QUESTION: I am a 24-year-old wife
and mother of a two-year-old daughter. My husband has returned to
the military after getting his college degree. We focused on his graduating
and put my last year of college on hold. I never put myself first.
My life revolves around my husband's job. I would love to finish school
but as a military family, we're never anywhere long enough. I feel
very resentful sometimes that my husband is living out his dream,
while I don't even know the real person inside me. I have no hobbies
or friends. I'm a very outgoing person who needs to have a life of
My mother and father divorced when I was 13,
and my mom raised my two younger brothers and me by herself. She worked
hard to provide for us, always placing our needs ahead of her own.
I feel I've learned this behavior from my mom.
I recently got a full-time job with an airline.
I haven't even started yet and I'm already feeling guilty about not
being home for my daughter. I want to be a mother who is also a person.
Why do I feel so bad about having wants and needs?
ANSWER: Your mother's role model was
a strong one. It is also reinforced by our culture -- once you become
a mother, you are a mother first and a woman second! With these two
strong forces influencing you, and your present isolation from family
and friendships, it is no wonder you feel "bad."
You are vulnerable to guilt, yet you clearly see your
own daughter as the stimulus for change. Your yearning to express
your needs is a sign of health. Now it will be up to you to put some
"bite in your bark" when you discuss the future with your husband.
You are an equal decision-maker in the family. What
happened in your decision-making process that left you in this current
unsatisfying predicament? If you are not happy with a military lifestyle,
speak up. Marriage is a "quid pro quo," which is a legal term for
"two-way street" -- helping one another by taking turns. Why didn't
you take your turn to finish school once your husband graduated?
If you always defer to your husband's wishes you will
be left with resentment, and he will lose intimacy in the relationship
as a result of your feelings. Tenderness suffers when partners feel
their sacrifices have not been reciprocated.
Parenthood does require some sacrifice, but this sacrifice
will not make you an angry martyr if your husband shares equally.
You and your husband took on the responsibilities of parenthood together.
You didn't agree to forfeit your own development or always place your
Your guilt for taking a full-time job could be because
you feel your daughter might be better off in less-than-full-time
daycare. If so, listen to that voice. This time, ask your husband
to make a change. It is possible that you are unintentionally mimicking
your mother's role as a single mother, keeping yourself from using
your husband as an available resource for your own growth.
If you wish to work or go to school, does this automatically
imply that your daughter will be in full-time daycare? Do you and
your husband discuss your needs and consider how he will contribute
to the care-taking of his daughter? Should men never be asked to curtail
their desires in order to share in parenting?
Although your mother seems to have done everything,
this is your family and you have a right to create it differently.
Talk with your husband. Make plans that keep your and your child's
best interests at heart.