Yesterday was really crappy. I was on the verge of tears all day long. Alright I lie, not on the verge. Deep in a river of salty tears!
And in that river, I was either going to sink or swim as a mother……
I was sinking.
I didn’t yell at or abuse my kids. I just wasn’t present with them. I was terse in my responses, or simply monotone, non-smiling, and …. boring.
I was sick, and had been for a few days. It was my second bout of sickness since our decision to do an interstate move at short notice, and I was not at all happy about the wasted time! Throw in some huge hormones and it was a recipe for emotional melodrama!
I wasn’t just wallowing in my emotions, I was drowning in them; beating myself up for all my failures, both imagined, exaggerated and real. I was predicting the worst case scenario for our family and how all our children will “turn out”, interpreting everything through a lens so dark it is surprising I could see anything at all.
All of this was, naturally, happening while my husband was away on another business trip, which gave me yet another trophy for my woe-is-me shelf.
We tried conversing over Skype and he was valiant in his attempt at support and encouragement, but I was unable to receive it or shift my mood. So I lay down in my pile of self-pity, covered myself with its dark cloak, and let life go on around me.
I unpublished my post from the other day, feeling like such a fraud, and was on the verge of unpublishing this entire blog.
The funny thing is, these kids who were apparently doomed to “turn out” in the worst way possible seemed to somehow prove me wrong.
While I was focussing on how they “hadn’t helped clean up”, so therefore they were destined to live in squalor like hobos, they showed me that, like most kids, they just hadn’t noticed the mess and simply needed a request for help.
The trouble with my “request” was that it came out something (hopefully not exactly!) like this: “Just look at this place! I can’t possibly do it all! I’m sick and I’m so SICK of being sick! I just can’t cope. Nobody has done ANYTHING to help all day! And anyway, why can’t you guys look out for each other more? Play together or something? You are all doing your own thing, but it would be so nice to see you offering to play a game or something with someone who seems bored. I can’t be the one to do this all the time.”
Yeah, not my proudest moment as a mum.
What shocked me into starting to shift my mood was the response from my nineteen year old son, whose temperament is what some would term “choleric” and isn’t usually my most sensitive or obviously mindful child. He cut right to the chase with this comment: “Mum, you’re saying you want everyone to help more, and you’re also saying you want them to play more. What’s really going on? What’s the real story? What do you really want?”
And out gushed the torrent of truth: “I feel guilty that I’m not able to be the mum I want to be when I have been sick, and now that I have been sick I have missed so much packing time, that when I am better I will be even busier. I also feel really slack for not being able to help meet everyone’s needs for fun and nice food and stuff.” Whooshka!
The kids heard me; they heard the real message behind my earlier moaning. And I heard me, too.
The boys started to help with cleaning up and Molly (10) sweetly suggested that we sit and watch Doctor Who together “to help me clear my head”. I decided to first take myself shopping for some urgent supplies, did some more releasing of tears in the car, read an incredibly encouraging and beautifully supportive email from my husband, and came home in a slightly better place emotionally, ready to relax and enjoy our favourite shared show together.
But first, my daughter announced, she had prepared a surprise treat for me “and even cleaned up after herself”. I was, by now, fortunately able to be amused by her courage in using humour, having prepared something that looked very fancy but was definitely inedible! Having earlier been creating art with chalk and tissues (long story), she decided to use the chalky tissue and some other unknown substances to create what was thankfully a decoy from the real treat: corn thins with cheese, tomato and …. avocado. (The avocado was a huge surprise because Molly is quite sensitive and does not like avocado at all, but she knows that I do, and had managed to cut it open, remove the seed and scoop out the “squishy, sludgy stuff” to bless her sad mum.)
One thing I feel good about from my dark day is that the kids did not seem to feel a desperate need to placate me or “make me happy”, but they did show some insight into the situation, and they did choose to help out in their own ways.
Today I have republished my last post and decided to keep writing, because I want to encourage others by showing that
- it isn’t about being constantly joyful or upbeat or having it all together
- it isn’t about being perfect or always happy
- it isn’t about having perfect kids
- it isn’t about sticking our head in the sand and thinking everything is all bad.
Equally, it isn’t about putting on rose-coloured glasses and pretending everything is perfect.
It is about walking this path of life together,
being real and authentic,
being true to ourselves,
learning along the way,
caring for one another and holding on to glimpses of hope.