God has put an assignment on my life and it is time I let go of the guilt for choices I make to honor my assignment. My assignment is this: CARING FOR MY FAMILY. That’s it. Several years ago, I attended a church service where a pastor first introduced me to the idea of God giving us assignments. Assignments can be people or causes or whatever God has called you to do. You can also have more than one assignment though I’m not sure if it would be feasible to manage multiple assignments simultaneously. I’ve known since I had children, my family is my main assignment. I love this beautiful family of mine, who God entrusted me with, and I am going to do whatever I can to make them feel loved, nurtured, and cared and provided for.
When my husband, Bryan, had brain surgery due to hydrocephalus in 2016, we thought we had passed the worst of it, not knowing he would decompensate the following year, which entailed even more hospitalizations and treatment. I knew with my background in mental health and working directly with clients and helping them navigate through life (including medical appointments), it prepared me to attend to Bryan. It is difficult for the average person to navigate the medical care system, let alone experienced professionals. Even with my training and experience, I would get frustrated with the process of it all. Bryan is doing so much better and I have been grateful to be his advocate, case manager, and caretaker. I feel sorry for those who do not have this level of support.
My son, Caleb, started struggling in middle school due to difficulty focusing. I made sure I attended all the school meetings regarding his learning and attempted to implement protocols at home to keep him organized. I typed “attempted” because they didn’t always work, especially if Caleb didn’t keep up with them. Bryan was the homework parent, and I was the organizer, scheduler, and shopper. In addition to emotional support, it was also important to me that my children had healthy, homecooked meals because I wanted to provide them with this type of nurturing. Therefore, I made sure I purchased healthy food options and I spent my weekends cooking.
For years, I have mentally tortured myself for spending most of my weekends prepping meals, cooking, attending to my family and home, playing with my children (when they were little), and doing some self-care activities instead of catching up on my never-ending work to-do list. I cannot pinpoint when, but I came to the realization I was deliberately choosing to focus on caring for my family, my assignment, rather than doing work activities. And this realization occurred over a period of time. Why would I feel guilty about that? It would have made more sense for me to be give myself some grace for all I was doing. However, internal and external forces made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough.
Since teleworking for over 2 years now due to the pandemic, I continued to bear this guilt. The lines between work and home are even more blurred working from home. I would spend my weekends attending to my assignment, all the while with the anxiety of “work” looming in my head. It was like background noise I could not turn off. Then Sunday night would inevitably arrive, and I realized I did not have time for work. But interestingly, that is when I would let it go and proclaim, “tomorrow is a new day”. Why can’t I start my weekend consciously saying I am devoting my weekend to my family (aka my assignment) and myself and be satisfied with that?
Earlier in the summer, a pastor at my current church preached about people being so stressed today and how we need to go back to some basic principles such as recognizing Sunday as being a day of rest. I knew that message was for me. I felt convicted as I listened. He did say to work hard Monday through Saturday. I left church promising to adopt this in my life. In honesty, I have slipped a few Sundays by doing some work, but the same degree as in the past. And for clarification, the commitment I made was not to do work for my place of employment on Sunday and to do most of my weekend cleaning and tiding up on Friday and Saturday. I don’t necessarily view cooking as work.
Another aspect where I find myself feeling guilty is when it comes to maintaining friendships. My life is plenty full, even with my children growing up. I have prioritized caring for my assignment. There are some people I stay connected with, but I realize there are many people of whom I do not due to the extra effort it takes. Aside from attending to my assignment, I value my peace, so I set boundaries which usually means less people around me. Plus, I am an introvert at heart so I am energized in small groups such as the size of my household (4) and in solitude. I will also add that long term friendships ebb and flow because we all have our assignments and things going on in our lives.
If you struggle with any of this, I hope you take what you need from my post, but mainly allow yourself some grace. The main thing I am doing is changing my mindset. I have already been practicing this. Rather than focus on what I don’t accomplish, I focus on the conscious choices I’ve made to attend to my assignment, what I did accomplish as a result of my choices, and then I give myself a mental high five for following the commitment to my assignment. That’s it.
For example, I started Saturday morning with attending a Zumba fitness class which was super fun and checked the self-care box. Afterwards, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items for the household and it was nice to get there early. Then at home, I prepared a delicious lunch of leftovers. I then cleaned my bathroom and was pleased that a new product I tried removed the soap scum and hard water marks. I changed my bed sheets, did some laundry, dusted two ceiling fans. swept the floor in the main areas, wrote two work ideas down on my dry erase board in my office, watered, pruned, sprayed my indoor and outdoor plants, washed my hair, and polished my nails. I started this post before midnight on Saturday, which is another score for me. It was a very productive day for sure. Great job, Lucrece!
What is there to feel guilty about? If anything, I need to process more deeply what about my work environment causes me to feel guilty when I’m unable to work on my off days. What is it about me that requires me to believe I SHOULD be able to do it all when in reality, it is not feasible. And I’m working on removing the word “should” from my vocabulary because it’s like setting limits on yourself. Prioritizing my family (and my self-care) when I’m not scheduled to work is what I need to be attending to on my off hands. For limited time work projects that require a little extra work on my off days, I’m willing to accommodate, but not like I used to. This is coming from a recovering workaholic.
The light lessons for this post are: 1) deliberately change how I view the situation by acknowledging the choices I am making; 2) committing myself to those choices; and 2) praising myself with positive self-talk. If I go even further, I could maintain a journal or phone log of choices/accomplishments I’ve made for the day. I did try this for a few weeks and didn’t keep up with it. I just might pick it up again.
If you struggle with work guilt, mom guilt, friend guilt or just general guilt, I’d love to hear how you handle this. Drop a comment if you feel so inclined. Until next time.