“I should be able to get the dishes done,” I told my therapist. Since losing a baby in the second trimester of pregnancy, we had been using disposable plates and cups. It wasn’t glamorous, but my three young children didn’t mind, as long as the peanut butter and jelly was still served.
My husband was wise enough to know that in a season of grief, time was not best spent doing dishes. He was the one who bought the disposables. It took a load off after meals, and provided increased time for needed rest in the evenings, yet I still felt guilty. I felt guilty that our bright, happy plates sat unused. I felt guilty for the waste generated by the disposables—even if they were recyclable. Most of all, I felt guilty for not being able to maintain what I thought was a reasonable level of tidiness at home. A competent mom can wash dishes even while grieving, the lies would call to me.
Now that we were coming to the end of our stash of paper plates, my angst had come to a crossroads. Should I swallow my pride, admit that I did need the rest and buy more paper plates? Or should I force myself to make it work, adding regular dishes for five back into my routine? I knew I still needed the rest—but I wanted to be back to normal. I wanted to be out of this season of grief and to feel skilled at adulting and running my home again.
“Do you want to know what I think?” my therapist asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“You should buy another pack of plates.”
I felt both relieved and conflicted. I asked her how long she thought it was reasonable for us to use the paper plates. How long it was OK for me to focus on rest and grieving over getting back to my normal responsibilities.
“You’ll know,” she said. “You’ll know when your desire to use regular dishes supersedes your desire for rest. You’ll know when your need for folded laundry exceeds your need for kid-free rest time during naptime. You’re going to be in this phase of grief at least through your due date, likely longer. Now isn’t the season to do it all. I’d get another pack of plates.”
I tucked this thought away in my mind for a time when I could unpack it further and we continued talking. Then she hit me with, “Guilt doesn’t help you rest. If you’re going to embrace the grieving and practice self-care, don’t cheapen it by carrying guilt with you. You’ve made the choice to rest—now reap its benefits.”
On the drive home, I chewed on this thought more. I mulled over the things I knew to be true: I was still grieving and needed more rest than usual. My kids needed my rested heart, mind and body more than they needed non-disposable plates. I wasn’t willing to let my pride cheapen the rest and self-care I wanted to embrace.
I pulled into my driveway, picked up my phone and called my husband. “Hey honey, I thought of one more thing to add to the Costco list. Paper plates. We need more paper plates.”