I was born 44 years ago today. I find it hard to believe I’m that old, when I don’t feel that way at all.
I wanted to share an old post of mine, to highlight where I was, not too long ago. This post was written in May of 2009 on another blog of mine. I’ll add an update at the end, because I am happy to report things, in many ways, are looking up. I’ve got some photo posts to share with you in the coming days, but for now, I wanted to revisit the past a little bit.
I find it hard to have meaningful friendships lately. I didn’t used to. I had a lot of friends at different intellectual levels than I and I could easily adapt to all of them and feel quite fulfilled. Many of my friends enjoyed my company and what I brought to the table. Many areas of need were met.
But the transition to stay-at-home motherhood has greatly changed things. For one, not working anymore in the laboratory has removed a great deal of the connection to highly intelligent people I once had. Another thing is that anyone who is a mother around here is mainstream. So when they talk about CIO or reward/punishment systems for good or bad behavior it makes me really cringe and I walk away from the conversation. It ultimately separates me from them, because I don’t use those systems and I find them highly damaging to children.
I belong to a mother’s group and I don’t feel free to be myself and offer my opinions about my parenting practices. I never had a great problem with how others did things before I became a mother – “to each his own” I always said. But now that I’m a parent, and I view things through an attachment parenting/positive discipline lens, I see so many things wrong with the way others parent. I keep quiet, because what I know is a little too complex to share in little chunks with people I hardly know.
I also know from experience, they don’t want enlightenment, even when I try to convey what I’ve learned. I see the child of one of my friends hurt by their practices – things are getting worse, not better for that child. I also have come to accept that some people just don’t want to be enlightened, no matter how hard I try. Some parents want obedience without taking the age of the child and the developmental needs of the child into consideration. Some bad behavior is created or made worse by the tension between parent and child due to the expectation of compliance. Some bad behavior is a simple reflection of what they see in their parents. I know this first-hand as things get worse when I fail to be empathetic and want compliance. I have yet to meet a parent in real life that accepts their culpability in the matter. They don’t realize (or don’t care) that the way they are interacting with their child is preventing the very emotional growth and maturity in their child that they so desire.
For a while I was developing a close friendship with two other families. But I managed to mess it up because of some differences in parenting practices I had with one of them and it changed things for all of us drastically. In my need to defend my children and in my need to prove I was “right”, I was unduly harsh. Like a wounded animal, I strike out when I’m hurt. It’s an undesirable legacy of being brought up in an emotionally abusive, controlling and rigid family.
I can’t even begin to describe the loss of comfort and kinship I have had with these two families. Everything is different now and I don’t think it’s ever going to be the same again. I only have myself to blame.
I do try to seek other friends out but it’s not easy. The simple fact that 3 having closely spaced children is a different experience than having further spacing. I don’t think I have found anyone who has 3 kids who’ve been spaced 20 months apart like mine (and I realize a mother of triplets would have it even “worse” than I do). But it is a distinction that severely limits most mothers’ understanding of what life has been like. Most women around here have 2 kids or less. Not one of my neighbors or friends have three or more under the age seven.
But then on the flip side, when I have a string of bad days with my middle daughter, I have no one to cry out to that something is not right with my child and I just don’t have an ounce of energy to cope anymore. There is no one to turn to. I have 1 husband, 4 sisters, 1 brother, a mother, 20 women in the mother’s group, 4 neighbors who are also mothers that I could talk to if I wanted to, and 3 male friends of different ages and in different stages of parenting.
And yet not one of them could say they know what I’m going through because none of them have. So I don’t bother sharing.
All I just want is someone to sit with me, hear the pain in my heart, and tell me, “I know this is a rough patch, but you are strong and you are a great mom, despite how it looks right now and you will get through it” or some other such affirmation.
But mothering is just one part of me that keeps me separated from others. The other is intellectual.
I spent 3 years ignoring my intellectual needs while simply being in survival mode. Having 3 kids in under 3.5 years sufficiently drained my resources to the point I had little energy to devote to stimulating myself intellectually. I found, for a time, when I was around other people who were halfway articulate and intelligent, I found I’d lost my own ability to communicate. All of a sudden, I’d become tongue-tied around others. I used to be able to string together comprehensible sentences. All of a sudden, I lost the art of conversation, let alone a friendly debate. I’d been so out of practice, practically being a hermit for 3 years in the middle of suburbia, I simply couldn’t be articulate any more. I was mortified at times that I was simply at a loss for words.
Finding intellectual challenge has been, well…challenging. Before it was always supplied through work. My brain and tongue were always nimble. After I came home from my 12 year career, my abilities slowly eroded against my will.
I have suffered a great loss for awhile, and have been clawing my way back to competence.
And yet, I can’t even practice certain types of conversations with the friends I do have, because they don’t have the same intellectual interests. I can’t practice much with my own husband, because he sits there listening, but listening passively as I give what amounts to soliloquys and it’s not worth it for me at times. He’s a mechanical engineer, so he is as intelligent as I am but in a different way. Half the time I have no idea if I put him to sleep, but sometimes I see that glazed look in his eyes that indicates I’ve gone on too long. I was upset at times, because I know he used to be capable of thoughtful contributions to conversations, but mostly it made me sad. Parenting has changed him too and it has a lot to do with my 5 year old’s intensity, selective mutism and sensory issues, having 3 closely spaced children, and the changes that have occurred with me and my inability to cope at times because my own intensity gets in the way. His way of coping was by withdrawing into himself (and, as it turned out, he withdrew into the bottle as well).
I think that is my greatest sadness. I love my girls and would go to the ends of the earth for them, but parenting has taken so much away from me that I’m struggling to restore. I know there are many bright spots, but still…the balance has overall tipped to the negative side of things and many people do not understand that.
It’s been a long while since I’ve had a meaningful friendship. I also don’t know if I have the energy to try for them. I hope this changes, but in the meantime, I try to make do with the internet. Thank goodness for compassion found from others online, because without it, I’d really feel lost.
I’m sending out my eternal thanks to those who’ve commented on my blogs, to those who may have contributed to my posts on Mothering.com. I don’t feel quite so alone because of you. You’ve helped me in so many ways with your kind words. I’m grateful to those who’ve reached out to me. I hope I’ve been helpful to you as well.
It’s July 20, 2014. Over 5 years have passed since I wrote that post. So many more things have transpired in the intervening years.
There’s been a LOT more challenges since then.
But I have to say, I’m not as friendless as I was back then. I have a few dear friends now, women I relate with better and I have a LOT more confidence in myself as a mother. My daughters are delightful young girls. They are kind and compassionate and loving.
I’m happy to say I’ve regained my competence in talking to real life people. My two years as a substitute teacher has helped me grow. I’ve grown as both a mother and a substitute teacher because of my experiences in the schools. My attachment parenting practices has bled over to my teaching and has helped me be a compassionate teacher, and having had a much broader experience with other challenging children, I’ve been able to put my children’s quirks into better perspective. I know how much worse things could have been.
For my birthday, I’m going with my husband to see my friend’s play that he’s directed. It’s an updated version of Hamlet. I’d already seen it last weekend with my oldest daughter, and I know it’s a great production of it. I’m so excited to see it again.
As difficult as this year had started, I’m counting the blessings of this year. I have four very good real life friends and have been given an opportunity to reconnect with some old friends.
I’ve been getting out in the world. We’ve gone out in Nature as often as we can. I have seen four different plays in the last two months. I go to my recovery groups twice a week.
I’d been very pleased about that. I’m not as isolated as I once was. I’m with people I enjoy. People I want to be with, not people I have to be with.
And today, I’m happy but sad. Things are still not where I want them to be. There are things I want that it’s not the right time to have. Maybe in time. I don’t know. I’ll have to see how Life unfolds from here.
I hope you all have a beautiful day. Thanks for reading my blog articles and stories, thank you accompanying me a little in my journey and dialoguing with me. I have appreciated your presence in my life, even in this intangible, long-distant way.