A few years ago, I went on a retreat for moms of kids with disabilities. I remember being a little skeptical when I signed up: the word “retreat” conjured up mental images of doing yoga, eating nothing but root vegetables, and spending great swathes of time alone in the great outdoors (which is not bad in itself, but it was winter and freezing cold, and the retreat was on the shores of a lake).
The reality turned out to be very different. About twenty of us spent the weekend doing journaling exercises and talking about our lives and the things that were making us feel overwhelmed.
Our stories were all very different, but a common theme ran through all of our narratives: all of us were fantastic at taking care of our families, but we were hopeless at taking care of ourselves.
We were all so caught up in our roles as special needs parents that we never had the time to just be.
A few days ago, while I was frantically scrabbling for the notes I needed to meet a deadline for a client, I came across my scribbled notes from that weekend. The notes included a journal exercise, in which we were asked to write as many sentences as we could that started with the phrase, “I am the kind of mother that…”
It was quite an insightful exercise, and it was quite cathartic. It helped me identify those little gold nuggets that make parenting truly special, as well as the more difficult aspects that needed to be acknowledged and, where possible, changed. Here are the sentences that I came up with, many of which are still true today.
I am the kind of mother that…
…feels guilty about all of the hours she spends working instead of being with her children.
…yells in frustration when things get overwhelming.
…does most of the chores around the house, just so they get done, even though it is exhausting.
…goes to sleep too late and wakes up too early.
…snaps at strangers who stare and say rude things.
…tries to see the positive in even the worst situations.
…takes care of everyone before herself, even though she has her own needs that go unmet.
…blames herself when things go wrong.
…hugs the kids anytime they want, day or night.
…never sends the kids to bed when there is anger or sadness.
…tries hard to be an advocate for her kids in the school system.
…worries about whether her kids are eating healthily enough.
…pretends she needs to pee, just to get a couple of minutes alone.
…sometimes longs for the kids’ bedtime.
…sometimes cleans up the kids’ messes because it’s easier than trying to make them do it themselves.
How would you finish that sentence? What are some of the things that shape your life as a mother?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.