Mindful Mondays: Responsible

I once read in a book (I can’t remember for the life of me which one it was) that we have to be responsible for our emotions. There will always be forces outside of our control that make us feel certain things, but ultimately we are responsible for our emotions and how we allow those emotions to manifest. This was a really important lesson for me. The idea that we are responsible for how we feel and that we can be held accountable for that, seemed strange. Weren’t our emotions untamed forces, leashing out against our will? Weren’t anger and sadness, by their very nature, uncontrollable? I’d always assumed they were. At the same time, many people seek validation for their feelings. They want to know that others understand why they are happy or anxious or afraid. They want someone else to say it’s okay that they feel the way they do. The fact that they do this shows that they do feel some responsibility for their emotions.

People spend thousands of dollars in therapy so that someone with some supposed authority can assure them their emotions are valid. I know because I’m one of those people.

Much of the time our emotions and the way we react to them are totally legitimate. Sometimes they are not. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I got into a fight with Mi.Vida about Isa’s second nap. Basically I felt frustrated and overwhelmed that our daughter wasn’t napping (and that we had a ton of stuff to do before her nap time was over) and when he got her up early I decided that it was a ridiculous move and ultimately vetoed it by putting her back in her crib, without even speaking to him about it. I devalued his parenting decisions for no reason other than it’s not what I would have done. Not only that, I reversed his decision without consulting him about it.

He was really hurt and he had EVERY right to be so. The person who had to take responsibility for her emotions in that situation was me. There was no reason for me to feel so frustrated and so flustered. It was inexcusable that I allowed those feelings to manifest into the actions that followed. I spent a lot of time thinking about why I responded the way I did, where it came from. I realized that I honestly felt I did know more about Isa’s napping and that I should be the one to make the decisions about her sleep schedule. In my mind I cited all the research I’d done, all the books I’d read, all the hours I’d dedicated to her sleep schedule during my maternity leave. In my heart I surrounded myself with the righteous indignation of the sole provider of nighttime care, the one who does almost everything with Isa, the one who doesn’t understand why, despite everything I do, her partner still seems unhappy with his new life and overwhelmed by his responsibilities.

And it was those feelings, the ones I hadn’t been taking responsibility for, that pushed me in the direction of mutiny and betrayal. And now I had to take responsibility not only for my own negative feelings but for the hurt I’d caused someone I love.

Much later that night, I had the horrid realization that I never received my auto-insurance renewal forms and had been driving without coverage for almost three weeks. I was mortified. Panic-stricken, I tried to get a hold of someone to fix the problem and when I couldn’t (because it was 10pm on a Sunday) I totally lost it. At the end of my nervous break down I had to take responsibility for how poorly I’d handled the situation, the suffering I’d caused myself, my partner and my mom (who I called in my desperation).

I also feel like I have to take responsibility for the emotions that led me to write Friday’s post. I’m still not sure why I felt compelled to write that post. I don’t know why I felt so hurt when I perceived people had ignored my post from the week before. Even if I can’t understand my emotions I can take responsibility for them. I’m coming to realize that I have an extraordinary amount of fear surrounding TTC and pregnancy. I’m really terrified of the struggle and the possible loss. It’s almost like a phobia for me. I don’t know why this is. I don’t know if it has to do with my mother’s losses that I experienced as a third party when I was a child. I don’t know if it’s just who I am or if it’s a combination of many things (the probably answer) but I have a truly strange emotional reaction to pregnancy, and not just my own. Knowing someone who is pregnant is very stressful for me and not because of jealousy, but because of an intense fear that the pregnancy will be lost. I don’t think this was caused by my miscarriage, though that definitely compounded it. This fear is very real and whether I can explain it or not, I need to take responsibility for it. I was not taking responsibility when I wrote last Friday’s post and I’m sorry.

Thank you very much for all your kind comments. They meant so much to me, even though I felt tremendous guilt as I read them. I promise that in the future I will request a response if I feel strongly that I need one. I don’t want any of my readers worrying about whether or not I’ll have my feelings hurt when they don’t have time to write me a comment. I would truly hate for that to be the case.

The one good thing that came out of Friday’s post (besides the amazing, thoughtful, heartfelt comments) is that I’ve decided to respond to each and every comment from now on. I responded to all the comments from last Friday. I’m not sure if you get those via email (I have from some sites but haven’t from others) but if you didn’t, please feel free to check Friday’s post to see my response to your comment. And if you want to see my response your comment, I will always respond with in 24 hours of you leaving the comment (I can promise that because I don’t get many comments). I look forward to this new system very much.

10 responses

  1. I loved your honesty in this post. Good for you! I have such a hard time taking responsibility for my emotions with Tim and figuring how where they come from. I’m slowly learning how to do this, and his patience is teaching me how.

    As for commenting, I’ve come to realize I’m apparently just forgetful, because I totally just went back to see what your response was to my comment, and look at that! I hadn’t commented and I totally thought I did. hehe. So the moral to this story is don’t ever take it personally if I don’t comment, I’m apparently very flaky. 🙂 But my intention, is always there!

    • Don’t worry about not commenting. That when up right when you got home. I’m glad Tim has so much patience. My man also has incredibly amounts of patience, which used to annoy me to know end. I mean, he never even gets upset or says things in anger! How dare he! It can be infuriating! 😉 As we’ve been together longer I’ve seen him as a very wise teacher. I still have so much to learn from him about patience and steady emotions. I’m sure I always will.

  2. I have had this same exact fight with my dh. And I’m not very good about taking responsibility for my emotions. Because I want everyone to validate them.

    I wish blogger had a better system for responding to comments … I tend not to respond directly because I don’t think people get follow ups, and they’re not threaded. Gr. Another reason to move to wordpress …

    • Do you guys get my follow ups? That would rock! I think we can take responsibility for our emotions and get some validation. When I explained to Mi.Vida how I felt and why I (thought) I did what I did, I felt able to take responsibility for my emotions and have them validated. He understood why I felt that way but he also recognized (as I did) that I had not responded appropriately. We had a talk about where both of us are coming from. It can be hard because he processes things so much more slowly than I do. I want to talk about it and figure it out and be done with it. He sometimes doesn’t even know how he feels until days later. The time difference we’re dealing with is monumental!

  3. I am so glad that you wrote this post today– after your tweets last night, I have been thinking about you. Although I didn’t know the specifics, I knew that it was a very difficult weekend for you that ended in a very emotional evening.

    I stepped all over Rob’s parenting (his words) A LOT when we first brought Liam home. Like you, I had read the books, done the research, had been a nanny for years… I “knew what I was doing” and he didn’t. So many times, I felt pretty self righteous, steering him in the proper direction… until one day, he laid it on the line and told me that he would not help me anymore if I didn’t back off. At the time, I was furious. Now, I see that he was right. In my mind, I played the martyr, feeling like I was a single parent, when the truth was that I wasn’t allowing him to parent. It took a lot of effort not to correct him when he does something differently than I do (still working on that) but I see that the more I’ve backed off, the more he’s flourished as a dad. Pretty sure that’s not coincidence. What I saw as “teaching” him was really just holding him back from being the great dad he already was. He had a lot to learn (we both did/do) but he needed to learn by doing…not by watching me.

    I like what you said about taking responsibility for our emotions. I’ve spent tons of money in therapy learning how to take responsibility for my actions caused by my emotions… It’s tough. It truly is.

    I hope that your partner was quick to forgive and more importantly, I hope that you’ve been able to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I definitely feel like I’m the one who knows what to do and all parenting questions should be referred to me. Mi.Vida also comes to me with a lot of questions, partly because I do have more experience (I also nannied and babysat a LOT when I was younger) and partly because I don’t give him enough opportunity to figure things out for himself. But the more I see him interact with Isa the more I see that I have a lot to learn from him too. She loves how slow and deliberate he is with her. He is infinitely patient and focus on her completely when he is with her, something I always struggle to do. I know he will teach me a lot about being a good parent if I give him the chance. It will be hard but I need to do it. Thanks for assuring me I’m not the only one who does this and reminding me that it is worth the effort. I appreciate it.

  4. I am really working on this very thing- taking ownership and responsibility for my emotions, specifically my anger and resentment towards my husband for his lack of presence at home and lack of help when he’s here. It’s HARD. But really, I’m the one who ends up miserable when I let my emotions get out of control, and it does nothing to help the situation.

    I wish I could reply to comments on my blog because I appreciate every single one so much!

    • I’m trying to figure out the balance between expressing what I need from my partner and treating his own needs with caring and compassion. The truth is he’s stepped up to the plate and is doing SO MUCH MORE than he ever did before. He does all the cooking and does most of the dishes. And he even does them when I offer to do them myself. He plays with my daughter every morning before my sister-in-law comes and is amazing with her. There is still so much that I do, but the things he does are so, so helpful. I think what I struggle with is allowing him to have his own feelings about this phase in our lives. He is finds all the responsibility overwhelming. He is tired all the time and just seems down a lot. I know he loves Isa and I know change is hard for him, but I get frustrated and impatient with the way he deals with things (or doesn’t deal with them, as I perceive it to be sometimes). I didn’t think having a baby would be so hard on our relationship and I struggle with that a lot. I hope it gets better.

  5. Thank you for writing this post. Like the others, it really hit a nerve. In a good way as I’m the same way. I’m quick to blame Nav when I should be looking in the mirror.

    We are starting to (finally!) have Daddy and the boys only time. What happens when I’m not around is tough for me not to know but it’s better for the three of them to figure each other out. Right now, the boys don’t respond at all to his directions (especially if they’re making a bad decision, ie. being unsafe) and that needs to be fixed.

    I am trying to be more mindful about replying to comments. I wish blogger would get on board with a better system and am thinking about moving to wordpress for this very feature.

    • I see more and more how hard it’s going to be to parent together. In my house, growing up, my mother was the parent. My father was away a lot (traveling for business) and you never asked him about anything. If you did he just sent you to mom to answer the question. I think I have that idea in my head, that moms parent and dad’s are there for fun (and to lose their tempers quickly and easily). Ben and I have a very different relationship and parenting will be something I suspect we’ll share more than my parents did. Still, with all I’ve learned about behavior expectations as a school teacher, I will have very specific ways of doing things and I will not be messing around when it comes to certain expectations and I know that Ben doesn’t know much about that, so I know that we’ll have to have a lot of talks about how to handle certain situations. I will also be with our children more so he will have to defer to me on some things, as I’m sure we’ll want to be consistent. But he will also always have his own way and I will have to be okay with that. It’s going to be a long and interesting road!

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