“I was a bad mommy today.” “You were? Why mommy? I didn’t think so!” “Well, I was really sad all day so I wasn’t much fun...and I didn’t spend very much time with you.” “Well, that’s ok, because I got to spend some time with Daddy and he enjoyed it because he misses me when he has to work and doesn’t get to see me.”
Pause. Rewind. Rweeeerweeeeerweeeer. Stop.
A few days ago, I had my day. My boys went to their Dad’s after two weeks of trying to understand this new normal of quarantine with me. Long story (that I won’t barf all over the internet,) but in the end, it turns out he’s still working and coming into contact with people every day. I realized at the last minute, I didn’t have the energy to fight it, and I let them go. I have underlying conditions, my husband’s kids’ mom and step-dad have underlying conditions, and now, if I bring them back, it exposes me and either exposes my step-kids’ other family, or, it prevents my husband from seeing his kids. The boys were supposed to be at their dad’s for Spring Break, so I had to pull up my big girl britches and leave them there until the end of the month, rather than bring them back here for 5 days in between.
This means that my boys will be away for a month. That is the longest I’ve ever been away from them. They are happy. They are having fun.
Will they decide their dad’s house is better? Their step-mom more fun? The jig is up. “Mom, we never want to come back. We never knew what we were missing all these years of spending half of every weekend and half all vacation time at Dad’s.” Every video their step-mom sends of them having the time of their lives demonstrates my LACK to me. Have you ever parented your children with a constant alternate parenting universe always ever present in their minds? In your mind. Knowing that you know, and they know, that you aren’t as much fun as their step-parent? Add to that the criticism I get on my parenting from my teen step-children...let’s just say, it’s a real challenge to my parenting confidence.
Will I ever be able to bring them back? 12 day incubation period. “Examples of serious infections that you are at increased risk from if you do not have a working spleen are pneumonia, meningitis, septicaemia (blood infection) and malaria.” Pneumonia. Without a spleen, it is really hard to fight pneumonia and very dangerous...who knew? Add to that, my mild asthma? (By the way, they forgot to mention the danger of Lyme disease for those of you that might also be lacking a spleen.) How much risk is there for me if I bring them back? How can I be safe from them in our own home for 12 days until I know they didn’t bring it with them? It’ll be pretty much time to send them back again by the time I know. How can I justify it if my husband no longer gets to see his kids due to the risk?
Do I leave my boys there? Should I set aside how I got into this situation, set aside the experiences I’m missing out on with them during this time, set aside the blame, set aside the time that will never be made up, set aside the heart ache, and let them fly free, four and seven years, too early? Give them the opportunity to live entirely in the alternate parenting universe?
In my own self work, I am coming to two realizations. First, I stand independent. Independent of my relationships and my accomplishments. They exist in the world based on the work I’ve already put in, but now, it’s enough. Second, the universe is literally SHOVING this message at me. Here you are, without your friendships, without your accomplishments, without your children, without the world, just you. In a place where you can’t control anything, can’t “fix” anything, where you literally have to be a spectator in your own life. You have no choice but to set your children free into the world, your relationship with them stands. It is what you made of it over all these years. Maybe you lose them, maybe you don’t. It is out of your control. Let go. Same with your friendships. They are what they are based on what you’ve put into them over all these years. Let them go. They are out of your control. Let go. There is nothing to improve, nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing to gain. You stand alone, independent.
I went to bed that night, after my conversation with my daughter, where I had sat with her in her bed and modeled the sick ingrained habit of shaming myself, and as I reflected, it all became clear. No little one. I was not a “bad mommy.” I was a healthy person, allowing myself to be sad, with good reason. I took the time I needed to process some very upsetting circumstances. I let Daddy be a healthy part of our marriage and take over with you. I’m handling a lot right now. My close friend and her terminal cancer worsening, my boys away, probably indefinitely, a friendship falling apart, juggling the uncertainty of no family income, and an only lonely 5 year old needing me so much all day every day. It’s a lot. It’s ok to take the time I need to be sad. It is ok to feel the big feelings. You are allowed to be sad. The world can handle it if you are not Pollyanna all the time. There is room for your sadness as much as there is room for your joy. Then, after we have a good cry and get all the hugs, we pull up our big girl panties and we get back to the work of living. We take time for ourselves, guilt free, because we owe it to ourselves, and it is not something to apologize for. We are important outside of just what we do for others or what we accomplish each day. We exist, and that is enough. And we let go, of all the things we cannot control. We let every piece of ourselves that we shared with the world stand, independent, and we trust that it will be enough.