“Where do I begin and how do I work with my intricate design?” is what I ask myself as I sink into my resentments and write for the first time in weeks. Good friends and loyal readers help to hold me accountable like a support group, “Where’s your blog? I hope you don’t have writers block. I want to support your writing, what can I do?” I question my self-preserving excuses that are nothing more, when overdone, than self-deprecating by constitution in the ways I hold myself back. Yes, I have writers block in the form of two brain-draining children at home for summer but I’m also tangled in the vines of my patterns.
I want to be a good mom and as an after thought, a conservative spender, so I decided against sending my kids to camp for the summer. I worked out a deal with my ex, Jack to care for the kids during his custody time while he works, and I hired a part time sitter for the hours I work.
Most of my motivation for the cause arose from guilt and control. Jack started a new job with longer hours, including some travel time, which to me meant less time for the kids. I was concerned they’d feel neglected so I did my best to remedy the situation by showing up for what I thought of as abandoned kid time.
I felt that piercing prelude of guilt that happens at just the thought of something ugly. In my mind I conjured up this idea of them wallowing in sadness at camp feeling rejected and alone. In this image they’re the last kids to be picked up. They’re hot, tired and hungry from the day wishing they were home snuggling. And in my head I see myself sprawled out on the couch at home in my writing hive, or worse, out having an early relaxing dinner with my girlfriend.
How do you think my little fable worked out for me?
I knew finding time to write would be challenging and my evolving inner voice (her name is Solitude, and she’s a writer) kept arguing, “When will I have time for me?” and my core issues voice (Fear, masked as Guilt, and Control) said, “But what about your children? Won’t they be hurt? How could you live with yourself knowing you’re at home writing, or out consorting with your lover while you pay for your kids to be at camp- away from you? That’s ridiculous! Who do you think you are?” and that more than convinced me I could still find time to write, but I haven’t.
In my current mind-manipulated-set up I give more of myself to my kids than I do my writing and I’m resentful, and guilty for the resentment. However, to act on those feelings seems to perpetuate the problem, and the only way to break the seam is by staying vigilant of my real motivations, and by calling my fears out by name.
Down to my roots I know acting on my issues only harms my children more than helps. I have to learn how to allow them to have their own experiences. I must keep reminding myself I cannot prevent them from feeling pain, nor is there anything I can do to make-up for the hurt my divorce did, or may cause. I’m at the mercy of outcome, not the master. I will rob them of useful life skills and coping mechanisms, and the freedom to grow with confidence if I keep interfering, and I will enslave myself to misery. If I let my attempts to protect them from my recycled pain become habitual, and frenzied it will, in spite of me, leave gaping marks.
Recently for inspiration I re-read a note a friend sent. She asked, “So I would like to hear more from you on how you are able to be a great mother and how you broke the cycle.” I felt a little odd when I read that because the fact is most of the time I don’t feel like a great mother. I don’t know why I don’t but I should. Actually, I do know why and it’s the whole guilt thing again. If I took it out of the formula I’d be a great mom on paper.
My children are well received. I’m often told how polite, kind, and respectful they are, and how well they behave. I take great pride in all the above. I work really hard at being a good parent and it requires a lot of time and energy. I’ve learned that staying home with my kids does not equal being a good mother.
Susan is often upset with me for being so hard on myself. She understands why I fight the dark outline of myself that’s my mother but it’s hard for her to watch me struggle. She said, “I wish just once you’d wake up and realize you’re a good mom. I see you move, shift and change for those kids. They’re the forethought of everything you do. Your mother didn’t do that for you, you do that for your children. You are a great mother and you should know that.”
Today I’m going to take ownership of my success. I am a good mother even though I resent not having more time to myself. I know that I’m a good mom even when I’m grateful my kids are gone for nine days, believe me they’re sick of me too. For me, being a good mom does not mean doing all and being everything for your children. It means considering them in everything you do even if you chose not to be with them. It also means loving them without a means to an end- meaning to love them just because and not to make myself feel better, but mostly I’m a good mom because I try. (And when I try too hard it’s for me and doesn’t work because it’s just as selfish as my mom not trying very hard at all.)
By giving myself permission to accept that I’m a good mom will hopefully give me the confidence I need to give myself a chance the way I want to with my children. I want to be the recipient of loosening my tight grip on control as well. I usually don’t allow myself to succeed or fail because by not even giving myself the opportunity to try. I always cut myself off before the stakes get too high. My inner dictator wants to rule without getting hurt.
Two different people in a two-week period told me about two different writing contests going on this summer. One is with Glamour magazine and it requires me to write, edit, follow directions, and submit an essay on “A life-changing event,” and the other is through Real Simple magazine and it requires everything listed above except for the topic. They are asking for an article on, “How I first understood love.”
(I really want to enter but I’m freaked out about it. I never really edit (obviously) and I don’t like following directions or being dictated to, but I want to test myself because I can’t lose. I know I’ll gain so much just going through the process. HELP! YIKES!)
Okay, I need a time out. Don’t read the following inner dialogue: (I have the gift of communicating through written words. I have to allow myself to do this even though moving forward with it feels perilous. I’m proud of my honesty and the fearlessness in which I’m willing to share it. All that’s left to do is to bring (Solitude, the writer) and (Fear, the core issues) together in a happy union, once united they’ll produce an amazing offspring. This suckling of mine is capable of self-control when it comes to writing. She uses her intense urge to control as energy to channel her gift into organized creative pieces.)
I’m back. I was the character of a weird Prozac fueled lady from an inspirational book on tape.
In all seriousness, I’m not going to let myself down. I’ve got this: Two, two thousand words, or less, articles. Please be on the look out for them on my blog. I’m requesting a few readers to help me edit in red pen. If you’re interested let me know. (What in the hell? I can’t believe I’m really supposed to do this.)