I’ve always been a bit of a people pleaser and will often keep my preferences to myself in an effort to avoid relational friction. This means the phrase, “I don’t know” is a frequent flyer in my vocabulary, as I push the weight of decision-making onto others rather than speaking up and facing potential disagreement. It is something my husband used to habitually tease me about, as he would ask where I wanted to eat, knew I had an opinion, but I told him I didn’t know. It even bothered him sometimes because he wanted to know we were doing what I truly wanted and I wouldn’t say. After we had been married a few months, he became the person I trusted more than anyone on the planet and I finally began speaking up and telling him that, actually, I really would prefer tacos to pizza.
Our life became a flurry of medical terminology, therapies, hospital stays, medical equipment, and greater, more unconditional love.
Soon after the start of our of marriage, we grew our family rapidly through specialized foster care and adoption and found ourselves parenting multiple children with disabilities and medical conditions. Our life became a flurry of medical terminology, therapies, hospital stays, medical equipment, and greater, more unconditional love for these little people and delight in them than should even be possible! A couple years into our unique life calling, my husband noticed I was once again pushing decisions about little things (like where to eat) onto him, even when he knew I had an opinion.
As he began to poke fun at me about it, I looked at him one day and said “I truly don’t know, I DON’T know! I know it is not big deal to choose what to eat but it feels like my brain literally can’t pick!” I noticed an absolute inability to choose presenting itself in more areas of my life and it seemed different from years past, when I just wanted to keep others happy.
Honestly, I have lost a great deal of my people-pleasing tendencies as I have grown into a mamma grizzly bear roaring in advocacy on behalf of each and every child in my home. I have no issue telling doctors, specialists, and other professionals what my opinion is for my children’s care and standing my ground until they follow through. But ask me if I want to go mini-golfing or bowling and I freeze like a deer in headlights.
It suddenly made so much sense...
It was puzzling to me until one day, an article on the web caught my eye. The article highlighted something called “decision fatigue”. It explained how this concept of inability to choose between unimportant choices was common among parents of children, living with severe disabilities or medical conditions. It suddenly made so much sense.
Day after day, I am asked to make immense, life-changing decisions on behalf of my children. Do we continue treatment or stop? Do we choose one surgery over another in hopes of relief? Which risks do we take and which do we leave? What therapies are worth the effort, and which aren’t? I hardly ever have a break from huge decisions that must be made. Furthermore, when I make them, I make them boldly on behalf of those who depend on me. However, when it comes to the small thing, my decision maker is fatigued…it’s shot. When I say I’m not sure where I want to eat on a rare night out, I mean it. When I say I can’t decide what colour to paint our dresser, it’s no joke. I truly *don’t* know.
I showed my husband the article about decision fatigue and his jaw dropped. “This is YOU!” he exclaimed. Since then, he has shared that he has slowly learned to recognize when I can’t decide because I am decision fatigued. Also, when I am pushing a decision someone else’s way to avoid conflict, despite having an opinion.
When I’m decision fatigued, he takes me at the word of my “I don’t know” and makes the decision for us. When I do know and I am simply avoiding, he gently pushes the choice back my way and asks me again to choose. This enables me to have some control over the trivial, fun things in life rather than only life-changing decisions.
Identifying the reality of decision fatigue as a mom to children with disabilities has been eye-opening to me. It’s helped relieve friction in relationships--especially my marriage--as I can explain that there are times I truly do not know.
I love, adore, and treasure my special children
I may not know what movie to watch tonight or what toppings to ask for on my pizza. However, there is one thing I always, know. No consideration required. I love, adore, and treasure my special children more than I could have ever fathomed. There is nothing that isn’t worth it on their behalf….decision fatigue and all.