Friday, June 4, 2010

Sometimes The Kids Aren't Your Life

I find myself sometimes saying lines that I hate. My most loathed phrase when it comes to motherhood is "My kids are my life". It stems from watching the dynamics of my own parents. I'm an adult child of a dissolved marriage that happened when I was a mother and when I heard the words "My kids are my life" from my own mom, it made me cringe. Not just because my relationship with her has been, for lack of better words, interesting in my 30+ years, but because even as a child, I would think, "Why would she make us just her life? Why doesn't she have her own?" I spent many years before marriage wanting what my parents had seemed to have had. I wanted a man to treat me as my Dad had the women in his life. It was a misguided fairy tale goal, to say the least.

But now, I can see why my mom would say that and find myself saying the same dreaded words when my life isn't all it's caked up to be. When I find myself wondering if my own marriage will last, when I feel like I'm not good enough, when I feel like I need to defend staying at home instead of working...I say, "My kids are my life"

It's not the truth though. Yes, they are my shinning achievements, my reason for breathing when I feel like I don't think I can, the first things I wake up and think about and the last things I think of before I sleep...Hell, even sometimes during my sleep, when I can strangely wake up out of a exhaustion coma to hear one of them coughing or whatever....But my kids shouldn't be my entire life.

Making them that isn't fair to them. It subconsciously makes them feel like they have impossible expectations by their mom. If they fall in the least bit, they'll remember clearly what you said about them being your entire life. They may strive for it or give up. In my case as a kid, I did both. I had tried to be the smartest, most polite, helpful kid, then when I felt like it wasn't enough, I rebelled.

Do I want that for my kids? No. Do I still make them my life? Yes. But I want more. I want to be able to balance my own goals, hobbies, circle of friends, decisions without having to think that "How will this effect all 5 kids?"

Some would say, that's selfish. That's not what good mothers do. If I wanted to act like that, I shouldn't have had 5 kids. Well my answer is, there has to be more than giving everything to your children until there is nothing left. Who wants a used up mom? I've seen the other side of what happens when you give your entire life to kids....they grow up and you're stuck there. Wanting the days when they needed you for everything and now they barely do. I've seen what it does to a woman when all she has left are memories. It's not pretty.

I think in this generation of motherhood, we're so busy trying to define what a good mother is that we gain Superwoman complex. Meaning, if you don't do 4000 things devoted to your child everyday, you're a bad mom. The truth is, if you have the bond with your child that you want more for them than what you have, if they are your primary goal and focus, you're a mother...and a good one.

Good mothers do put their kids first...but good mothers also know that they are only human. You kinda have to say to yourself, as long as you're laying down a good foundation for the life storms in each child and you don't have to pay for intensive therapy when they're've done your job.

But back to why I don't want to make the kids my life....

I want to be able to feel blessed, not resentful of my children. It's so easy to make them your life, but it's so hard to detach yourself from it. As I end this week, and start another, I want to make each day a step into finding who I am besides mom, wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter....I want to prepare myself for the time when they won't need me so much, when all I have left are the memories of 7am chaos and 6:30 dinner laughs and homework madness...When my house becomes quiet and hopefully my husband will be there to look at me and say "You've done what you needed to do for them...Now do you" And then I can proudly say, "I've always have done me."

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