Being as my journey to self and balance is one of core things I hope to explore through this blog, I’ve decided to break this up into a series of posts, this being the first.
The land of the internet is superbly serendipitous at times (and I’m not talking about F@ceb00k and G00gle ads which are just scary). This post came across one of my Twitter feeds today, re-tweeted by a local mama peep. The title of the post is “Contrary to Popular Belief, My Child Doesn’t Come First“. The title stopped me in my tracks.
Being a parent, a mother, in juxtaposition to my sense of self is an extraordinarily loaded topic for me, one that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around for my entire 10+ years of being a parent. I’ll hazard a guess that I’m not the only one. When the Eldest of the Eldest was born, I threw myself into being a mom with everything I had. But instead of it being fulfilling in every way I hoped, it felt more like I’d thrown myself down in front of a moving bus. I flattened and ignored those parts of myself that made me who I am, pushed them aside so I could sink myself into this mothering thing. And what came out of it was some pride in the life I was creating for my son, but also a surprising amount of regret, remorse and resentment, which at times was directed at this little person. The rub was that he wasn’t sucking the life out of me (like it felt at times) but that I was letting him. He was just being a typical, ordinary child looking to me to get his typical, ordinary needs met. And by ignoring my own needs, what I had to give him dwindled more and more each day until I was left with little to nothing of my self. I had so little to give at times that whatever he asked of me felt huge and draining.
I remember running into someone I’d worked with in college when EoE was about 2. He asked what I was up to and I, very proudly, exclaimed that I was a stay at home mother. He asked me if that was “enough”. I tried brush off the conversation, but it made my brain itch. I was offended – of course it was ‘enough’. Right? But deep down in the places you don’t talk about at parties, the truth was it wasn’t. I wasn’t happy and I had no idea who *I* was anymore. I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t creating, I wasn’t doing many of the things that used to bring me great joy and fill me with a sense of wholeness. I was starving my self.
I wish I had read that post 10 years ago… perhaps even sooner than that. Or that someone had pulled me aside and said “hey mama, you need time for yourself.” And yet as I write that, I’m bombarded with reminders of all of those who in actuality, did. I saw a couple therapists in those first 5 years of parenting (to deal with ‘ppd’) and there was a resounding common theme – take time for you. Yet I just never did. I could easily blame my ex-partner, who was not exactly the supportive type and every time I needed to do something she didn’t understand, she became distressed and exasperated. I let it go, like so many parts of myself in that relationship and in my early years of mothering, balloons drifting up into the sun, weighless, effortless. Or so it seemed at the time. Easier to let go than ram into the brick wall of conflict over and over again. It wasn’t until that relationship ended 3 years ago that I remembered just how amazing it was to be alone and to take the time to get to know myself again.
I have so much more to write about on this, yet it is late and last night was sleepless and fitful (the baby has forgotten he used to give me a 6 hr stretch of sleep and whittled that down to several 1.5 hour stretches last night, which felt a lot like the descent into hell). The bed calls to me, but there is so much more writing and thinking and talking to do about this. I hope I’ll find some other Velveteen Mamas to join me.