Nice Compliment but is it enough?
Being a mom is great but.....
As I look at the age on the latest paperwork I am filling out for the doctor's office, I am not upset in the least. I love being in my 50s. I find it incredibly freeing. My children are growing, I have no need to impress anyone anymore. I am working hard to get my figure somewhat back after all these years of being mother instead of me, I am getting ready to celebrate 25 years of a basically happy marriage next month.... so it should be all okay...right?
It is not. I went to college. I worked hard and earned a Master's of Science degree. I carried a 3.7 GPA as a graduate student. I had a job, a career that I loved. That I still love. But I am at unrest. I am no where near where I should be in this career. I am way behind others my age. Very far behind.
You see, my oldest has Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is very High Functioning. He is super intelligent. However, he cannot cross a street. He cannot cut his food. He has trouble tying his shoes. Combing his hair, without prompts....he never shaves unless we fight with him. He is almost 22 now. He is way too bright for most of the programs that schools offered him, so I was forced to spend most of my time dealing with schools, the department of education and therapists. I had no magic place to send him at 8:00 am and have him dropped off at 4 or 5pm so that I could resume my career and my life.
I left my job. Financially is has been a huge hardship. Emotionally it has been far worse. The price I have paid for putting my child first is far more than anyone has any knowledge of. I was lucky enough to find a part time job that I truly love with people who are understanding and very kind to me. It is amazing that those with no blood ties have been so compassionate. It is truly a blessing.
I basically poured myself into my three children. The younger two have suffered and have grown at the same time due to being born into a family that has a disabled child as the oldest. The tone is laid out that his needs lead the way. It is no one's fault, but it is what it is.
To make up for the many hours they spent in the car or at home during therapies and horrific homework sessions of endless meltdowns, both his and mine, we put them in numerous activities. Soccer, basketball, baseball (one season, baseball is too long when you have a special needs child in the stands with you waiting for younger sibling to be done...) Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, music, drama and my middle child even worked with Habitat for Humanity. My younger children excelled at all they did. Even academically. My son is an Eagle Scout. I am incredibly proud and I take some credit because I worked hard to keep him interested and motivated to finish. My daughter is working towards her Gold Award in girl scouts, having earned Bronze and Silver. She is a member of three bands, playing both the tenor saxophone and the clarinet. My son plays the viola and earned a 3/4 scholarship to attend the University he is enrolled in as a Nursing student. I have recently been told by their employers that they have a great work ethic and can be counted on for any task. Are they perfect? Absolutely not. Their rooms are both messes, they forget to do their chores on a regular basis and even forget to turn in homework. Are they fresh, no not really. Are they kind? Yes, very much. For these things and more, I am very proud.
My oldest. although he has autism, has his own claim to fame. He is attending college part time although we were told he would never be able to. He currently has a 3.7 GPA. He has a girl friend and is a very good and caring boy friend. He goes out with workers and they tell me how pleasant and enjoyable he is. He is meeting his monthly valued outcomes and we are able to work further towards goals. He is a fantastic singer and actor. I am currently trying to find a theater group that will work with him. I have only found places away from my home at this time.
My life is probably more than half over. I feel so unaccomplished. I hear all of the time "you have great kids, you are a wonderful mom." That should be enough, shouldn't it? But it is not. I am also a very good wife. I have a funny and kind husband who has always been my dear friend, even before we became a couple. But it is not enough.
Many women my age are planning their retirement. They are cruising. They are seeing the world. I have always wanted to do this. I have dreamed of traveling my entire life. My husband, is not a traveler. He would love to spend his days only going to the quiet, serene places that we vacation regularly at. He is content to be in our hometown running around working his volunteer hours,making the world better for a lot of young athletes in our area. On our honeymoon, we did not fly or cruise because he did not like either. How ironic, that he, for the past 15 years has been getting on planes several times a year to travel with work. While I....stay home. Rarely leaving the island where I reside. I cannot go with him, financially it is impossible and leaving my oldest son is very difficult.
I teach about our island, so I have a love and an appreciation for it that most of my friends do not have. I am a fourth generation resident here. I know it inside and out yet I still find surprises and special places I never knew about. However, I often feel trapped.
I have been told that it is normal for people, especially women to not travel until the children are grown. But I have a child that might NEVER be really defined as grown. So when does my life actually start? It does not seem likely that it will be as I once expected it to be.
We are celebrating 25 years of marriage next month. We are staying at a resort, 3 hours away from my home for only 3 days. We have NEVER gone that far away from our three kids. Who are not kids anymore. All around me are friends who routinely go away and leave their kids, but we cannot. There are respite offerings but I have a son that does not adjust well to changes and I am not willing to risk the hard work we have been putting in, I would never be able to relax.
I love being a mother and am proud of who my children are and what they will become. But it is not all that I am. I am not pleased when I am only thought of a mom. I am furious if I am referred to as a housewife. I think that word should be outlawed. I am so much more than that. We all are.
At this moment in my life, I am the middle of a sandwich. I have a disabled adult in my home, plus a teenager and a young adult. I also have elderly parents, who out of nowhere started to have medical issues. They are adjusting to life with less independence. It has not been easy for them. I try to help and support them whenever I can. But since I am not working full time, I am expected to be their caregiver as well by other people. I do not have the ability, nor do they want that right now but I do the best that I can. I am saddened that no one sees that I have worked like crazy being a caregiver for a person on the spectrum who may always need my help, and that perhaps I simply can't handle anymore. That I may have limits. People I speak to seem to think their experiences as a caregiver to their parent is the same. I am sorry but no....you had your carefree life all those years before your parent needed you. I have not had any respite for over 20 years.
I think the real tip of the ice burg has been the judgement placed on me by some family members about decisions that I made with my own life. When my marriage was in disarray mainly due to things these family members have never had to deal with, I chose to stay and fix it, not run to divorce court as they did. It is even more disconcerting that I was wronged by said people yet I passed the olive branch and they threw it back in my face. The see me, and look through me as if I don't exist. Yet other family members treat them like they are the best. Keep looking through me, it is a blessing for me that you are out of my life. It has turned out for me that my true family is not related to me by blood but by love. This is evident by my daughter's sweet 16 guest list. Under her family, she has several people who are friends turned into family. She said simply, these are the people I want, not those others.
I will fix this. I will find my way. I am grateful that I was able to be the mom that I am. I have learned from the best. My mother. She always put us first. She is very intelligent. Went to college in the 1960s. President of several PTAs and of a Museum Guild. She made every holiday, every birthday and even plain old rainy days special for us on a shoe string budget. We learned what Story hours were at the local library, often being the only kids there. We loved it. I think we were the only kids who had smiling sandwiches. Carrot sticks, and pickle rounds graced the bread to grin at us. She made me beautiful clothes, sometimes matching hers. My communion dress was a lovely white eyelet with a blue satin sash, handmade by mom, no other girl ever had such an exquisite and special dress. In fact I still have it. Yet she thought she did not do enough. She did. I understand. I feel that way myself.
Whenever I feel sad, or hopeless, I am told you have your health, so be grateful. Of course. Yes, thank you. But no thank you. Shaming someone for feeling the way they do, is not helpful. Please stop doing that. Everyone has a right to feel the way they do, good, bad or indifferent.
I think that some day, the good mom references will be a welcome compliment. But not right now. The sum of my life should be that and more. Settling for one or two accomplishments is not in my make up. I will find my purpose, I know that I will. But for right now, I will wallow in this period of feeling lost. Simply because feeling lost will force me to search. Search for the place where I can find a new and special purpose. Life without purpose is not the way I wish to live. I have spent years advocating for my son and his friends who are different, not less, and for their right to have a life of fulfillment, and will continue to do so. But I need to do the same for me. I too, am simply different....not less.