By: Sheila Gaudet
As “Mommy Bloggers” a lot of what we write about involves our children. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t fit the role, right? I truly believe that when we make the decision to become parents, we take on a huge responsibility to protect, nurture,, and guide our children to adulthood. For some of us, this is an easy choice and one that involves a true fulfillment of a life goal. I truly admire people for whom this is the case. I am not one of them.
I am one of those moms who wasn’t quite positive that I was cut out for motherhood. I was not particularly crazy about children, didn’t play with dolls, and honestly had never held an infant until I had one. I was a tomboy growing up and very focused on school, my social life, and my career. However, after I got married, we made the decision to stop trying to not get pregnant and see what happened. How’s that for ambivalence? I promptly got pregnant so quickly I had no idea when my last cycle had been, because it didn’t even occur to me that I’d get pregnant that fast. (Full disclosure, it came back to bite me on the behind later when I had unexplained secondary infertility trying to get pregnant with my second son). In any case, within a very brief (it seemed) period of time, I not only became a mother, but a single mother as my ex-husband and I separated when my son was four months old and lived 1,500 miles apart.
Thus, the next few years were spent solely focused on figuring out being a mommy. It wasn’t a natural fit for me, and I struggled with balancing the way I always had worked and a new job with daycare hours, my son’s chronic ear infections and severe reflux, and no nearby friends or family. I have no doubt I was dealing with some undiagnosed post-partum depression, the stress of a divorce and financial strain from keeping up two households long-distance, etc. That first year was grueling and I honestly remember very few positive moments. I loved my son fiercely, but I was exhausted, and my focus was on providing him with his needs and a secure future.
It got somewhat better over the years as situations stabilized and changed, I remarried and I enjoyed the post-infant years much more. I still am not someone who sees a baby and gets baby-lust. I think, “I’m so glad that phase is behind me!” However, in the last 15 years, being a mommy went from being a part of who I was to feeling like that is ALL that I am.
Motherhood can be so all-encompassing that there feels like there is no space for anything else. I changed careers to something less demanding and then became a stay-at-home mom (who never is actually at home), something I still struggle with. It was, without a doubt, the reasonable choice given my family’s schedule and challenges. I recognize how truly blessed I am that I even have that option, and a husband who works two jobs so that I can do that for his step-sons. I know many women who wish they could and I completely understand that. However, I miss talking to adults, my work and feeling like I’m contributing, the paycheck. Since my children are school-aged, there aren’t playgroups etc. like you have for younger kids for parents to also meet and my days are taken up with a lot of driving people places, overseeing homework, and coping with the extra effort that both of my children require due to their ADHD and other issues.
Recently, I had been in a bit of a funk, feeling frustrated with my role and honestly a little lost. There have been some setbacks to my education and career plans and this year with my older son has been particularly challenging. My husband is home usually one night per week and I miss him too. So, when it came time to send my younger son to his dad’s in Mississippi for the summer (another annual hard time for me), I went with him and took a couple days to see some old friends and family that I’ve missed since moving here almost three years ago.
There is something about being with people who have seen you change over time to give you a reality check. I am blessed with a passionate, caring best friend who is never afraid to speak her mind and remind me of my past. One day spent with her, talking about our kids, men, home, work, life situations and I feel like I’ve been through a year of therapy. We met when our kids were toddlers and have faced moves, divorces, challenges with our kids, living on our own, etc. together over the years. We recognize we are aging and would like that to stop. We recognize we are wiser now than we were at 30 when we first met. We worry about our kids and can want to kill them and protect them at the same time. Even when we go for periods without talking, I know that she is always there for me when necessary. She’s the friend who can, and does, yell at my kids when necessary. We are opposite in many ways, but I do not know what I would do without her.
Another day I spent with an old friend, out in the country, on a dirt road, in the woods. No cell phone reception, no cable, no anything except quiet. We rode four-wheelers and hung out with horses and cooked on the grill and sat on a porch swing. No one called me “Mommy” or needed me to feed them. Uninterrupted conversation is something I really hadn’t even realized how much I missed – until I had it.
After a quick two days, I had to come back to reality. There were some glitches while I was gone, but everyone survived so I guess it is ok. My husband was home for the first time ever without me here for a few days and I think has a different appreciation of the constant nature of the demands of parenting, even though he only had the teenager. That was enough! I came back calmer. I recognize that the only person who can change how I feel about some things is me and that along the way I have neglected to take care of that person I used to be. I need quiet time and it is important I find a way to get some outside time that is not working in the garden or cleaning the garage. I need to nurture my friendships as much as I do my children, because they are just as precious. I need to make time for my husband and I that is not watching soccer practice or at 4 a.m. as he’s leaving for a week out of town.
I think it helped me recognize that being a mommy is very important and my kids and family need me. However, what they really benefit from is when I am actually ME and not just some vision of what a mother should be or do. I need to understand that what other people’s vision of a mother should be may not work for our family or for me personally and that is just fine.