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The Baby With The Bathwater: Choosing to Be a Good Mother

I have been a single parent with a career for my son's entire life. I am not a divorced single mom swapping days with an ex-spouse. I am a "solo" single parent. I live with a single dad. We share our home as partners in life and in love. I have my son full-time and he has his son ninety five percent of the time. The "blending" process takes a lot of getting used to. I am basically mothering his son as my own. What else would I do? He is a sweet energetic child of nine and easy to love. My twelve-year-old son is blessed with a great sense of compassion. He shares me easily with my new "stepson". It has its moments. Great moments of tender love and mutual learning. Moments of angst, moments of complete frustration. Some days my heart aches.
"This will never work", I think.
And then I smell the coffee and press my cheek to their sweet smelling baby skin faces and I find myself in my role as "Mother".
Recently I was sitting in a meeting for one of my two paths of recovery. My recovery is based on a spiritual connection with something bigger than me and my commitment to a twelve-step process for life. I learn a lot by listening to others share their experience. On this day I am sitting in a meeting with more women than men. A mom sitting next to me talks about her son, who has problems with school. Incidents with pot and the law. His inability to stay "clean". His frustration with a learning disability and peer pressure in high school. She described a long and agonizing night at the PD and a hard road ahead. I kept listening and realized, "this could be me in four years!"
Then she described a challenging, time consuming and energetically demanding career. Deadlines and details. Budget cuts and board rooms. I heard her mention being out of town for days at a time for her "career". How hard the job is and how much responsibility she has to carry.
A woman at the meeting asked her the question I wanted to ask, but I did not have the courage.
"How do you do it all?"
My head began to spin and I disassociated from the conversation for a moment. "How can she not see that she is placing the career before the child?". I thought.
Just as my dissociative bubble popped, another woman asked the question out loud. An older woman, a matriarch in our circle of recovery, flashed a smile while dropping the quintessential moral bomb.
" Why do you do it all?"
Heads turned to hear her not only offer her wisdom, but more because of her verbal delivery. We knew she was sometimes very abrasive in her opinions. Like many older women, she loved the sound of her own voice telling we little "numb heads" what to do with our lives. There is always a fiendishly delicious delight in listening to her, "take somebody out!"
When she began to speak, eyes popped wide open and soft gasps and gulps could be heard cascading through the veil of women congregated on the sidewalk outside the meeting.
"You talk about your career (she did the little quotation thing with her fingers) with more passion and emotion than you do your child, why is that? Is your job more important than raising your son?" The delivery was like warm summer honey dripping straight off the queen bee's lair.
Her gruff "oaky" California accent made her words hard to ignore.
My heart sank. I heard her and felt the comment deeply. The older woman continued.
"Don't you realize, you will not get a second chance to parent these kids? Don't you get it? Your boy needs you! Damn it! What the hell do you think made you drink? Guilt. Over what you didn't do! Why are young women so off the mark on this these days? You can have your career in few years. You will be home alone with yourself soon enough. But right now you and God have made a deal! You committed to raise this boy. You cannot just "wear" your children like jewelry. You have to be there, be present to help him make choices. Teaching him to choose with Intent and not impulse."
An eerie silence wafted through the group. There were many women who were parents of kids the same age, and many faces of those who had been neglected as children.
A secret silence of knowing. We were all listening.
The mother the older woman was addressing dropped her head as if to cry and just as quickly reared it back again. Like a great lioness:
"I have to work!" she exclaimed. "I have to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. I have a crazy ex-husband who doesn't do sh! He is a great father in many ways. But he doesn't do sh! Do you want to support me while I stay home with the kids? You are not being realistic. You do not know what the hell you are talking about. This is real life!"
By then my ears were ringing and I was thinking of fresh baguettes in the South of France and sleep.
(When I get overwhelmed I crave bread and sleep) It hurt my ears to hear this. The words anchored into my skin and dug deep into my heart, stinging and biting. Gnawing at my brain. This was a profound message and it was directed at me.
I have worked hard to listen to God's voice when it found me. It was like the low ringing vibration you get when your ears are plugged up.
Until recently I have worked full-time while raising my son. Now I have two kids, a man and a home to run. I manage my elder parents care, and I have a sister who has some special needs. I was juggling all of this and a very stressful job. Why? Because I thought I had to. I thought, " God would not put it in front of me if she didn't believe I could handle it, right?"
And by "handle" I mean manage.
And by "manage" I mean "do it all on my own."
Craggy! The wheels of my soulful epiphany finally screeched.
"STOP!"... Just "STOP!"
"Ask for help. You do not have to do this all alone. You do not have to conquer the entire mystery of motherhood and your life's work today."
So I meditated and walked and thought and prayed. I prayed a lot. "God, I offer myself to thee. To build with me and to do with me..."This is a prayer I often use as a mantra to guide me to the truth.
"With", not alone, a voice deep inside me gently whispered. Like the soft voice of someone who loves you when you are worried or ill.
I have been making and deciding and doing all of my life. I have been desperately possessed by the idea that I know more than I actually know.
Here is what I know now: Children come first. Until they are old enough to drive a car and vote I will wrap my "career" around their "care". It is right there in the word "career",
"care-er".
To love.
My son will be a man soon. Men in this world and in this time, carry a need to be better-developed humans. So to this end. I commit to helping these boys make better choices. It is all about choices and relationships in the end. I let go of the idea of a career for just myself and now focus on ways to have a great life and a great family. It is a whole life I aspire to. With the Internet, cell phones, laptops and Bluetooth technology, my office can be completely portable. This idea that we have to be a slave to a "boss" at a dingy office, is passe'.
You can hang onto it if you choose. But know you are choosing it. Know you are not a victim. I am choosing to volunteer at school and to helping teachers. Why? So my kids know I am there. Children whose parents participate at school on a regular basis are less likely to join gangs or participate in mob mentality. That is a fact!
The boys need to know I am there. They also need to know it is ok for them to be boys. If you expect your twelve year old to be totally responsible for himself. To be put in a position of caring for himself at night alone in the house while you go to meetings or work through the weekend. Don't be surprised when they decide to tell you they are in charge. You have left them in charge, so why shouldn't they expect to be in charge all the time?
Just because my twelve year old can read from a menu and decide what to eat, choose his own clothes or walk to the school bus, does not mean he is ready to move on. He is not equipped with the skill set to make all his own decisions.
Teaching "choice" is a long and dedicated process. I have decided my guys need to know they are not alone. My guys have me to rely on me. Not only for money or food or taking care of the house. But "me". Mom. In body, mind and spirit. I am there. To listen, help and teach. To nurture and care above all. This is my choice. I choose not to "throw the baby out with the bath water. "I choose to cherish this most precious gift that the universe has trusted to me. I am graciously saying "thank you" to God by walking my talk and accepting my role. So far in my life, the natural course has always been apparent. I just had to make a choice to see it.
Teach your children well. Teach them choice, teach them love, teach them peace, teach them compassion, teach them to be "a part" and to help others even when it is uncomfortable.
Be there!
Be their light and their shelter.
Keep them warm.
Be Mom.
Be Dad.
Be kind.
Be love.

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