Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Independence Becomes a Bad Thing

I have always been more on the independent side, constantly wanting to figure things out on my own and having the willpower to complete necessary tasks without needing outside motivation. I’ve never had a problem with spending time with myself on a regular basis and often look forward to some alone time to decompress.

My independence has only grown as a military wife. Over the course of three deployments, there were many, many days where my husband was unavailable to assist in essential tasks pertaining to the kids, the house, the yard, the cars, the finances, and anything else that required attention. But because of my independent nature, I managed to do what needed to be done in a timely manner and even learned some new skills along the way. It was easy to think I was completely self-sufficient and didn’t need any assistance, so I seldom asked for it.

I seldom asked for it. And while I was busy accomplishing the the to-do list on my own, my kids were vying for undivided attention. They were looking for compassion and understanding during a time when they missed their daddy so much.

Could it be that my independent nature thwarted my ability to show compassion towards my children? I remember them being upset or crying about something and I would just tell them to brush it off. I couldn’t understand why they were so needy and why they didn’t learn from my independent ways. I was foolishly unaware of the fact that my independence was causing me to be a brash and insensitive mommy.

The truth is deep down I felt the same way they did: sad, frustrated, lonely, and unsettled.

Thankfully, they always forgave me. Thankfully, they still had compassion of their own and used it towards me. Thankfully, they seemed to understand that this time was tough for me too.

But they had a different way of coping than I did. Independence was my way of coping. Feeling like I could do everything on my own motivated me to keep going and I was less likely to stumble. The times during deployments when I have struggled most were the times when I allowed myself to feel dependent on my husband even though he was on the other side of the world. When I pushed those feelings aside, I felt better.  But it also left me with a hardened heart.

Being independent is a good thing. But during deployments, too much independence can cause us to withdrawal from others who are there to help. It can cause us to place too much emphasis on chores rather than on having patience, grace, and compassion. It can prevent us from being the parents we need to be to our children. It can withhold valuable emotional support from friends and loved ones.

I hope that before the next deployment, I am able to find balance between independence and compassion. The truth is I do need others. We all do. And the only way to effectively keep them a part of our lives is to treat them how we ourselves want to be treated: with kindness and compassion. This is especially necessary for our children, who need little else than to know that we care.

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