Yesterday was the first day of school for my younger kids, and today is the first day for my eldest. I have so far spent the morning enjoying the quiet, but it has been less than an hour since they climbed on the bus and already I'm feeling bummed out.
So, I have made myself a cup of tea, and found a comfortable spot on the patio to enjoy while I do some self-exploration through the use of writing ~ I find it easier to organize my thoughts, emotions and perceptions this way. I'm not exactly sure where this post is going, as I am going to let it flow along wherever my train of thought takes me.
I'm sure that I'm not the only mother who, by the end of summer vacation, looks forward to the new school year. Whether you are a full-time Mom, or you've added a 'side job' to that career (a.k.a. work outside of the field of parenthood), it is somewhat of a relief to have a chance to breathe and spend time with yourself.
That said, I'm also sure that I'm not the only mother who, the moment her kids are off to school in September, and the house is empty, feels completely lost and lonely, and just wants them to come back home.
I feel like, after a summer spent focusing on the needs and care of our kids, we go into shock when they don't need us all day, every day. We suddenly are gifted with full days of freedom, to fill with our own thoughts, needs, self-care and passions. At first glance, that seems pretty fabulous. And then the guilt sets in. It takes a plethora of forms, and (in my mind) creeps in with questions like:
"The kids are at school and hubby is at work, don't you think its a little unfair that you're not doing something more worthwhile? Do you think you've actually earned the right to relax on the patio? Taking a long bath is a little selfish, don't you think? You should probably spend your day cooking/cleaning/doing things for your family instead of being self-centered and reading that book...."
The list goes on. And on.
Your inner dialogue may sound a little different, but I'm sure there are at least some similarities.
The fact is, being a mother, for the most part, is not recognized as work. Because we happened to be born with the right body parts to bear children, it is just a given that the journey of motherhood that follows is an effortless endeavor that doesn't deserve more than a slight nod of approval from our partners and peers. Sure, there is a movement toward changing this perception, and there have been great steps taken toward creating an awareness of the importance and impact of a mother's role in society. But we are still faced with judgment from every angle, which, all on its own, places an enormous amount of stress on our shoulders. And once those judgments begin, they are not limited to the subject of motherhood. The key to keeping our sanity in such situations is in searching (no matter how hard) for the treasure in each emotional attack.
I recently have had an experience where I was scrutinized and judged, in a situation where I was unable to walk away. I will not share specific details, but suffice it to say that I spent a period of time physically trapped in a space where the only choice I had - in order to avoid damaging other relationships that I hold dear - was to allow the harsh and condescending words, manipulation, veiled insults and bigotry to flow free. Admittedly, I am still recovering emotionally from the experience, but the hidden treasure was that I was able to see this person in their true form. I understood my relationship with a certain loved one more, because of the new awareness of the damage that this toxic person has caused to them. It forced me see situations from a different point of view, and I was able to find a powerful amount compassion and understanding that I couldn't reach before.
To break free of the need for outside approval is probably the most difficult inner battle I have ever fought. I have taken great steps toward this freedom, but still have a long way to go. Of course, the weakest point for me (as for any mother I know) is my children. I am blessed with four amazing, healthy, happy and beautiful daughters who are growing into kind, compassionate and confident young women. I know this, and it is not possible for me to feel any more proud.
However, even though I know that I am a good mother, that I love my children more than life itself, and that my children love me, I am still susceptible to the self doubt and emotional torture that breeds from outside judgment. It really is a paradox, because I subconsciously seek the approval of others to make me feel more secure, yet it is that very desire for approval that has created the issue in the first place. It reflects the cycle of addiction, and this pattern is just as difficult from which to break free.
I know that I can get out of this funhouse, one step at a time.
First step of today: make a cup of tea, sit on the patio and allow myself the freedom to ramble as I enjoy the morning sunshine. Check.
Reading over this post, I can see that it has been inspired by Self-Love September, an endeavor by Kelly-Ann Maddox to dedicate the month to practicing radical self-love. For me, self-love begins within, by shining a light on things that eat away at your ability to live authentically and in a state of joy. I highly recommend that you check out her blog, and watch some of her videos. She uses real, everyday language to convey some pretty amazing messages that we could all stand to hear. www.kelly-annmaddox.com