Amy Pearson has a really good post up over at Martha Beck's blog on how to deal with the shame you feel for not being the perfect mother. I think it's good advice for moms who have a basic, healthy sense of themselves and of how to treat their children. For those who are struggling to be healthy, shame can sometimes keep us from doing things that shouldn't be done and I think can protect our children in some cases. But otherwise, and provided you are a healthy (i.e., non-violent, non-addict) mom, I agree with Pearson--if you don't bring your expectations and judgments out into the light yourself, they come out in other, weird ways you don't expect. Like, in my case, as back pain or overwork.
I think most of you know that I'm training for a half-marathon right now. This week's training schedule looks something like this:
Monday: 3 miles
Tuesday: 6 miles
Thursday: 6 miles
Saturday: 9 miles
I'm really enjoying the practice of getting ready for the race (even though I haven't actually signed up for a half-marathon yet, I am signed up to do a 200-mile relay with some friends in October). The interesting thing about running regularly and doing things like speed workouts and endurance workouts is that you have to sort of detach from your judgments about how things are going to go. Last Thursday I ran 6 miles, and it felt totally easy. I felt strong and fast and like I could go forever. It was actually fun. Yesterday, I ran 3 miles, and it felt like the longest, hardest 3 miles I've ever run. In the past, that would have been a sign to me that I was not a runner and should just quit, and I would have. But I don't really give myself that option now. Instead, I just get cool with the idea that I never know what the day is going to be like. I just know that I have to keep going and finish what I started out to do. And the dividends are nice: I feel less stressed because of all the exercise. I've lost a little weight (though not a lot, thank you, hormones). And I feel like someone who can do intense exercise without pain and without giving up. This last one is the best part.
But doing this much running is also something of a time commitment, and it has meant letting other things go. Things like having a nice dinner on the table every night. There have been nights that the girls have had hot dogs and apples for dinner and E. has had to heat up a burrito when he gets home from work because I just didn't feel like dealing. I think I would normally feel shame about this, but the running seems more important right now than the perfect healthy dinner OR the shame, so I've let both go. E. also has had to step up and deal with things like getting the girls to soccer on his own, which he hasn't loved. And he doesn't get why I'd want to run like this. So there's a little tension there. But it has otherwise been a good exercise in letting go of expectations.
Of course, it's a thin line between having a good new practice, like the running, and letting it add new stress to my life rather than relieve it. I don't know if I'll be able to keep it up once classes start in two weeks. I hope so. But if it becomes a new tyrant in my life, then I'll have to adjust that then, too.