I don’t often begin writing a post with its title. Most of the time, I have an idea that I want to express, so I sit down at my computer and within about 45 minutes, it’s gushed out of me with the emotion, power and force of Niagara Falls. I then go back and spend an inappropriately excessive amount of time trying to come up with a catchy title that screams “click bait.” A few weeks ago, I read a comment on a friend’s post. A mother had—and I’m paraphrasing here—stated that she lived for her children and that they were her absolute everything. Reading such a comment left my stomach in knots and my brain reeling. With my body tingling and tightened with angst, a realization formed: I just don’t feel that way about my kids. Of course, as a parent, I was immediately flooded with guilt—this line of thinking just felt all wrong, it felt selfish. I’m a mother, damnit, I’m supposed to live for my kids, aren’t I? I hesitated to add my own comment, sheepishly returning to the post multiple times throughout the day and reading what other parents had written before finally deciding to comment myself: “I live for myself,” I wrote, “and my kids benefit from the happiness that I exude because of this.” I left this provocative statement hanging on that page for all the world to see.
There it was, a perfect blog topic. A controversial feeling that only the boldest of parents would express publicly. Parental condemnation click bait!!! However, I didn’t know what exactly I was feeling and couldn’t yet quite put it into words. A million false starts of a post in my head never made it onto the computer, and then, this week, two things happened. I heard the incredible Brene Brown speak (if you haven’t read her books, get them) and we attended a back-to-school picnic at my children’s elementary school.
Brene, in all her glorious wisdom, talked about the concept of “belonging”. She began with the following quote from Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.” Was she talking about me? Has she been following along on my journey this past year? This quote, stated so simply and eloquently, encompassed the very journey of soul searching and self-actualization that I have been on lately.
This is what the journey of motherhood has been for me; trying to find out where I, both as just Laura as well as Man and Lady’s mom, fit into this complicated world. And the answer was right there in front of me in 1000-pt font and illuminated on a giant screen: nowhere, but also everywhere. To belong doesn’t mean to “fit in,” to perfectly fit some mold; it means to always be your most authentic self. When you’re authentic, real, and true, there is no place you don’t belong. Honestly, most of my life, even before having children, was spent attempting to achieve this. I essentially thought that having children would accomplish this very goal for me. I would finally belong somewhere concrete, I would belong to motherhood.
I was wrong.
From the time Man was born, I lived and breathed for his every need and want. As he got older and the demands of his ADHD took hold, my mood, my sense of self, my very being, revolved around his various successes and failures. If he had a play date where he didn’t destroy a friend’s home, I was thrilled for a month. If he pushed a child down the slide at the park, my week was over. Everything he did dictated everything I felt. Add the fact that I had another typically-developing child just 18-months his junior who also needed my love and attention and by the end of the day I had nothing left but my congratulatory glasses of wine and my misery. I wasn’t belonging; in fact, the opposite was happening, I was losing myself more and more with each passing year.
Last year I decided that I had had enough. I stopped drinking, returned to school to pursue my dream degree, and again begin the lifelong pursuit toward finding my most authentic self. I have never been happier or felt more of a sense of belonging. Furthermore, my time with my children has become more meaningful, fun, and contented; I am able to be present for them in a way I never was before. In allowing myself to accept my truth, that I needed more than just motherhood to complete me, I have become the best versions of both Laura the person and Laura the mother.
Yesterday, at the kids’ school picnic, I was reminded of just how significant this journey is and how important it is to be steadfast in its pursuit. Usually Man shies away from big events like these. They are too crowded for him and very overstimulating. However, due to the way the day’s events unfolded, I unexpectedly found myself standing on the school playground watching my kids play, feeling miserable – a feeling which had become all but foreign to me in the last year. Instead of adopting an attitude of belonging, I let my worries and fears about Man get the best of me. I watched every move he made, I saw every social success, every stumble, and everything in between. Instead of allowing myself to see what a HUGE step and triumph this was for him, or to even enjoy some time chit chatting with lovely ladies who I don’t often get to see, I was an emotional mess. My mood was, once again, tied to his every move, and ironically his moves were mostly absolute perfection. I was transported right back to a year ago and it was a harsh reminder that that person no longer belonged on the playground.
There is no doubt of how much I love my children. I would take a bullet for them, donate a kidney, and if it was possible, painstakingly remove every obstacle and hardship that this world will throw their way. I love them with every fiber of my being. I would die for them, but I can no longer just live for them.