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Tag Archives: parenting

For those of us laying under a weighted blanket of guilt…

17 Dec

Today I saw a meme of sorts – it wasn’t a funny, Kermit drinking tea sort of meme, but one that was supposed to touch the heart of all the moms out there.

And I paraphrase –

“Stop feeling guilty! Just because you packed a crap lunch or missed a soccer game, don’t feel bad! We’re all doing our best! Give up the mom guilt!”

And maybe because I’m a bit cranky these days, but I looked at it and thought “I wish that’s all I felt guilty about.”

Seriously, if I only felt guilty for things like missing games or under-decorated birthday cakes, I probably wouldn’t need a therapist. But thanks to anxiety, Catholicism, and my own special blend of herbs and spices, I take feeling guilty to the next level.

I don’t feel guilty about lunches. Well, maybe I have as well. But my guilt, like my life, has an extra layer of extra.

I feel guilty about all sorts of things out of my control. The things my older three children have missed out on by having a disabled sister. By not doing enough for the disabled daughter. By not living up to my potential because I’m just freaking tired all the time. By not giving enough time to my husband because someone else needs me. Feeling guilty that I can’t be the type of mom my kids should have had because of my anxiety and depressed times.

Jaysus, I’d love to feel bad about missing a fecking soccer game.

It’s exhausting, carrying around all this, and amazing that despite carrying all this, I still manage to get up every morning and try all over again to be better at everything. Which is also exhausting.

Our circumstances are extraordinary. So is my mom guilt, my general life guilt, the secret shames I carry for having a messy house or missing appointments. My Imposter Syndrome is better than your Imposter Syndrome though, but they don’t hand out bumper stickers for that, now do they?

So coming across a meme that is meant well, but is a bit lacking…can set me off. Because stuff like that, those generic platitudes, feed into the problem. Because you’re not feeling guilty over a crappy lunch – you’re feeling guilty because your spouse is out of work and you’re buying the cheapest lunch items possible to make that crappy lunch and you don’t have the money to buy a cool kid’s lunch. You’re not feeling guilty over missing a soccer game, you’re feeling guilty because you’re the only mom in a team full of overachieving parents who missed yet another game because you work. You don’t just feel guilty because your child is missing a school party, you’re feeling guilty because they’re missing the party because of a doctor’s appointment scheduled months ago, one you can’t just reschedule for another day as you’ve already waited months for this appointment. It’s the guilt of having to hold your child down while they take blood, despite the promises of a treat, a reward for being so brave afterwards.

Universal guilts of spending money on yourself, spending time on yourself become amplified when you’re already weighed down by other guilt. You don’t need outsiders to tell you you’re wrong, the voices in your head do that job for you. No, you shouldn’t spend money at the salon to get your hair cut for the first time in six months or a year – there are medical bills to be paid. No, you shouldn’t pause life and read that book – the dishes are stacked up and no one has clean socks. You should do laundry and clean your house instead. Being told to take time for you seems impossible when you have a child who is so very dependent on you. Feeling resentful about that is not allowed, because then you’re a bad parent who doesn’t cherish your precious offspring.

It’s a weighted blanket of guilt that keeps you up at night and yet oddly enough, keeps you moving forward. 

You are way past having a light bulb moment from a meme. You read platitudes by people on the internet and roll your eyes.

Or maybe that’s just me.

But you don’t say these things out loud, because then, ironically, the meme maker will confront you – “I was just trying to help! I didn’t mean you! I have real problems too!” – and then you feel badly for making them feel bad.

The thing is though…the thing is, so much of motherhood on the internet is about being positive. So much of social media is showing your best side. So much of the internet is about striving for better – better lifestyles, better bodies, best life now. Cherish those little moments! Take time for you! Don’t feel guilty! Love your messy life! All accompanied by a smiling photo, granite countertops in the background, all shiny and clear of clutter.

The thing is – I don’t really base my self-worth on these sort of memes. Yet I can still see the damage they do. Not car-wreck damage. But that pebble in your shoe damage, that one last thing that makes you rip off your sock, or causes a blister from rubbing so much.

And these people do mean well. This sort of thing does help them. It just reminds me at times at how distant my reality is from theirs, and how most people don’t show the truth. The hard stuff. The uncomfortable stuff. The real mess.

I am a mess. I’m a hot mess. My house is a mess. My brain is a mess. I do not have granite countertops, and the plain white tile ones I do have aren’t clean right now. I need therapy for all the guilt I carry over everything.

And I know I’m not alone in this.

So cheers to us, the ones living the true messes, the ones who carry on despite the guilt and shame weighing us down. Cheers to us, for getting up every morning and putting one foot after another. Cheers to our little victories, cheers to us for finding a bright moment. Cheers to us for getting up the strength to wash that load of socks or for making that frozen lasagna for dinner.

Cheers to surviving in an ocean constantly trying to drown us.

We may feel the weakest, but we are the strongest of them all.

 

 

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash [image description – a hand rising out of a dark sea, holding a sparkler]

 

 

 

 

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Everyday Caregiving

6 Nov

It’s the things we do by rote, things that have become second nature, things we don’t even realize we do until someone looks at us with one eyebrow raised and a “Well, that’s weird” expression. Things we do for a teenager who should have been doing these things for herself years ago. Things we avoid in order to keep the peace.

Those things have become our norm.

I am Maura’s mom. I am also her full-time caregiver.

A mom teaches her child life skills so her child becomes an independent adult. A caregiver fills in where those life skills have been hampered or have no developed. Two very valuable vocations, one pays crap, the other doesn’t pay at all. Lucky me, I get to do both for free.

Good thing my boss is so cool.

Today, I did things for Maura like wash her hair, blow dry it, helped her get dressed, helped her turn on a show, helped set up her tablet so that it could charge via extension cord. I threw her clothes in the washer. I shall throw them in the dryer, and put them away for her. I took care of other needs she had that I won’t get into.

I also watched her pull out pizza boxes and dish herself up some cold pizza for breakfast like a regular teenager, intervened when she picked a fight with her sister over the use of the television, and fought her for the chocolate her brother gave both of us.

There’s so much normal interspersed with the extraordinary. And the thing is, the extraordinary I do for her is something expected of all moms when their children are infants, toddlers, preschoolers. That stuff extended its need naturally. It’s not like one day she was blow drying her own hair and the next day I had to do it for her. I’ve always had to do it for her. Someday she may be able to do it on her own.

And that’s the hope I’ve been given. For each task I do for her now, each act of caregiving, I still have the hope that she can manage it a bit on her own someday. Any step of independence, no matter how small, is huge. Last year, I still had to prompt her to get out of the bath. And by prompt, I mean plead and bargain and empty the tub first before being able to pry her out of it. Her ending her bath on her own is amazing.

She also now will let the dogs out or back inside when asked. She can take her plate to the kitchen. She could someday empty the dishwasher or take bagged up trash to the garbage can. She can help around the house, which would be awesome.

But for now, I’m still cleaning her room.

Outside of the house, it’s a balance of giving her freedoms and keeping her on target. There’s verbal prepping that I must do, triggers to watch out for, and always on the look out for quick exits and restrooms, depending on the emergency. It’s how I’ll try to park so that she has extra room to open the car door without hitting another car. It’s worrying the few times I let her go into the bathroom alone. It’s hoping we can hit three stores only to change plans after one. It’s both an opportunity for self-advocacy and a lesson in following rules and taking turns. Mom needs to go to the dog food aisle. Yes, we can look at clothes. No, we’re not going to the toy aisle today, you already picked out a book.

It’s letting a stranger ask her a question, and waiting to see if they understand her before stepping in to provide translation of what Maura said. It’s letting her move at her own pace when the person behind us thinks we’re going too slow. Which happens a lot. On stairs. It’s backing her up in her the right to own her space in this world. It’s letting her choose the music in the car, even though shotgun should shut her cakehole because driver picks the music.

It’s letting her choose her backpack, choose her jacket, choose if she wears socks with her shoes. It’s standing back to let her put on her own socks and stepping in to help with the shoes. It’s cutting her fingernails.  It’s fixing her plate at dinner time because she will overfill it. It’s letting her pour her own drink. It’s pulling back her hair into a pony tail every time she asks, but asking “Do you want one or two?” first. It’s putting sheets on her bed because she just. can’t. do. that.

It’s finding the energy to go watch when she says “Watch Mom!”. It’s sitting to watch a movie for the 87th time because she’s patted the seat next to her on the couch. It’s high fiving her, hugging her, tickling her because she still needs those things constantly. It’s me at my friend’s party, being the one checking on her teenager every five seconds while on the swing set – partially for safety reasons, and partially because the girl is enjoying herself so much, I can’t help but mirror the big smile on her face.

It’s everything, all the time, twenty-four hours, seven days, 52 weeks, and so on, and so forth, world without end, amen.

I’m lucky she puts up with all my interference.

I’m lucky that this very cool kid lets me hang out with her.

I’m lucky that when I leave, she misses me, and when I come back, she gives me the rockstar treatment, screaming and laughing and hugging me now that I’m home.

I’m lucky that she makes this dual life of mom and caregiver not just easy, but fun.

It’s exhausting at times, and the pay, as I said, is less than crap. But the rewards – getting a front row seat in her amazing life – are worth it.

 

 

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[photo of Maura, long brown hair hanging down, pink jacket and gloves on, face beaming as she enjoys a rare PNW snowfall]

 

 

I think I’ve reached my capacity on kids movies

25 Sep

For some reason, Maura HAD to have a copy of “The Lion King” – a movie that, until now, I’ve never actually watched.

I mean, I’m sure my kids have watched it, I know my boys watched the spin-off show “Timon and Pumba”, Miriam’s choir did the full “Circle of Life” song last year – but somehow, I missed actually viewing the whole movie.

Thanks to Maura’s need to watch movies 3928 times in a row, I have now watched “The Lion King” – or as I’ve dubbed it, “Simba Doing Stupid Things”.

Really Simba, your father is James Earl Jones, you shouldn’t be this dumb. And really? You’re gonna follow Uncle Scar around? And watch him kill your father and slap your mother around, only to trust him enough to walk away? His name is Scar! He has a British accent! Come on already!

Again – I shouldn’t be left alone with kids movies. Especially ones where one of the main songs is “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – a happy song about eagerly awaiting your father’s death so you can snatch up all the power. How very Shakespearean.

And then I discovered that Matthew Broderick was the voice of grown Simba.

Matthew Broderick.

Matthew.

Broderick.

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My friends were all “How did you not know this?” and I was all “I DON’T KNOW!”

Seriously, I don’t know how I got through the past 23 years of this movie’s existence not knowing Matthew Broderick played Adultish Simba.

Proving that no matter what your age, there’s always something new to learn.

Like “Hakuna Matata” – sure, it means “no worries” but it also seemed to be interpreted as “Yeah, so your father just died and you ran away because once again, you listened to Uncle Scar and you’ve not thought once that your mother might think you’re dead??? You made your mother worry this whole time!”

Seriously, Disney, what’s with you having characters run off? Snow White…Ariel…Simba…Elsa…okay, Rapunzel took off, but she was literally imprisoned so I support her choice. Disney is just a bad series of “People making poor choices”.

Again, maybe I just need to stop watching them all seventeen times a week. Oversaturation is a bad thing.

I just feel bad for “The Lion King” – it starts off so gloriously…the choir, the scenery, the uplifting song and tiny lion cub, James Earl Jones. “Before sunrise, he’s your son.” – what’s not to love?

Well, besides 30% of the movie being Scar going on about how he’s going to kill everyone.

Yeah, I definitely need less cartoons in my life.

 

 

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