A few days ago I sent an email to a few of my closest friends. It started out like this:
“I have a confession to make.
I am not happy.
And on top of that, I feel guilty for not being happy.”
After sending the email I realized the source of the discontent was probably that my love tank was empty. Have you read Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages“? It kind of revolutionized the way the hubs & I did things for each other. Another thing we learned early on in our relationship was that MAKING time for date nights was very important. No matter how busy we are, or how opposite our schedules were, we needed to make date nights (time together) a priority. While there have been times that we’ve skipped them, we generally have 1 night a week designated for ‘date night’ – the night we both have off. Usually this is an at-home experience due to budgetary and scheduling reasons, although we do try to have a date night OUT at least once every month or two.
Well, what I realized after my melt down the night I sent that email was although we had been having date nights which seemed okay to me, we had not had a REAL, QUALITY date night in some time. My top love language is quality time, which means I want to have meaningful conversation and a person’s undivided attention, i.e.: if you are distracted while I’m talking, it makes me feel like I am unimportant, and that other activity is more important than my thoughts and feelings. Our date nights for probably at least 3 months were sitting in the family room with a meal watching a TV series. This was great because I did WANT to do those things with my husband, I did enjoy the uninterrupted relaxation time, and because I knew HE wanted to do them. Then it became a habit, and I guess I just fell into a trap of complacency. Then (seemingly) suddenly, I had this empty love tank which in turn caused a short temper and lashing out at my kids and husband for no reason.
I did recognize this ugly attitude and was mortified by it. But I felt powerless to change it. Even when I made a concentrated effort to change the way I was disciplining and treating my kids, I would find myself reverting to bad attitudes half way through the day when the better, patient reactions didn’t bear immediate fruit.
Here’s what was happening to add to the chaos: my love tank was empty, so I tried to fill it with so many things throughout the day to satisfy myself, which led to me having less time to do chores and spend with the kids, which caused me more frustration because I was not completing the tasks I should’ve been, and even more frustration to top it off because I hate feeling like I’m behind on housework – especially when my house is messy.
Then I was so stressed about the housework that I was neglecting focused time with the kids, which probably caused THEIR love tanks to be empty, and for THEM to act out! What a terrible cycle.
So, what conclusions did I come to?
Two important ones:
1. I need to be honest with myself and with my husband about what my needs are. Which means I have to be in tune with my needs, which can only be done – for me at least – through quiet alone time, usually in bible study, prayer, journaling, and reflection.
2. I need to quit feeling guilty about what makes me happy. Among other things, looking pretty and shopping (for myself AND others) make me happy . I’ve practiced delayed gratification out of necessity for so long that I do sort of feel guilty about these things. I think that’s why I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed Black Friday shopping with my mother in law when we started that tradition. It’s the one day every year where I literally SHOP TILL I DROP. Coming home with bags and bags of gifts for people and things for our home really does make me happy!
So – I’ve decided I have to be more self-aware of how I’m feeling and what my needs are. Because if my needs are not met, I am unable to meet my family’s needs. What do I want to give to my family? The same things I need myself: love, peace, joy, affirmation. When these needs are met we can work towards higher goals like building character, patience, acts of kindness, etc.
Now I’m not completely superficial. I do enjoy cooking for others, writing meaningful cards when someone is going through a tough time, bible study, good music, worship, writing and reading, good conversation with a girlfriend over coffee or tea. In particular, our bible study group of ladies which met every week for a few months was REALLY a refueling time for me every week. I was not distracted by the kids, could focus on learning more about my friends, and could just be ME, not necessarily MOMMY-me.
So I’m going to stop feeling selfish about requesting ME time and just be sure my emotional/relational needs are met first.
This saying rings true: You can’t give away what you don’t have ❤