What no one tells you about living the dream

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By Kelly Exeter

Posted on August 19, 2012

  • 13

A couple of weeks ago my husband asked me the most innocuous of questions; “What would you like for your birthday?”

I stared blankly at him for a second, then broke down in tears and sobbed; “I don’t need anything for my birthday, I have everything that I could ever want, right here, right now.”

Taken aback by this wave of emotion, I went in search of its source and was surprised to find that no, it wasn’t hormones messing with my mind, it was standard-issue female guilt.

This is the one thing no one likes to admit about the whole ‘having it all’ and living your dream thing – for it to happen, someone has to make sacrifices. And that someone is not you. This is highly guilt inducing.

A year ago I was suffering from quite a lethal combination of stress, anxiety and depression. The main reason for this was that I hated my job, and my ‘job’ just happened to be running a business. My own business. I had reached breaking point and my solution to the problem was to sell everything we owned and buy a little shack in the woods down south.

As my husband was on long service leave at the time he gently suggested that before we took the drastic step of becoming hermits, maybe he could take over running my business so I could rest and recuperate at home. So that’s what I did. Two months later I decided that I never wanted to go back to running my business. As a creative person, all I wanted was to be a designer and a writer. I didn’t want to be involved in the mind numbing (for me) minutiae of managing staff, clients, suppliers, budgets and everything in between.

So what did my husband do? He took unpaid leave from teaching, a job he really loved, and continued to run my business. Just so I could keep on doing what I loved doing – staying at home by myself being creative.

I feel guilty about this every single day. I overcompensate in myriad ways (that’s a whole other blog post there!) and assume my husband is resentful of the sacrifice he is making just so I can be happy. I assume he thinks I am taking the piss a bit.

He thinks none of these things.

I know this now because for my birthday he got me a present that demonstrated clearly how proud he is of me and how happy it makes him to see me loving my life.

So while I know there are a lot of women like Coping With Jane reader Tash who says:

Personally I have found what I think is a good balance  … The problem is … both my husband and the kids resent that my focus is no longer purely on them and I don’t get the support I’d like, or need.

I know there are many, many more who are just like me … drowning in guilt and imagining resentment and anger that are simply not there.

I wish I had some answers for the Tashes of the world but for you people who are like me, I have a really simple solution that I’m going to give a try as well. I’m going to cut myself some slack and stop with the overcompensating.

Because you know what? I’m not really living the dream if I don’t.

Are you suffering from the guilt of living your dream? How do you manage it ?

{Image from Maia Flore}

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Kelly Exeter.

Kelly Exeter is a blogger, designer and writer who has contributed to Marie Claire, Mamamia and The Hoopla. She believes that a busy life need not be a stressful life and enjoys the challenges of being mother, wife and person while juggling three businesses and several creative pursuits. She blogs about this and more at A Life Less Frantic.

Website: http://www.kellyexeter.com.au

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  • http://www.twitter.com/lipglossmumma Jodi Gibson

    Damn female guilt. Is there really anyway to get around it? We feel guilty if we stay at home and don’t financially contribute. We feel guilty for going out there and working and leaving the kids in day care?

    I wonder if it is just a generational thing? Did previous generations feel this guilt?

    But you are right, no matter what we choose and how happy it makes us there is always this guilt and the feeling that those around us resent our choices, and those looking in are judging. Is there really an answer?

    • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au Kelly Exeter

      I think you’re right – the answer might be that there isn’t one! Other than to cut ourselves some slack. Easier said than done though!

  • http://www.nappydaze.com Donna @ NappyDaze

    Oh yes, guilt and I go waaaay back. In fact its usually a daily (unwanted) visitor in my world. I know my problem centres a lot on worrying too much about what other people think and that I am not contributing nearly enough to the bank balance each month, or not trying hard enough to achieve my dreams in this golden opportunity. I’ve as yet been unable to find a way around it but seeing a kinesiologist for a while helped!

    And Kel – that husband of yours clearly adores you! Enjoy your blessings, you so deserve them x

    • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au Kelly Exeter

      I know Don – we have had some hard times in the past but what we have now has been worth fighting for!

  • Tash

    Overcompensating? All the time… :)

    • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au Kelly Exeter

      Seriously!! It’s horrible isn’t it?

  • Lorna

    I totally get this and have been feeling the same about my business hoping an answer will come. In the meantime my hubby has given me time off from it to relax and find my mojo again. Even with this time out I feel very guilty about not contributing to the household income and like I should be working again. It’s a tough one to get over.

    • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au Kelly Exeter

      Yep that whole not contributing to the income thing is MASSIVE. Last year when I wasn’t contributing, I told myself I was contributing to the happiness of our family unit. Didn’t seem as valid but it should have!

  • http://www.copingwithjane.com Jane Copeland

    So true. Often we support others but don’t “expect” to get it back in return – instead feel guilty when we do. I can also understand Tash’s comment that you mention in your post. Sometimes others are so use to us putting ourselves second, that when the shoe is on the other foot and we fairly ask for it ourselves, it can ruffle feathers because it’s such an unusual thing. Clearly not in your case Kelly!

    • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au Kelly Exeter

      Pretty fortunate in this situation I think Jane … but there have been times in the past where it hasn’t been the case! I guess that’s why I assumed resentment is there when it isn’t!

      • Tash

        The resentment in my house is palpable not just assumed! In particular from Master11 and his father, not to mention the “how come everyone else’s mum comes to do reading except you” from Miss5! And because I’m travelling alot for work this month (presenting in each capital city) I’ve been told that I’m having all these holidays away while they stay at home and are neglected! I’m served a dose of guilt each day for breakfast – the resentment is starting to build up on my side more than theirs I think!

        • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au Kelly Exeter

          Oh I definitely know it’s not assumed in your case Tash! Which sucks :(

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