GH has the twins out on a late afternoon drive, so I'm finally stealing some time to blog. It's been so long that I don't even know where to start!
As mentioned in the previous post, I've been rather overwhelmed at work. Tasks keep getting handed to me, and none of them are things that I find particularly interesting. This is frustrating. While some of the tasks actually offer some fairly significant opportunities for growth, they all also come with the privilege (or so she'd have you believe) of working with a colleague who is the ultimate in condescending. She's an awful combination of know-it-all, bad listener, terrible communicator, and narcissist. She's smart and experienced, but her way of sharing her wisdom is just horrible. Combine that with my extreme sensitivity to people talking down to me and it's a really bad combination. Argh.
So work is taking its toll on me lately. That's kept me away from blogging just because I've been too busy during the day to sneak in postings. The other thing that's kept me away is that I've just needed a mental break. Not from the blogging, per se, as I've actually really missed it. But since I haven't been able to blog at work, that leaves me the evenings to get a post up. And lately, I've needed the evenings to myself. This week, once the twins have gone to bed, I've taken care of the essentials around the house and then it's been about the big glass of wine and a DVD. I'm getting hooked on Grey's Anatomy.
The mental break is partially from the stress of work. An even larger part of it is from the aftermath of my mother-in-law's visit. She was here for two weeks. She left last Saturday. Overall, her visit went like most of her visits do. We were polite to each other, but there was an undercurrent of tension that you could cut with a knife. On the day before she left, I just couldn't take it anymore and we ended up in a screaming match.
It was awful on one hand, but cathartic on another. While nothing was really resolved, the air did feel more clear after it was all over.
What set the screaming match off is of no consequence--it was minor thing on the surface, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. The undercurrents at work are mostly cultural. Coming from a Korean perspective, where she has the wisdom of age on her side:
1. She honestly can't comprehend why GH and I would not do what she says. We are the children. She is the mother. It is not our place to question, it is our place to do.
2. The idea that she is a guest in our house is quite literally foreign to her. She is family. In her mind, it's her house, too, and when she's here, I start to feel like a guest in my own home.
There is another, noncultural element at work too, a problem that I think most mothers- and daughters-in-law struggle with. It's one that's embarrassing for me to admit, but it's true. I want to be number one in GH's life. I want him to love me best. I want him to love me more than he loves his mother. Rationally, I know this is crazy--it's not a matter of loving her more or me more. I'm his wife, she's is mother. It's different. But there's still a part of me that wants to know that he loves me more. I know she feels the same way. That creates it's own tension, which, because of our situation with GH's cancer, is even more acute than it is for most couples.
Regarding the cultural stuff, I really don't know what to do. I like to think that I'm very respectful and aware of cultural differences. At the same time, I am a born-and-bred American and we're living in the United States. The idea that my home is my space is very, very important to me, as is the understanding that I'm an adult who makes her own decisions. My own parents are very respectful of both of those boundaries. While I may ask them for advice, they know that I--or GH and I together for couple-type things--ultimately make decisions on my own. When they don't agree with those decisions, they accept them even if it's hard for them to do so. When they visit, they make themselves at home and do things to help us, but in the context of asking us what it is that we would find helpful and only getting so comfortable as to not invade our privacy.
We have a small house. It's a two-bedroom, one bath, 1,100 square foot condo. We have two kids. I work full-time. GH and I don't get a lot of couple time and I get virtually no alone time. Having someone living in our living room (oh, the irony of the room's name!) meant that I really didn't get any alone time at all while my mother-in-law was here. Couple that with the stress I was under at work and I was wound pretty damn tight while she was here.
So we screamed at each other. As I said, it cleared the air in its own way. But it didn't resolve anything. I can't change her culture. She can't change mine. I feel like I'm willing to meet in the middle, but she's said that compromise is not a part of her game.
How can it be so difficult for us to get along when we both want the same thing? We just want the best for GH. Us not being able to work on that together is causing him stress that makes me feel awful. I feel like it's my mother-in-law who is being unreasonable. I'm having so much trouble seeing my part in this. The only "solution" I see is to let her be in charge, even in my own home. That's a bitter, bitter pill to swallow. Is that my only option?
What I wish could happen is that we could play by her rules at her house and GH and my's rules at our house. Another aspect of this problem is that when GH and I make decisions that she doesn't agree with (about medical treatment, kids, whatever), she thinks that I'm the sole decision maker, that I push GH do do things he wouldn't do if I weren't around. This is patently not true, but I make a very convenient scapegoat. (You can extrapolate that to the idea that if GH dies, his parents will blame me, but that's a post all of it's own.) If GH asks that she not send us so many care packages because we can't possibly eat all that food, for example, she hears me talking, not him. This, of course, only serves to make GH feel all the more trapped in the middle, which is stressful to him and counterproductive to the whole situation since we are all working for the same outcome.
Madeleine's physical therapy is a part of Early Intervention services. As part of EI, we can talk to a counselor about family stress. I met with the counselor for the first time today. Maybe she can help me with some of these issues. I'm probably going to be seeing her weekly. GH can join me if he wants. Hopefully she can help me work through some of these issues.
I want to end by saying that I don't mean to sound ungrateful to my mother-in-law for all the things she does for us. She is an amazing cook. She is very intuitive with the babies. She loves GH and I know that she also loves me. And I know that everything she does for us she does because of that love and because she truly believes that she is helping us. Ultimately, what I don't know how to resolve is that she's never asked GH or me what kind of help we want. She makes that decision on her own. When we've tried to guide her, she just does her own thing anyway, and then she gets mad if we ignore her advice, throw away what she sends us, etc. That kind of "help" creates stress for both me and GH. How can we balance her needs with ours? How can we all work together? I asked these questions during our screaming match, but that was hardly the circumstance under which to have a productive discussion. I go around and around and around in my head about this and ultimately come back to what I said earlier: If she's said flat-out that she's not going to change, all I can change is my attitude and my reactions. I'm just getting so worn out and stretched so thin that I don't know if I have the strength to do that. I'm so tired of managing other people's needs. So very tired.