Posted in My story

I do appreciate you

To my husband who feels underappreciated:

Since the birth of our child and end of my career, I have received minimal acknowledgment of my successes. I cringe when you say, “That hit the spot” after a meal you enjoyed. I know it should be some form of thanks but it makes me angry. I scramble to pull together a meal for your entire family after entertaining all day while you enjoy the first Christmas movie of the season. Alone in the kitchen, bouncing between preparing and cleaning up after myself. Listening to the laughter made possible by my handiwork in the oven as I start putting together the salad. Thankful we do not have to go out to eat for the third time in a single day. I have trained myself to motivated by the moment made possible by the fulfillment of my duties. That did not hit the spot. For me, it missed the mark entirely but adjustments must be made to my perspective.

When they say that being a stay at home mother is a thankless job, it is! Appreciation disguises itself as memories being etched by wounds that are healed on a couch that I keep clean in a sunroom I painted and decorated while the Instant Pot curates my latest masterpiece. I miss being passionate and knowledgeable at a job that does not exploit my weaknesses but suits my strengths. You get to go to work and leave work there, take vacations, earn annual bonuses, raises based on your performance, daily recognition for resolving problems, and the respect of your entire shop. That’s not even the best part! You get two times a day alone in the car, just you with the radio on and the windows down. From solid screaming to talking in circles to a never-ending loop of questions to the future driver’s ed instructor I ride with now, I have never been more jealous of starting and ending a work day (I could end the sentence here) with some relaxing alone time.

Shards of the shattered images I had for motherhood remind me that even my own expectations are unattainable. Instead, I have no boss or job description but take direction from a 5 year old. Her mood dictates my productivity as tears brought on by the suggestion of wearing a long sleeve shirt sparks a chain reaction. 1) Running through the ever changing list of causes for such an outburst and instantaneously choosing the path that will fingers-crossed lead to peace this time. 2) Simultaneously ditching the new recipe for dinner that I’ve excitedly planned in exchange for mentally scanning the pantry for sides to go with frozen fish sticks… again. 3) Trying to recall that complex math equation I learned in high school for an answer to how I’m going to have time to run her spirit shirt through a currently occupied washer and dryer while making it to bed before midnight for the first time this week. 4) Ushering her to my bed across floors that haven’t been mopped by an adult in who knows how long, as a clump of Cooper’s hair swirls past a leaf that I’ve intentionally left for the past few days to see if anyone else would be interested in picking it up. 5) Suppressing the yelling response to a nonsensical breakdown of a growth spurt in action dressed in a tank top and bike shorts on a cold rainy fall day with the false promise of a one minute nap. 6) She hasn’t napped since before she turned 2 but since starting kindergarten, I decipher her irritability as a cry for comfort and security. So, I oblige to her request for a singing backrub and crawl under the covers scooting my leg towards her wandering feet. Those toes somehow find respite in being squished against my thigh and just as a cup must be pressed against the lever to be filled with water, this connection is required for her to fall and remain asleep. I am not sure why I continue to mourn the loss of my former self in exchange for being purely proud of all that I have accomplished. As I reread this interaction, I start to see the successes but it felt like utter failure in that moment.

Stuck between feeling grateful for the role I have been called to play in that honey badger’s life and disappointed in the loss of control I have in my own life. I am jealous of your freedom to excel in a career and bitter from the amount of time I spend each day making your lifestyle possible. Let’s call a truce. I’d imagine that we are both seeking thanks for the sacrifices we make for each other. I propose we approach this partnership in a new light. Instead of standing on our separate mountains seeking praise for the stones we placed under the other’s feet to lift them up, let’s join hands and find the joy in this life we’ve created together. Ditch the mountaintops for a beach towel, so we can be right there in the sand painstakingly molding our life as the tides bring endless change. I see you and I do appreciate you. I am learning that supporting your career and caring for your wellness do not replace your longing to be recognized. Right back at you.

Let’s find ways to stand outside of our roles within the family unit and be unique individuals again. Carving out time to disconnect from parental responsibilities and rediscover our own identities. Learning how to fall back in love with ourselves, allowing us the grace to cherish each other in a whole new way.

Listening to: Easy On Me -Adele

Posted in Our Story

Untitled (intentionally)

I’ve been struggling with myself lately. My sister called in the middle of the day last week simply to be heard. Her words could have been my own. “I no longer have my own identity.” Living 1,690 miles away from her, I jumped on my Amazon app to find the perfect item capable of reviving her sense of self. What did I find? Mama Bear paraphernalia, kitchen gadgets, wine accessories, and relaxation goodies. All things that I am certain we could scroll through for hours finding quite a few to add to our wish lists. Not a single one I found related to my sister as a person outside of her current circumstance. Not one. I found junk to help her unwind from a rough day with 2 toddlers. Practical stuff for her obligations as a cook and homemaker. I saw a pair of earrings that struck me as her style but I didn’t even click on them. Being a Mom to my own 3 year old, I know better than to gift her another reason for her baby to tug at her body or to serve as a reminder for how long it has been since an escape AKA date night. There I was helpless in my effort to bring her comfort and left with a growing awareness of my own detachment from who I formerly knew as myself.

I just keep thinking: I am beginning to comprehend what motivated my Mom. I know that if she were here, I would be grateful for her in a more complex way now that I have a feisty minion of my own. Since she is no longer a resident of this Earth, I have been blessed with a newfound bond to her. The complication of our relationship has never been a secret and I think that friction would have held up a wall as long as she was alive. In a strange twist, her death blasted a pathway between us. Without her persistent pull to rescue me from repeating her fears, I can see her and I believe she is finally able to see me. With every step I come closer to uncovering who she was, I see a woman tangled in the veils of being a wife and torn from herself by the ever changing obligations as a mother. I’ve spoken frankly to the people closest to her throughout the progressing phases of her life.  Had those people been able to share stories of her with each other, they’d uncover a stranger too. She buried who she was under layers of other people’s expectations. She lost sight of herself and became obsessed with “properly” filling her roles.

The fear of falling into the grooves worn by her path remains my challenge, even without her presence. Ironically, the traits that gave her the most grief bring me comfort. Let me clarify. Given the choice and without a drop of hesitation, I would take her as a grandmother to my daughter over her absence. I am here attempting to brighten this situation similar to the way she would turn to the seemingly defeated party and offer solace. My sister and I are in her shoes. Lost. Not just because my barely size 6 foot would be swallowed by her size 9 clogs but a ‘disappearing from my own reflection in the mirror’ kind of lost. As I bantered with my sister, “No one told us it would be like this!” Lonely and alone. Sounds redundant but being lonely and alone are not identical. Alone is being without someone else. Lonely is not having companionship. I am more often than not lonely while sitting right next to my husband. Not alone, just lonely. Same goes for being with my daughter. Not alone, just lonely and lost in my own skin.

You are not alone. I am here in South Carolina crawling through the trenches with you. You are virtually not alone. I call you all to lift up your fellow Mamas. She’s that sexy lady using her forearms to push the buggy while coaxing a grumpy mini human to be pleased with the samples of popped pea crisps- baked, not fried. That one next to you with her previously silky hair twisted atop her head as a display of her altered priorities. I think we can all find a comfortable venue to provide support and connect with others in similar situations. Unlike my former self, I am unfazed replying to my daughter asking what I’d like to do with the confident reply, “Bang my head against the wall.” The passing Mom snickered with full eye contact and whispered, “I’m right there with you.” She was hunched over a buggy filled with carefully curated picks. Her new life’s passion- selecting the ideal items for her family based on research, financial responsibility, and social influence. Be her friend. For that moment in passing, a season of tee ball, or a continued comradery through traded date nights and excited Ladies’ Nights painting wall decor. Not just fellow moms but anyone within your reach who is fighting a battle familiar to you. I’m pretty sure we can all find another in a related uncharted territory carving out a path while recreating their own sense of self.

I tease about volunteering to teach an unconventional maternity class about your life after giving birth. Becoming a mother did not come naturally to me and I did not cope gracefully with the introduction of my daughter. I believe that many parents experience some degree of postpartum depression and we should acknowledge the impact of adjusting to these phases in our lives. We all are moving through unique reactions to the situations life throws at us. I am continually recovering from an evolving dynamic in my family since my mother’s passing in 2014. Through recent stories of my Mom, I see her as a proud and loving person for the first time in my life. Her death also sparked the loss of my Dad, as I knew him. He disassociated from the remaining family unit and I am sadly accepting his new occasional presence in my life. As a result, I have no where to go home to. My house is suddenly the primary home in my life. Even married and with a kid, I envisioned ultimately going home to my parent’s house as I worked in the background to create a home of my own. Hosting holidays in my house feels more like playing pretend than warmly welcoming friends and family to celebrate in a cozy established home. I took for granted how blessed I was to be under one roof with the people I’ve shared a lifetime of memories with in a house that held an irreplaceable familiarity. It’s awkward to be in this place building my own young family’s memories without the ability to recharge in the embrace of a home filled with the memories that formed me.

Take a full deep breath and give yourself grace. The journey to conquering our circumstance is swimming with every facet of emotion. You may be stepping in some ugly stuff right now or basking in the warmth of your season. Take a second to absorb the fluid onward motion of your life. I spent too much of Annabeth’s first years swallowed by the depressing state I found myself in. But perspective certainly is everything. I am not slipping further away from me. There is nothing to let go of because I have taken the reins and I am transforming day by day, allowing the heartache to stretch me to seek a fresh perspective that will propel me through my next phase in life. Simply making the decision to no longer regret growing apart from who I once was gives me the grace to fall in love with myself all over again. I am not a shell of my former self, disappearing with each role I take on. I am blessed by the challenges that are carving depth and strength into my character.

Bring on that Mama Bear mug! I am beaming proud of that chunk of myself who gets to be a Mom. I will connect with my situations on a more personal level and take advantage of the endless moments that serve as opportunities to define me. I will develop my own expectations of the roles I fill and mindfully immerse my being into all aspects of who I am. I am Momma. I am a wife. I am a neighbor and a friend. Enjoying my circumstance is loving who I am being molded into along the way.