mother lode on motherhood: a confession

I started a full time job this week. Outside the home.
(Warning:  this post may contain subject matter contrary to author's former perception of self as 'free spirited' and highly evolved parentally)
I thought i knew myself as a woman, as a parent.  I thought since I got back from treatment i'd learned the fine and rare art of 'letting others go' and becoming immensely free of enmeshment or future enmeshment with my sons.
I thought many things about how life was ho-humming along that were simply off the mark reality-wise.  In fact, all the while considering my parenting above par because of getting clean, sober, and healthy (supposedly, as if my fairy godmother arrived at the treatment center and with one tap of her wand and a little song shook the unhealthy out of me, forever)  I was actually diving farther and farther into the rabbit hole of denial.
I am an emotionally over-involved mother.
I thought I was letting go as my kids grow.  I was not.  I was in denial about this fact.  I swore i was not the mother who fretted about the little things and tried to control the outcome.  I swore i was not the mother who had trouble letting her kids go on a trip without her.  I swore i was not the mother who made her kids her identity because she hadn't learned otherwise after they entered her life.
I am that mother.  And only realized that daunting shocking truth last week during my first full-time job since N and L entered planet earth.  Last week Hans and i flip flopped roles.  It was a veritable shock to my system to say the least.
This confession isn't easy for me.  I had always touted such an opposite tale.  I THOUGHT i believed i wanted freedom, adventure, independence, within and without the home.  I THOUGHT i believed my identity wasn't wrapped up in being mother.
Its strange to wake up to the fact that one's thoughts of one's beliefs could be in direct opposition to the reality of one's existence.
Its strange to wake up to the fact that one is not who one thought one was.
Maybe this is sounding nauseatingly esoteric.  My apologies.
This confession, this realization is new and fresh and i wonder how many women (and of course men too, ok- the human race) are instinctively 'other than' what they feel cerebrally.
This experience of coming home from my first 5 days-- of not being THE ONE in the boys lives who know the little and big details, who follows the gauge on the emotional tank of "full" or "empty", and hence attempts to fill up the tank when waning.  Sure, Hans has been very present, very much an involved father since day 1.  But he has been the scrappy breadwinner up to date.  In rudimentary terms, he was the one who went out into the wild to bring back the necessary means for life for his family, while i manned the fort, protected the kids on our little piece of earth called home, watched out for bad guys, and told bedtime stories and prayers nightly to "ensure" safe sleep.  In pioneer days, i would have been the wind-blown woman who forgot how to take care of herself the second her children cried their first cry indicating "Feed me!" Her job was to feed, water, protect.  Full-time. No balance, just feed, keep alive, protect...
In modern day, I was the same.  Joined at the hip, many years out of necessity and/or poverty, my identity was inextricably that of caretaker and raiser of sons.  Everything i was and did pointed back and was related to that identification.  And i was unaware of the impact of this 8 year identity that had become more a part of me than anything i'd ever been, done, or dreamed of doing before becoming their mom.
I had no idea.
I thought until last week that I could bravely switch roles with Hans at any point in the game and without apology.  I thought i could proudly show the boys what an independent and not-needy mother they were so lucky to have (confession time) who is able to do life apart from them with ease and effortlessly 'cut those ties'.  I thought i was going to be braver out in the big wide world than I was.
The truth is simply:
I have not let go gradually as I thought.  My identity has been that of mother and mother only for 8 years.  I fear branching out of the little piece of earth called home- and tote around irrational misconceptions about being able to protect the boys anymore- from bad guys, from sadness, from fear, from nightmares.
I am not independent like i thought because i do not know what or who i am apart from raising sons.  {Lump in throat, this is a tough one to swallow.}
  This is a huge, massive realization that will no doubt take time to undo and re-learn how to live in a multi-facetted way of "being" ali.
The other side of this confessionary, cautionary tale is that I am grateful for this wake up call.
I could have ho-hummed my way through the next 20, 30, maybe 40 years thinking i was doing some magnificent job of letting my offspring fly out of the nest with ease, meanwhile having absolutely no idea that i had lost myself long ago, imbedding in the boys an unfair message that ultimately they must include me in their life or i will fall apart.
nauseous realization i tell you.  blinders on to the fact that i've thought myself selfless when in fact selfish in terms of holding on too tightly to human beings in need of room to grow, make mistakes, thrive, build relationships off of the little piece of earth i've called home.  They will continue to grow- into men.
The reality has been reality all the while. I've simply been in denial about my place in the puzzle.  That i could go through the rest of my life with one identity- mother- and silently shrink away from responsibility, dreams, occupation, my own relationships for heaven's sake.
I've judged women like my mother and other mothers harshly- totally unaware.  I've lessened the value of their maternal journey by assuming i had my journey figured out in a more healthy, fashion-forward sort of way.
I've judged women who find an identity outside of their kids, and i've judged women who find their identity only in their kids.
I am sorry for every atom of judgement i've sent out into relationships with other women in my life.
I am sorry for thinking i had something so instinctively ancient in nature- so very figured out.
I'm sorry for thinking i was letting go of the boys when in reality i was not, and I was so wrapped up in the fear of losing them that i couldn't sleep at night sometimes, or would fear in general about the future that i stopped living my life in the here and now.
This is the stuff of being human on planet earth.  this is the stuff that once confessed, can bring a cry along with a laugh along with a choice to steer oneself in a different direction, hopefully healthier for oneself and one's loved ones.  this is the stuff that brings one out of the turtle shell back into the world of friendship, goal setting, dream having, living- not in avoidance of the potential pains of letting go, but working through the daily ups and downs of having human beings in the house who are destined to grow into men, their own persons, thriving apart from mother, figuring things out with their own meticulously designed-by-their-Creator brains and heart.  I did not create them, I do not know their future.  I am not supernatural seer into their inner psyche and healer of their past, present, or future wounds.
I am one flawed little critter named ali.  Someone who existed and lived somehow before N and L came into my life.  Someone I will have to get to know a little bit day by day.  Someone who is scared to leave her little piece of earth called home.  But someone who wants to live and breathe reality
rather than denial, rather than sickness, rather than depression over losing or letting go of my boys.
I want to live in the joy and pain both, rather than avoid pain and hence avoid joy in the process without realizing it.
I want to celebrate the varied journeys women take into and out of motherhood- stories of women from all walks of life mothering all in diverse unique ways, instinctive to them.
One day at a time.
And now, to get ready for work.  As Hans and the boys hold down the fort- the little piece of earth that- even as i venture off- is still very much home.

1 comment:

Emily K said...

I love you, flawed little critter.