Tuesday, May 5, 2009

on doormats and passivity

Not too long ago I was talking to a friend who is feeling overwhelmed by her life to the point that she's having problems with her husband, because he just seems like one more of the many demands on her resources. She has people expecting her to tend their kids multiple times a week--without compensation, of course--as well as children of her own, a husband who is in a bad mood if he comes home to no dinner and a messy house (which is always, since she's got give-or-take eight kids running in and out of there all the time, and anyway, that's a whole different kettle of fish about gender roles and partnership in a marriage that I won't get into right now), and people flaking out on her when she's asked them for help. She's surrounded by people who have learned that she will do anything for them, at any cost to herself.

One of the prongs of my multi-pronged Chucking It Life Script Fork/Paradigm/Weltanschaung is not being a doormat. And this is why! It adds a prodigious amount of distress to her life to say yes to everybody for every reason, and she's no good to herself or her family when she allows herself to be trampled.

For example: something that causes me stress is worrying about what is in the food they give my kids at school. Hence, I decided that I would make them lunch every day, with a few exceptions for field trips or whatnot. But something else that stresses me are those crazy bento-style lunches that are all froufy and compartmentalized in bright containers. I don't drink coffee, and I don't have patience for that in the morning. I'm just trying to get my kids on the bus with a minimum of yelling and revoking of privileges. So they get PBJ or toasted cheese, cheese sticks, fruit, yogurt--whatever happens to be in the fridge. It's a happy midpoint between cancer/obesity and mommycrazy/shootpeople.

My point is, if there is something in your life that stresses you out, and it's not necessary? Why are you doing it? Stop it! Just say no. For real. It feels so good to say no, and you don't have to be telling anyone that you need a Mental Health Day, or making up elaborate lies as to why you have a conflict, but you'd really love to wanna, blah blah blah. My son The Hulk has a phrase that we have adopted, and you may use it with my blessing: "Nope. Can't." That's it. You don't owe anyone an explanation. Find what your balance is between Selfish Troll and Doormat, and stay there. Serve people, but not to a degree that is going to harm you or your family.

Maybe some of you have already reached that balance, and this was a waste of time for you. But for all the rest of us, let's find something we're doing needlessly and excise it from our lives. We'll be better for it. I'll think about it for a bit, and get back to you on what I've decided to chuck. Then we can spend our efforts on the things that actually matter.



Now I know why Wade is so less stressful than me!! You hit that one on the nail Nope. Can't. No explanation...Now if only I could do it...

tipsybaker said...

Strangely, my husband needs this post more than I do.

Jill said...

I like this makes so much sense. Why is it easier said than done? I guess it's because if I called one of my friends for a favor and got the answer, "Nope, can't"...I would probably thing she was a poopie pants. Admit it, you would think the same thing. I guess I just have to make the decision if I want to be door mats or poopie pants....or poopy doormats.

Layne said...

I don't think I would, if she wasn't the type to be lazy and selfish in the first place. I would probably figure that she was just too busy.

Someone who gets upset at you when you can't do her a favor is not someone you need in your life anyway.

See how I'm mean?

Sarah said...

This is something that I have been improving in my own life lately. I finally realized that I just can't do everything. Period. It's been totally liberating to say NO in the last couple of years. I don't even think the word was in my vocabulary prior to that. It's still important to give, and serve, and help others (even when it's not convenient). So, yes, find a balance between selfish and doormat...and when you're leaning on side of doormat? "Nope. Can't."

Amy said...

I have so many thoughts about this post. It's obvious that by saying "yes" to people who would take advantage of her, this friend is also saying "no" to her husband, home, family and her own sanity. It's not that she can't say "no," it's just that she is saying it to the wrong people. I hope she reads your blog and takes a serious look at her life and her priorities.

As a person who frequently has six (give or take) kids underfoot -- I have to say, "Babysit without compensation! What!?" The friend whose children I watch is excessively generous in her compensation, gratitude, gifts and reciprocal service. And, Brian understands that the money relieves some of his burden to support our family on one income, so he is understanding of the chaos and messes and supportive (i.e. watching all these kiddies while I go to an appointment or the store at times). Still, I often question if it is worth the extra strain placed on our entire family to take on three extra kids. Last summer, I made my friend hire a nanny so I could take the summer off to be with my kids. Brian thinks I'm almost too good at saying, "no." But, lest I sound like a selfish shrew, I do say "yes" a lot too. I just know my limits.

As per your post, I think I will think up something more to chuck in my life . . . Thank you for making me be introspective.