Guilt

Guilt is one of those tricky emotions. As I try to process what I’m really feeling, I wonder if I’m experiencing the right emotion. Guilt is one of the bigger ones I struggle with, so I’m really looking forward to starting therapy next week.

Specifically, I feel guilty that my husband’s always had to work so hard. Even now, he’s continuing to work during chemo, even though he could get disability if he chose to do so. But we couldn’t afford to make it on that.

I feel guilty because I have rarely worked as hard as he has. He has a phenomenal work ethic and I admit that I don’t. I feel like that’s a failing on my part. I feel like I should have been more of an equal partner pulling more of the share of the weight and I feel bad that I wasn’t.

Part of that was pragmatic. In Michigan, I had a part-time library job that paid pretty well for a couple years and I had a two-year contract for a work-at-home job which I liked. I’d still be doing that job if it weren’t for the limited contract.

But between the kids’ school transportation needs and my low earning power, especially when they were little, the vast majority of the earning requirements had to be fulfilled by him.

All that was supposed to change when I moved down here, and I did work full-time for more than a year. But once again, the kids’ transportation needs took front and center and it became a logical solution for me to go back home when I couldn’t find other alternatives.

The only way I could’ve done it was if I had uprooted the kids and made them change schools to one with busing. And I didn’t want to make them do that when they had just moved here and uprooting them then was so rough on my oldest.

I always had far less support than I needed for getting my kids from school while I worked. Whether it was my parents being able but unwilling to do it or lacking the social connections, I just couldn’t work it out. And to be fair, nobody owed me anything.

But my own depression played a role as well. Faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I just gave up and figured I’d do it myself. I took the path of least resistance because it was the only thing I felt I knew how to do.

Yet doing so left my husband with the responsibility of providing for all of us, a role he took very seriously but didn’t necessarily want. I feel like that was unfair to him and that’s where a lot of my guilt stems from.

Now it’s a moot point because I’m too sick to work. I tried it full-time again last summer and could only make it two months. And that would’ve eventually still left us with the transportation issue again because our solution was for my husband to take his lunch hour to pick up the kids and that job ended. He wouldn’t be able to do it now.

I’ve done my best to try to earn money at home by freelancing all these years. I’m still doing it, though maybe I’ll look at a part-time job once the kids are all driving. Or maybe I’ll look at work-at-home jobs once my schedule can align more easily with first or second shift jobs. Right now, picking up my kid from school rules out both shifts.

But I fear that I looked lazy and I don’t know how to fix that. I wouldn’t be eligible for disability if I hadn’t earned enough, so maybe I was doing enough within my abilities and limitations of my physical and mental health. Still, it’s hard to make that accusing voice in my head shut up, the one that tells me I was just lazy. I am my own worst accuser.

As I look at how sick my husband is and how he goes to work anyway, I just feel bad. I feel like I’ve made his life harder by not being able to work much over the years. And now, as before, I still don’t know how to change it. I feel like he’s deserved better than what I put him through.

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