Mindfulness,  Relationships,  Self-Care

Distortions


photo credit: Jack Moreh

When I first started writing a number of years ago, my goal was always to make people laugh. To an extent, I still really do enjoy funny posts. Who doesn’t like to laugh? I do think though that there are so many more dimensions of ourselves that are important to share. The funny stuff is the easy stuff. It’s the not-so-funny stuff that people seldomly reveal. Societally, especially in the advent of social media, I think this makes us feel more isolated than we really are.  for example, Facebook or Instagram, everyone posts when their kid wins a trophy or the family is entirely clad in white with manicured hands and perfectly coiffed hair. Nobody posts when their kid is being an arsehole. Or an arsehole, again. Is it because their child is never an arsehole? Nope. It’s because we are conditioned to share only the pristine. People create a one-dimensional existence of what they want their life and families to look like – most often it’s the Petries (if you’re under 40, you’ll need to look this one up) not the ABC After School Special that on some days is any of our lives. That is, any of us, if we are honest.

I am having a down day today. More than usual. Part of it is probably because I am tired. G has been away since Friday morning and is gone until Wednesday night so I’ve been on the single dad circuit. (Mad props to those who single parent as the norm. I don’t know how you do it.) I had a busy week/weekend. It had all of the elements of good things…I had fun with the kids. We had a weekend packed full of fun things for them – trampolining with friends, a gymnastics night out, swimming with friends, playgrounds, ice cream – all good stuff.  Personally, I completed all of my workouts and hit or exceeded the targets my coach set for me – a stellar training week. Then why am I down? I think a lot of it outside the tiredness is cognitive distortions. Since learning more about these, I have realized that I excel in many of them.

As I looked around my house this morning, which was more unkempt than I like it to be, I found it upsetting and overwhelming.  My first go-to thought was “What a lazy housekeeper you are?”  Then when I reflected for a second, I realized that the laundry wasn’t folded, the floors unswept and the counter was a little messy because I did things like play with the kids, run 14 miles over two days and take them to fun activities with friends over the weekend. Sprinkle into that the fact that they added to said mess, because they are, well, children. And that I was alone. The key cognitive distortion in this one is “should thinking.” I am very good at should thinking, like Nobel prize good.  I should have folded the laundry. I should have swept the floor. 

Next up, a few times I found myself short with the kids. A doesn’t go to bed easily even when she has had her fill of salami and has been run around like a nut. I literally took her from 3.5 hour gymnastics kids’ night on Saturday and she still wouldn’t go to sleep easily when we got home. It is how she is wired. Daddy, on the other hand, gets cranky when sleep deprived. So in the short moments, I got to put to use the cognitive distortion of “overgeneralization.” That is one that I am also exceptionally good at.  ex.”I am a crap parent because I shouted at my five year old.” Or, though this didn’t happen last week with my training, all it takes is a few bad runs for me to say “I am not a good runner.” Not, “I had a few bad runs.” Nope. “I am not a good runner.” Period. End of sentence. With the kids, when I am not having a Mary Poppins night, I always make it a point to apologize after and review what I would have liked to do different. Hopefully, they learn from that and see that even daddies don’t always do things right.

Today, since I had the luxury of what I like to call “Monday – the at-home parent’s Saturday,” I decided that I would do nothing. I also told myself that I would do it unapologetically. That I have not. Do nothing still meant I would fold the epic amounts of laundry that I had washed and dried but not folded. I would still wash the sheets, sweep the floors, clean the counters and make the house look the way I like it to. I would also watch the Boston Marathon and track my husband. But other than that, I was going to do nothing. This made me feel “lazy.” Things would pop into my head like, “See. You do nothing. You do have the life that many would envy.” Or “You’re just sitting on the couch watching a marathon.” I used a cognitive distortions trifecta here – “Black and White thinking”, “jumping to conclusions” and “labeling.” 

I labeled myself “lazy” for doing something that many working people do all the time – take a mental health day or a personal day. We stay at home parents don’t have those built into our benefits package so when we give one to ourselves, it’s easy for that one day to feel like it is a lifetime of laziness. And here’s the worst part of this thinking…I took today. Did “nothing.” I feel like shit about it. (I shouldn’t.) And I don’t feel any better for doing it.  Now it doesn’t help that part way through this day, I learned that Notre Dame was ablaze.  Paris is dear to me and seeing the structure looking devastated is painful for me. 

It’s also easy for me to get here because I don’t feel like I am the only one who labeled or would label myself as lazy. For this, I utilize my “jumping to conclusions” distortion. Here’s how this one goes. “I bet anybody I would tell that I am going to sit on the couch and watch the marathon today will think I am a lazy and useless person.” There can often be wonder and/or amazement by the working world on what at-home parents do. I will tell you that most days it IS NOT sit on the couch all day. But even at-home parents can be nasty to other at-home parents. For example, an at-home parent I know quite well judged me when we first moved to Chicago and I had A in a pre-school two full days a week. “What does he do all day?” she asked someone else we mutually know.  A. It’s none of your farking business. B.  I had just moved to a city where I knew almost nobody. I had a 15 month old and a 6 year old. I don’t need to justify how and why I get help. Those are the right answers. Instead, however, I ruminate on how I am perceived. Did then. Do now.  I don’t know why I care. I really shouldn’t. 

That last part I’m not sure where to even put. I don’t know if it’s a cognitive distortion or not. You see, there are times when I do think I jump to conclusions. And sometimes, I have been wrong. But there are times that I think I’m pretty darn spot on. Spot on as , if I were an archer, I would peg that bullseye time and again. The one distortion I would do myself the biggest favor of shedding is “what others think of me.”  What I really need to figure out first though is why I care. I honestly don’t know why. But I do. And I know that I want to do less of it.  I want to have more times where “Joe does Joe.” Unapologetically. Because the bottom line is those who really love you for who you are, will love you however you are. You never need to explain yourself or justify yourself to them. And for those who don’t, sometimes you just have to say “F🌹ck it. This is not my problem.”

At-home dad, husband, gay man, marathon runner, sarcastic to the core, off-center

7 Comments

  • Rebecca Radford

    Loved this one. “Working” or at-home: is there a real distinction? I feel all the ways you described. My guilt is also that I should either be at work or be doing something amazing with my children if I’m going to take a day off. So I’m a terrible parent for wanting a day to myself. See how I was able to squeeze in that extra layer of should? It’s a skill. I’ve been practicing it since I was born (Catholic).

    Glad to hear the marathon went well.

    • CattyDaddy

      Ah, yes. The Catholic guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. Even for those of us who have left. 🙂

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