This was a sentence that I uttered last week to my mother-in-law. It’s a sentence that when I read it back or even say it again, I feel a little ache on the inside.
People grieve in their own way, and in the age of social media I see it constantly. Be it a family member, friend or a former classmate…and even celebrity. There are those of us who are truly stricken by it, where we really don’t want to talk about it much or we just try to get through the day without having a breakdown. Then there are people who will throw the dramatics out there, claiming how close they were or how they’ll miss the deceased when they barely even called, visited, wrote, etc. That’s the part that gets to me, because there are people that are truly heartbroken over the loss and don’t want attention or a pat on the back for it. They just want their loved one back, they don’t want to have to make funeral arrangements or pack up their belongings. Marinate in that for a second, if you will.
And when it comes to celebrities, I can count on one hand how many celebrity deaths have truly upset me. Fingers left over.
I will remember where I was, what I was wearing, and exactly what I said when I got the phone call on Wednesday. It was already a bad day for me because it would have been Andy’s 40th birthday. Top it off with having a sick toddler at home, hoping to goodness he doesn’t throw up again. The second I heard my mother’s voice and her sobbing, I thought the worst thing happened. Then I thought the second worst thing happened. But what did happen was very unexpected and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.
Days later, I still can’t. Sitting with my parents and aunt, talking about what food we’re going to serve at the repast and going through old pictures…still couldn’t wrap my head around it. Four hours at the funeral home, still can’t wrap my head around it. All I have said is, “This fucking sucks.” Because it does, for lack of better words and term.
I cried here and there days leading up to the wake. Not too badly, but I cried. I knew that eventually, the dam would break and it sure did. The second I walked into the funeral home and saw my brother, I lost it. I hugged him and just sobbed, then hugged his girlfriend and sobbed. I did well up until my Pastor spoke, then when my mom said something I felt that all too familiar break in my heart. This. Fucking. Sucks. I was feeling drained, after hours of hugging people and talking about the past few days, I just had nothing left. Then it was time to say our final goodbye and I wasn’t able to stop myself from crying. My husband held onto me as I knelt down and just let it all out. Repeating, “I’m going to miss you so much. I love you.”
I never got to say goodbye. A lot of us didn’t get to have that one last goodbye, get in that last dig or break chops. Our family took a hit on this one, and it’s going to be truly felt. I’m still unable to say I feel better, or that I’m ready to be among civilization and go back to work. I’ve been staying up late, moping around, binging Netflix shows. I know that this road of grief isn’t the easiest to travel on, but I’m going to do it anyway. I just am having a very hard time with this, even if I am ‘seasoned’. If you know me, you know that I still am not okay with the loss of my older brother and my grandmother…so none of this should be a surprise for anyone. But do you know who is surprised the most by how I’ve taken this? Me.
Rest easy, Uncle Tommy. You have no idea how bright of a spot in our lives you truly were.
When I was pregnant, I would read all of these articles about becoming a mom. What might happen, what will definitely happen, what won’t happen. What I was never prepared for – along with motherhood because you’re never prepared – was the amount of judgment that would be coming my way. Other moms, people without kids, soon-to-be moms, mothers who have raised their children to watch them grow up to be adults. It’s crazy to think that people who have been in your parenting shoes would really cast a stone at you for making a decision that you felt was beneficial to your flesh and blood…but it happens. I know it also happens to single mothers, non-custodial mothers, birth mothers who have open adoptions, birth mothers who don’t have open adoptions. I can empathize but I can’t say that I know what their degree of it is first hand. I know from what I have read in some blogs that my fellow Momfriends have written and sheesh…WHAT THE HECK, MAN?!
I’m going to talk about my own experiences though, as I’m never at liberty to speak of someone else’s. From getting the overwhelming guilt thrown on me about being a working mother to people acting disgusted that I’ve had my child in daycare since he was three months old, it’s been a whirlwind of know-it-alls and sanctimonious people coming at me from ALL sides. Let me break it down for you: My child is well rounded for three years old. His vocabulary is amazing, the doctor was so impressed by him at his 3 year old well visit. Despite his latest bout of ‘threenager’ tantrums, he’s a wonderful little boy. He shows empathy, is very affectionate, and picks up on things that most children older then him don’t. We do have our struggles when it comes to certain things like potty training, but I feel that is something I’m definitely not alone in.
I try my hardest not to judge another parent, and sometimes I fail miserably. I will keep my thoughts to myself rather than leave comments on social media for that other parent to see. Even on those days where I find myself saying aloud – “why is that baby’s coat on in the car seat?” or “stop plopping the kid in front of the tv” I have to stop and remember that I’ve been there. Every parent is dealing with their own set of issues, every parent has a different situation. I’ve said this so much about a plethora of things but what’s good for you may not be good for someone else – this definitely goes for parenting.
My husband and I work very hard to make sure our son has a roof over his head, clothes on his back, and food on the table. Right before Andrew’s first Christmas, my husband lost his job. The pressure was on me to provide for the family – I was now the breadwinner and I also was the one with the health insurance. Every day was a constant battle for me because I was so terrified of losing my job. I was so worried for my husband and what being a stay at home dad would do to him. He’s a lot like my father in that sense where he’s a proud man and a very hard worker…so for him to be out of a job crushed him. My husband found a new job six months later, and while it wasn’t a dream job and it wasn’t a salary job he took it because he knew that his pride had to take a backseat. The important thing was our son and making sure we were providing for him together as a cohesive unit.
Not all couples have the same situation as we do, but this is the choice that my husband and I made together when we decided to try to have a baby. We were going to be working parents, unless one of us had a great situation that allowed for the other to stay home. No, Andrew would not be staying at home with either one of us in that case – he’d be going to school. We’re very happy that he has interaction with other children, that he’s at a daycare that takes amazing care of him and it’s a place he LOVES. The amount of crap I’ve gotten for saying that I need a life outside of being my son’s mother is insurmountable at best. People take that far out of context as if I dislike being a mother, but that is so far from the truth it’s ridiculous. I LOVE being a mom. It’s my jam, I tell people that constantly. But I cannot be just a mom. I need to be myself, I need to have days for me and nights where I go to dinner with my best friend. Just like my husband needs the same thing. This isn’t just limited to my needs and wants, because his are important, too.
I would sell hot dogs on a street corner if it meant that’s what I had to do in order to care for my child and also, my husband. Nothing is beneath me, because when it comes to my husband and son would do anything for either one of them. Parenting in the age of social media is very trying, and not because you’re expected to share the details of your child’s first everything but other parents will look at pictures or statuses and decide to rip you apart because it’s “not what they would do.” I don’t get the feeling that men do this to one another, so it makes me really think about where we are in society as a whole. Women will tear one another down repeatedly and being a mother doesn’t mean you’re exempt from that. And with my anxiety, I constantly worry about the way people are perceiving me and my interactions with my child. That’s when I feel the most alone, even though I know that there are other parents out there that feel what I do.
So when you’re browsing social media and you see your friend’s posts about their child – take a second before you react or even start picking it all apart. Try to understand that maybe there’s something far beyond the surface going on. There is no instruction manual on how to be a parent. We’re all winging it. We’re all figuring it out and even then, we can’t figure it out. Everyone’s parenting style differs, and everyone’s child is different in how they take to things. The sooner we remember that, the better off we’ll be when trying to raise a tiny human being. I still have hope that common decency will prevail, and we can live and let live.
It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. In fact, he got some initial questions out of the way and it opened up the channel for more topics to be discussed. I left feeling a little better, I had gotten some weight off of my shoulders and I was definitely happy to have found a therapist this quickly. I continued to go weekly, my conversations range from personal things to current events. It doesn’t always have to be about my depression and anxiety, my past with sexual abuse, my issues that still linger thanks to my birth parents. It’s a safe place for me, somewhere that I can go and talk freely. Sometimes, my therapist says things in response, he’ll give me some advice or ask me some more questions.
On the weeks I don’t go because he’s on vacation or I have to skip a week due to my own schedule (that’s very rare), something always happens where I hit complete meltdown mode. And then I have to save it all up for the next week until I sit down on the couch and (probably) begin crying. Going to therapy for the past year has helped me immensely. I am able to deal with situations a lot better than I had before. I know that I can’t control what people say/do, I can only control how I react to it. I have been able to go through the grieving process of my older brother and grandmother, even if they passed many years ago. I’ve been able to overcome a lot of my fears. There’s still bad days, but they’re not as frequent as they used to be.
Let me backtrack for a second about the grieving thing. Every year on August 9th, I am a complete waste of space. I cry all day, I’m sensitive, I’m absolutely miserable. I hated the day so much because it was a reminder of another year without Andy. Another year we’re not celebrating his birthday, another year I have to say, “Andy would have been ______ today if he were still alive.” Last year, that all changed for me. Sure, I was miserable and sad but thanks to therapy, I knew that sitting around the house wasn’t going to do me any favors. I began to go through the motions and process the fact that my brother is never coming back, and that I need to keep living. I see him every time I look at my son, I have a picture of him at my desk and on my mirror at home. I don’t know if I could have his picture everywhere I look, but when I do see the ones I have I no longer sob. It still hurts, I still miss him terribly, nothing can ever change that. I can only continue to keep living my life.
I have dealt with a lot of death in my life. My birth parents are dead, my grandmother is dead, my brother is dead. I have other family members that have passed on, as well as friends. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but I think it’s been somewhat easier since being able to openly discuss my brother and grandmother with someone who just will listen and help me sort out my feelings. I have dealt with a lot of things in my life that would cause most to turn to a life of drugs, alcohol, and other things you read about in the news. I blamed myself for many years for a lot of the things that happened to me, but now I know that none of it is my fault, nor did I deserve it. I have always questioned whether or not I deserve to be loved, I felt that everyone gets sick of my shit and leaves anyway – and I always attribute that to my father never wanting to be clean so he can be my father. I always attribute that to my mother who could never be sober to be my mother. So to this day, I often question if I deserve my husband’s love. Last year, I would have said absolutely not, I’m the worst and everyone should just stay away. But not anymore.
I am worthy of a lot of things, I’ve made my mistakes and I’ve learned from them. I have done some pretty craptacular things in my past and I take ownership of it, but it doesn’t make me the person that I am today. I know that now, and it’s only taken a year out of my 37 years of life to realize that. I know that I can change my appointments to once a month or every other week – but I truly don’t want to. I know that the only way that I can continue down this path is to stay consistent with what I’ve been doing for the past year. As I go over the past 365 days, I have to say that I am finally in a place where I can admit that the good days are going to happen as well as the bad, I have a very good life and it’s one that I deserve to have, and that no matter what – the life that I have is worth every second of living and to make the most of it.
My mood is a biiiiiiiiiiiiig contrast from what it was yesterday.
I’ll be honest, I had a meltdown yesterday. I got home a little later than I wanted to, so that put me further in the ‘I’m so done with this commute’ category. I’ve been stressed out about my son’s birthday, worried that I’m not doing enough because I’m not having a dog and pony show to celebrate him turning three. I’ve been worried about my husband, who was very sick over Easter. I’ve been worried about my dad, who had a really bad foot infection. For those of you who aren’t in the know, my father is a diabetic and had a kidney transplant last year. It’s a big deal for a diabetic to take care of their feet, so hearing my father had to be rushed to the doctor because he’s not taking care of his feet just sent me into a constant state of worry for him (and for my mother because she’s trying not to show her worry but I know she’s a mess over it). I worry that I’m being an asshole for not being able to have family events where my father-in-law can attend without having to worry how he’s getting into the house.
I just worry. A lot. About stupid things and then about things that are natural to worry about. But there are a lot of things that I can’t control that I continue to get myself in a frenzy over and thus – the crying and sobbing in the kitchen while trying to clean up after dinner. I say things to my husband that sound like this: I’m a horrible person. I suck as a mother. I’m a shitty wife. I’m a shitty daughter. I’m just shitty all around. All of you would be better without me. And this gets him very upset, and rather than try to calm me down or even comfort me, my husband in his husband ways gets very upset and his emotions trigger mine to continue to go whack-a-doodle. It’s a vicious cycle. And it’s so exhausting.
So exhausting that I fell asleep around 9:00 last night and woke up at 10:30 only to ask my husband why he wasn’t at work yet and if he was showering first. Yeah, I was THAT done for. So I tucked Andrew into bed, and rather than doing my usual nightly routine to prep for bed…I just rolled right back into mine and passed out. I had a dream that I met Jenny Lawson and told her that her books inspired me to be more open about my mental illness. I don’t remember anything else, only that. I had a list of things that I had to do last night, but oh well. It’ll get done. Eventually. And I can’t stress out over it.
I hadn’t gone to therapy in a week, he was on vacation. Today, I told my therapist about what happened last night. I told him that I stress out about the most ridiculous things and they become big things because everything else that I worry about just magnifies the dumb things by 10. I know that I do and I’m aware of that, and he talks me through the whole process. I left my session today feeling like I had made a huge leap, because I recognize the problem and I know it’s just so ridiculous. I know that everything will be just fine. My child is a very happy child. My husband and I do all that we can and what’s within our means for our family.
That will always be enough.
So here I am, trying to think of ways to make my son’s third Easter fun. I look at things I purchased for his basket, I think I didn’t get him enough (I did). Then I realize something…I never took him to see the Easter Bunny. He’s gone every year since his first Easter. The plan today was to go take him to see the Easter Bunny, but due to unfortunate circumstances that didn’t happen. For his school parties, I usually make something for the class. I didn’t this time, instead I went to Dunkin Donuts and got 50 munchkins. I was too tired and burnt out to stay awake to bake brownies or cookies. Then, I saw that another mom made an Easter basket with cupcakes and instantly, I started to beat myself up for it. Then tonight, I’m busy doing a lot of things – doing the laundry, cleaning my son’s room because we’re putting his train table in there finally, taking care of my husband (he’s under the weather). It’s getting late. I never started coloring eggs with my son. The eggs weren’t even boiled yet. Crap, I’m really batting 1,000.
But we colored eggs. So maybe I’m not half bad here. Then I remembered that I never took him to see Santa. So I’m back to being an asshole parent.
Side note: My mother and aunt took him to see Santa.
I’m beating myself up for what I deem failures as a mother. I already have severe guilt that I’m a working mother, so when I can’t do something as simple as take my kid to see the Easter Bunny or bake something for his class it’s even worse. This isn’t the first time that I’ve felt this way and it certainly won’t be the last. What I realize is that my child won’t grow up and say, “When I was two, my mother didn’t bring me to see the Easter Bunny.” All of the things I didn’t do for him are things I know he won’t remember or hold against me. What he’s going to remember is how much I love him, how I try to take time every single morning during the work week just to cuddle with him before we have to leave the house for the day.
I give my son attention. I don’t ditch out on time with him. And what I mean by that is when I get home from work, my phone is nowhere in sight. When he asks me to play, I do. He’ll ask for me to read to him, and I do. He doesn’t have to act out to get me to notice him or misbehave in order for me to give him just a moment of my time. So while I continue to beat myself up for being too tired to bake for his class, I have to remember that this is what matters most. It isn’t materialistic things – if his Easter basket is two trains from Thomas that are VERY hard to find (Amazon, thank you so much), a Thomas book, and a package of Peeps, I did just fine. If I managed to get to Dunkin Donuts and still not be late for work just to make sure he had something to contribute to class, I did just fine.
With his birthday coming up, I started to feel bad that he wasn’t getting a big birthday party. We did something big for his first birthday, and we’re not doing anything like that until his fifth. You know what? He’s not going to give a crap that Mommy & Daddy didn’t spend a fortune on a birthday party for his third birthday. He’s not going to care that I didn’t slave over Pinterest ideas for hours on end just to sculpt a cake to look like Thomas the Train. Last year, I didn’t make goodie bags for his friends in school. I ordered pizza and baked a birthday cake, but I didn’t do goodie bags. Other parents do. But is he going to tell me that I failed him by not doing this? I truly doubt he ever will. Am I going to do it this year? Yes. In addition to making his birthday cake myself and not going to my more talented with baking theme cakes friend or even a bakery.
I put pressure on myself to be the perfect mom. Between working and commuting, I come home and instantly switch gears into mom mode. My husband will have dinner ready since some days, he’s home before me and juggling cooking and hanging out with our toddler. But there’s still – eat dinner, get cleaned up, bath time, story time, bed. Then after he’s asleep, it’s prepare for the next day. Get his clothes out, get his schoolbag ready, prep my lunch, take my clothes out. There are times that I fall asleep at the same time as my son and I don’t get to it. It’ll get done the next day, I just have to make sure to get up a little earlier. I don’t have to get everything done, I don’t have to burn myself out even more so. If I had the option to work earlier so that I can be home earlier than 7pm, I would take it in a heartbeat. I hate that I don’t get a whole lot of time with him as it is, but I try to make the most of the time I do have. That’s what he’ll remember. At least that’s what I hope.
My mother is a Deacon. She’s been one for quite sometime now. She would often ask me to attend church on certain days and I would begrudgingly go. I tried hard to like church and to have some sort of faith but I couldn’t do it. When I had gotten engaged, I tried again and the Pastor at the time made me feel so pressured to get married and have children quickly. He invited me to sit with other ‘planning’ couples and I was just so bothered by this that I told my mother. And it wasn’t just one letter. It was one after another because I hadn’t responded. She was very upset, because this wasn’t supposed to be the intention. Yet, it happened and I decided I wasn’t going to be forced to feel welcome in a church where the Pastor has made me feel so uncomfortable.
I don’t know if I was pregnant at the time, maybe it was early on or right before…but my mother told me that we had a new Pastor at her church. She told me that he was younger and that she knows that I’d really like him. My mother had never forced religion on me even if she had asked me to go to certain days – Mother’s Day, Easter, Christmas Eve…I could do that. But not every Sunday, that was my rule. But here she was, telling me about the new Pastor and I promised her that I would go to church that following Sunday.
And that is when I decided it was time for me to figure out my faith and my walk with God.
This isn’t going to be preachy. Like I said above, your beliefs are yours and I will not judge nor try to sway you the other way. I didn’t like it being done to me and I would never put that on another person. Most people who knew me back when were a little confused to find out that I was becoming a member of Grove Reformed. “She’s into God all of a sudden?” “Since when is Marie religious?” So rather than ask questions like that, wouldn’t it make sense to ask, “What made you decide this was the direction you wanted to go in?” And you would find out that it had zero to do with anyone pressuring me and everything to do with knowing I was about to become a mother. That changed everything for me, and changed the way I looked at things.
Yes, the new Pastor had delivered a sermon that had me thinking, “He totally gets it!” and that’s where it pretty much originated – but make no mistake about it, I was walking gingerly. I was going to leave religion up to my husband, or let it be something my child does with one of his grandmothers. That was truly my intention but it didn’t last too long. I found myself regularly attending service, enjoying it, and taking a lot from the messages that the sermon was delivering. It was nice to also feel like I wasn’t being judged for prior beliefs and feelings. But I was being judged by others who didn’t believe, and others who knew the old way that I thought.
And that isn’t really fair, right? If I’m not judging them, why are they judging me?
Look. If you don’t believe in God, fine. You don’t have to. If you believe in God, fine. You don’t have to do that either. I don’t sit and preach religion, throw it in anyone’s face, or force anyone to attend church with me. It doesn’t change who I am just because I’m a member of a congregation and I believe in God. If you have your doubts about God and all things religion, don’t worry about what I will think of that. I only think it’s hypocritical if you’re out here getting ashes on Ash Wednesday and talking about giving something up for Lent when you haven’t set foot in a church in years nor practice any sort of religion. But hey, God doesn’t want me to judge and maybe I should check myself.
Just know that my walk in life is not yours. Yours is not mine. You believe what you believe, and I will do the same.
Part of my reasoning for going this extra mile is for my son. I want him to be a healthy little dude; he was born a bit over a month early. He was on breathing apparatus for awhile and was in the NICU for a week (and maybe plus one day – it’s a fog to me now). While some mothers may say that I’m obsessive or insane, I say that I’m just taking proper precautions. Unfortunately, other mothers feel that they have a say in what I choose to do for my child’s well being. Remember: what works for you may not work for somebody else. You don’t know their situation. After downloading the Think Dirty app, I felt like I had failed in my label reading and extensive research. The product I have been using on my son since infancy is full of chemicals and for lack of better word…dirty. And it’s a product that I thought was supposed to be good for you – maybe it’s the price point that made me believe that. I fully intend on doing an overhaul on the products that I use for him – his health and well being is my priority.
Another part of my reasoning is because of my own health. I have a thyroid disease. There are certain additives in food that make my thyroid go nuts and not in a good way. There are foods that I need to avoid completely and foods that I need to limit. I don’t eat a lot anymore, seldom am I eating sugary things or snacking late at night on junk food. I’m not starving myself, I’m just becoming better with what I eat, what my portions are, and reading those labels! This goes back to when it came time to start thinking about what he should bring to school for lunch. Do you know how much crap is in a Lunchable?! Seems like it’s an easy option, right? Easy, yet full of sodium. Sodium, sugar, carbohydrates – all things that I need to be careful of because of my thyroid. So if I’m not eating it, my child certainly isn’t. Unless his father is in charge. Or a grandparent. But lucky me! My child LOVES fruits and vegetables. FRESH fruits and veggies! He makes grocery shopping easy, I know just what to get for him. And for myself, I read labels and ask my doctor questions. I’ve lost ten pounds. Not working out. Not starving myself. Eating the right portions, the right foods, not snacking late at night, hardly anything sugary, and oh hey, water. Usually with peppermint essential oil because it helps with bloat, or lemon essential oil because it detoxifies and curbs those cravings.
When it comes to my husband, he’s a skeptic on all of these things. We read a book that was written by a MS patient who said that going gluten free helped him big time with his battle. I told my husband that I would go gluten free in solidarity with him and he said no. He refuses to do it, even if it may benefit his health. My husband has lost a ton of weight – between a new job that keeps him active, not eating take out for lunch every day, and him trusting me with incorporating new and healthier alternatives into our meals…he looks terrific. But his weight loss doesn’t mean his MS has gone away. If only it were so simple, I keep telling myself. But I also try to read up on things that can help him, too. He might not be a label person, but when I can ‘show him the light’ so to speak, I will. Part of my journey with essential oils is because of him, and how I’ve read how beneficial it can be to MS patients. It’s not a cure, let me get that out of the way. It’s only going to support his wellness and keep his aches and pains to a bare minimum.
The foods we eat, the shampoo we use, the products we clean our home with – I have gotten a little manic about it because that’s me being Mama Bear. I also want to feel good as well as look good. I have a new regimen at nighttime – from washing my face to rubbing coconut oil on the bottom of my feet, it takes me about 15 minutes to do all of this before I get into bed. It’s a process, it’s a little bit of a long road and sometimes not very cheap but I know in the end I’m doing what’s best. Remember: what’s good for me might not be good for you, so do your research!
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