Monday, January 11, 2010


Funny thing about new years resolutions. Sometimes you keep them.

Last year I vowed to fix my life. I had no choice. Things were bad -- WAY worse than I let on. I was overwhelmed and fell into an honest to god depression. My family never knew which Amy they were going to get -- the one that held it together just long enough to handle things or the one that would blow at the slightest issue. Hubby was pulling away -- he just couldn't live in my dark world anymore. My marriage was hanging by a thread. And I was convinced that the only way to fix things was to throw my career out the window, which depressed me even more.

So I took a deep breath at the end of 2008 and admitted that I needed help. Big time. I found a family therapist -- one that had experience working with women like me (i.e., women that insist they can do it all and wonder why they're so miserable.) And I actually went to see her.

The therapist was fabulous. She helped me see that pairing down was essential. So was taking some time every day -- even if it was just 15 minutes -- to just sit and breathe. She encouraged me to find something -- anything -- that would bring some fun and joy into my life. And she even suggested some mild medication (ok, yes, I'm purposely breezing over this. Another post for another day).

But the biggest value was the work she did with Hubby and I together. He started coming to my therapy sessions pretty early on -- he was all for it, ready to try anything. She helped him see that our family was a system and that we're all essential parts of it. She pointed out to him that just like he has a job that's important to him, I did too, and that it would take both of us to make the family system work. She helped him understand how I felt -- how being responsible for my job in addition to the majority of the child rearing while he only had to worry about his job and himself made me feel overwhelmed and extremely resentful. She taught us a better way to communicate with each other so we could have a rational conversation where we could actually hear each other instead of getting caught up in emotion and blame.

I learned alot about Hubby during those sessions. I realized that his upbringing completely colored how he approached our family dynamic. He grew up with stay-at-home mom who did everything for him. He was used to letting "the mom" handle the family affairs. And while he was willing to "pitch in," he was completely clueless as to what actually needed to be done. He also is much more regimented than I had truly appreciated. Point him in one direction, and he can follow the program until the cows come home. But throw a monkey wrench into that path -- introduce a variation or a pot hole and he's lost. Our therapist finally laid it out for me during one session with just she and I,

"Amy, I know he's a smart and successful man and that it seems rational to expect him to figure out how to raise your kids just like he figured out how to build his business. But that process was much more straightforward than raising your kids. He just will never be able to do what you want him to -- his brain doesn't work that way. The good news is that he seems truly willing to help, so you just have to accept that and tell him what you need."

I put the therapist's advice into action -- instead of rushing off to work after the kids went to school, I took 30 interruption-free minutes each morning to eat breakfast, surf the Internet, or read. Just that alone helped me feel more relaxed and ready to face the day. I was relentless in turning down extra commitments -- need a mom to coordinate Girl Scout cookie sales? Not me! Looking for meals for a new mom neighbor? Sorry, can't do it. I even fought my boss on the extra assignment of leading a department fundraiser. It wasn't easy to say no to him -- I had to break down and come clean about what I was going through -- but I knew my life and my marriage depended on it.

Hubby and I went back to weekly "check-ins" on Sunday nights -- the purpose is not only to share and assign the things that needed to be done, but also to calibrate calendars so I could let him know about school activity/events that had to be covered. Hubby was assigned the task of initiating the check-ins and also coming up with more fun family things to do on the weekends.

It hasn't all been perfect, but after almost a year on this program, I feel 110% better. Seriously. I'm a new woman. Life is easier. I can breathe. I feel supported. I can appreciate my life, my husband, my kids and even see what's really important to me, including maintaining my career.

With my life fixed, I'm now focused on a new, more mundane resolution -- losing 10 pounds and exercising more. But I'm taking that one seriously too. I've hired a trainer. I'm determined to face my 40s being the best me that I can.

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