Let me start off my saying that I love my children. Absolutely. No doubt about it.
I knew I wanted children by the age of 10 or 11. Or so I thought. Now I wonder whether I really wanted children, or whether it was the idea of having my own family where I could make the rules and get away from my parents that was so appealing, and that later on I saw marriage as an escape rather than a positive commitment in itself.
I also felt that my mother’s happiness depended on my support so maybe I did fall into that trap of thinking that children would make me happy. That’s a tough one.
But, I love them most sincerely and consider it my responsibility to do the best by them I can. I still can’t accept just ‘good enough’ as a parent and I do very much struggle with guilt over all the things I don’t do for them and the opportunities I cannot provide. The fact that I may do better than my other parents, single or not, as my headteacher regularly reminds me, doesn’t actually cheer me up.
For many years my life has been dominated by my children. As, I think, it should be when you make that commitment. I breast fed all four, up to 21 months which I think combined to a total of 6 years. I never used a dummy (believe the Americans call it a pacifier) or fed them out of a bottle. I didn’t leave them to cry and would often lie down with them to get them asleep and start dozing myself. I have to say that although that meant a lot of disturbed nights for the first two years of their lives I quickly got to the point where they were good at sleeping and they never wake up now and never try climbing into bed with me unlike some of their peers. So I feel the sacrifice of sleep in those early years was worth it. They even let me have a good lie in on a Sunday morning which I treasure.
For maybe ten years, with interruption,s happiness depended on getting enough sleep. I also got divorced and moved several times and did lots of other things. But my life was and still is centred around the children. I worry that they have no other adults who are close to them, let alone to provide them with a male role model. On the other hand they no longer hear arguments, shouting, and stressed silences and we are a stable family unit. I also worry about what happens if I die, and who I could ask to take them on. I usually reach the conclusion that I should just be careful not to fall under a bus.
In many ways I define myself by my children. I follow academic years rather than starting a new year in January. I’m having a good holiday if they are. I’m enjoying peace and quiet if they are happy being involved in something. If they get enthused about something, so do I.
Last year my mood has been incredibly volatile since 2son stopped going to school. If I had put effort into him and got nowhere I would be frustrated and miserable. If he had got up or said something positive I would feel good. If I’d heard good news from one of the support services I would feel buoyant, if bad news I would slump. My mood did not depend on what I was doing or feeling, but what he was.
I need to detach my emotions from being so intertwined with that of my children, especially 2son. Hiding behind him last year has stopped me doing things and making progress in my own life; but it’s also stopped me feeling the emotions that I want to and need to as my emotions get subsumed by his.
I have to make progress with my life. I have to learn to do things that make me feel good and positive irrespective of what mood my children are in. I have to relearn being an independent individual who can be happy if she wants to. Otherwise I haven’t learnt anything from my mother’s example.