom felt a great deal of guilt about… well everything. I think part of being a parent is being plagued by guilt. But I think you’ll find a lot of people who were raised with even full time childcare don’t feel like their parents denied them anything. If anything, I watched my parent be passionate about her work, setting an example for me to put my energies into things that are important to me. I never felt that she wouldn’t be there when I needed her. I know there’s nothing anyone can say to totally alleviate the guilt, but I think that’s because the guilt is evidence that you really care about making the right choices. And it means you’re a good parent.

  2. I wish we could all stab parenting guilt in its stupid face. I’m at home with the Bitmap all the time, but for 4 hours two days a week a friend watches her so I can do some freelance work. And I feel incredibly guilty the entire time. Then, I feel guilty that I’m not working full time because I have joined the statistics of women in technology jobs who dropped out to have kids. Add to this the fact that sometimes I find taking care of an infant frustrating and, quite frankly, boring, and you have more guilt than a Catholic church on Easter.

    Oh, and now that she’s a little older she doesn’t like being put to bed. She cries for *maybe* a minute when we set her down. Because she’s crankytired but wants to stay up and play. Or, because I have completely broken my child.

    Sigh.

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