First of all… Happy Thanksgiving fellow Canadians!
I have a love-hate relationship with Thanksgiving. I love it because I love turkey, and I love to see my nephews together. I hate it because its stressful…and there are always at least a few hurt feelings.
A lot of times it’s me who gets hurt. Not intentionally, but because I am the only person in 45 of us who can’t have kids…and since everyone else got pregnant from sitting beside boys on the school bus back in high school, that’s all they ever want to talk about. They also love to point out how lucky I am. It doesn’t seem to matter what I say/do – they will find a way to tie it back to my childlessness.
Got a pedicure? Oh, we wish we had time for pedicures…but, you know, kids!
I’m exhausted? You think you’re exhausted now, you can’t imagine what it’s like being exhausted with two kids to take care of!
Long work day? Just imagine how WE feel – coming home from a long work day and having to parent our children.
New thing I love? You think you know what love is, but you don’t. Just wait until you have children one day, THEN you will know what love is.
Saw a new movie/show? I wish I had time for TV. All we ever watch is Bubble Guppies and The Wiggles.
Taking a vacation? It must be SO NICE to have the time, money and energy for vacation. After caring for my children, I have none of that to spend on a frivolous vacation.
You get the idea. I try to make small talk, but almost everything I say is met with comments like that. I think it is, in part, because it’s all they have to talk about. I’m a quiet person, and when I’m upset I get quieter – which makes it easy for people to treat me like shit over and over again. This is something I’m working on…but it is what it is right now.
Of the 45 of us, I am the only one to attend University let alone graduate school. The rest of my cousins all work entry level jobs because they had kids so young. There is NOTHING wrong with that, it’s just not the path I took because … well… having kids didn’t work out for me so I may as well do something else. However, because I DID do it, I think some of them feel insecure about it and so we just never discuss it so no one gets upset.
…but it’s hard when I’m doing my Masters – and LOVING it – and not being able to share about it. Especially when they’re all sharing about the things in their lives, and all I can do is sit quietly.
Anyway … today out our family dinner… my one cousin (who is currently completing a 2 year college diploma in social services) was dishing out counseling advice to anyone who would listen because she took an intro to psych course, and is now an expert.
This is what I’m doing my Masters in – and in the end, I will be a Registered Therapist which is exactly what my program is preparing me for. Meaning, I have slightly more knowledge about the mind and counseling practices than she does. As I always do though, I bit my tongue and let her ramble incorrectly about things for a while and then… well, I think I just snapped.
I don’t remember the exact words I said – but I know they were completely unlike me – and something intended to point out that if anyone could give out counseling advice it’s me, not her, and I wouldn’t do that because this is not a counseling session.
Whatever the exact words were, she looked like I’d slapped her and then said “Wow, that was arrogant” and walked away. As always, I quietly finished my meal and no one else noticed what had happened between us. As soon as I could, I excused myself and left. The entire way home I tossed around the conversation – trying to decide what I was trying to prove and why I felt so shitty about it.
In the end, I realized a couple things.
#1) I am exhausted and need a break. The constant attack on my childlessness is breaking me, and if I can’t stand up to them and say something then I need to give myself some space to sort it out.
#2) I need to find a way to stop being ashamed of my infertility, and a way to be proud of the things I DO have – like an awesome opportunity to get my MA in something I truly love. I need to figure out how to talk about it more – so I can share with others, but also so I can feel valuable, too.
#3) I need to stop allowing other people to treat me like garbage. I do it because I feel like I deserve it since I’m infertile (ya’ll know what I’m talking about). I know that is unhealthy and I need to stop punishing myself for this. I don’t deserve to be treated like I’m nothing because I can’t have a child. Having a child is not everything. I AM something, and I am someone who has accomplished so much, and I have a right to be proud of it.
#4) They talk about children and pregnancies because that’s what they know. They’re proud of it, and they have a right to share about the things they’re proud of too. I can’t and don’t expect them to stop, and I certainly recognize how hard parenting is, and how rewarding parenting is, and how when you’re in the thick of it – it’s everything to you. I get all of that…I just want them to stop making me feel bad so they can feel good. Ultimately, maybe they feel insecure because I do have a career I love, and I make a good income, and I seem happy – so they want to show me they’re happy too? Regardless, I fully recognize there is more to it on their side too. However, that doesn’t make this OK.
So…while I’m not proud of myself for how I shut her down, I am not sorry I did it. Maybe it was enough to emphasize to her that I am done being walked all over, belittled, and used as a stepping stone to make her feel like a better person. I realize that it is ME who needs to change this dynamic, or it will never change. I will begin with making sure they realize that I’m a person. I count…and my feelings and dreams and experiences are important too.
Blah. Family holidays can be so hard sometimes…we are not yellers or fighters – but my family is a master at snide comments that peck away at your self esteem…and I’m starting to think it might be time to take a little break.
Do you find holidays difficult? How do you cope with difficult family?