When you're gearing up for a big creative something-or-other, please: Do not be a martyr.
I'm talking to those of you who, like me, are fortunate enough to have a partner (or a parent or a friend or maybe even all of those) who wants you to succeed and wants to help you.
Our brains sneak martyrdom in the back door in the most subtle, super-secret ways. Making a sacrifice for the benefit of someone else is a beautiful choice--when it's a choice, intentional and full of love. It's a different thing when it's a weird combination of guilt, admiration-seeking, or self-imposed pressure to be perfect.
Right now, I'm going to talk about how this plays out with a loving, wanting-you-to-succeed husband. I don't know if this is gender thing. All my examples are of women with male partners, but maybe that's happenstance? Or maybe not. (You can let me know what you think in the comments.)
So, here are some things I've heard more than one of my beloved, awesome creative-leader-mama friends (or myself) say at one time or another:
Friend: He's staying with our baby tonight so that I can go do this thing that's really important to my job/project. So I offered to take Thursday night so he can go play [insert game here].
Me: Wait. Don't you already watch the baby solo at least one night a week for his meeting-followed-by-drinks?
Friend: Yes. But since I always do that, it doesn't really feel like part of the equation. I felt like I needed to offer something in return.
Friend: I hate to ask him to stay home with the kids two nights in a row. I just won't go to the second part.
Me: Wait. Wasn't he just away on a trip for 7 days in a row--24 hours a day?
Friend: Yes. But he didn't have a choice. My stuff is more flexible.
Me: My husband has been doing all the laundry and making all the lunches and doing all the cleaning this week. Shit. I'm a terrible partner. I should stop what I'm doing. I should be throwing a load in the wash. I should go make his salad. I think he's cleaning the toilet! Oh no! He must hate me right now.
Other Part of Me: Have you ever done this for him?
Me: Well. Yes. When he's in tech week or is up against a grad school deadline.
Other Part of Me: And do you hate him and think he's a terrible partner at those times?
Me: No. I'm glad it's not going to last forever, but I do want to help him.
Other Part of Me: Why?
Me: Because I love him, and also because if I don't help him, he'll be a grumpy, half-crazed mess. And that will not be fun for him or us.
Other Part of Me: What will you be right now if he doesn't help you?
Me: A grumpy, half-crazed mess.
Other Part of Me: Case closed. Tell him thank you, and get back to work.
So. When you're in the short rows just before you put something out into the world, and your partner (or someone else who loves you) can help...
Take it from Other Part of Me: Don't be a grumpy, half-crazed martyr. Let him help.
PS: I did tell my husband all this. (I try not to just spring this stuff on him in a blog post.) And he confirmed that Other Part of Me is right on. And that it definitely helps to hear a thank you. I get that. A heartfelt thank you makes a big difference to me when I'm on deck to help him out, too.