2/2/10

Motherhood did not change me for the better

I was thinking about me and the way I've been living
and I was struck with this awful thought.

Motherhood did not change me for the better.

Yeah, maybe not. Maybe motherhood
and it's repetitive sameness and overwhelming emotions
sent me spinning and I chose
to cope with that in damaging ways...

That may be the hard truth
but there's another one,
a truth in the moments I have been clinging to all along.

No. Motherhood didn't change me
in the ways that I hoped it would,

but...




my boys sure are.

They are my teachers of joy and kindness,
my little mentors on how to love.



And that, is what I'm going to choose to think about.
These beautiful boys are changing me with who they are,
even when motherhood is not and until it does.

~~~~~~~

Mothers are coping everywhere and not talking about it.

What I wrote above is not implying that my boys are the reason I drank, but my mothering days played their part indeed. I've recognized that my drinking took a turn, spiraled to a deeper dependency, when I became a mother. Like I said, that's a hard reality, but a reality all the same.

The truth remains that my boys are the best thing that has ever happened to me. The daily grind is not. Learning to find time for ourselves that is healthy is at the core of the mystery that is finding the balance in motherhood. I don't know that this mystery can ever actually be solved, but there's some freedom in accepting its imbalance. In the daily grind, we handle that imbalance with care or we don't, those are the only two options. When we don't handle it with care, we end up simply coping. I'm on a new journey toward handling this inevitable imbalance with more care.

I don't know exactly how to do that, it's foreign to me, but I'm going to try.

65 clicked right here to comment:

Lindsey said...

A brave admission and a critical distinction. I think you are wise and shining a light on a truth many people choose not to see. Thank you for your courage, again.

Ann's Rants said...

The new blog looks great.

Maybe...maybe it is motherhood that also led you here to this beautiful transformative moment, too.

Heather of the EO said...

Ann - EXACTLY.

I don't know what I would do if it weren't actually TRUE that all things, even the ugliest things turn into something good in their time.

Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities said...

A gorgeous (and honest) ode to tiny teachers and living a life of inevitable imbalance. Off to share this with the Twittersphere.

Becca said...

That is such a vital distinction, between Motherhood and the children who give it to us. Motherhood is a great deal of repeating unpleasant tasks. But Momming? The interaction with these gifts from God? That's where it is. And we do need our moments alone - and to find healthy ways to spend it? Hard. But so needed.

Deb said...

i think my one little piece of advice (that i didn't even know, and certainly didn't take, myself) is to try to look at the daily mothering monotony/stress/difficulty as EXTREMELY short term. i have mentioned this before, but i think it is worth noting. we all say, "oh it goes by so fast" in a wistful way, but in reality, days can go by oh so slowly. however, in a few years, your life will be your own again, whether you like it or not. your boys will be out the door, loving you, but living their own lives. so i guess my point is, maybe the goal isn't to find a way to have it all at once, but to be content(ish) to have it all, one thing at a time.

yes, we need to take care of ourselves along the way, but on the days when it feels like the crying and whining and demands won't ever stop, just remember it's only very temporary.

Kat said...

You just put a voice to my mothering experience...exactly (I have 3 boys). I am 33 days sober, allowing me to focus on being present as a mom rather than trying to just "get through" the repetitiveness of each day. Thanks for being so incredibly honest.

a li'l bit squishy said...

Oh the long days and the short years. You are not alone! And neither am I, thanks for sharing...

Heather of the EO said...

Deb, I do totally hear you. But I have a BUT. Because I know that I'll have more "me time" and all that in a flash, like two seconds from now my boys will be dangling the car keys in my face and running out the door. BUT, my emotions and head space and heart space will probably be EVEN MORE tangled up in motherhood. Fears and hopes and prayers and the cleaning of the toilets...that will all be there, maybe even amplified. Certainly even amplified. That's the part I mean...the balance in my emotional state even more than the physically draining mundane stuff.

Hope that made sense...

Deb said...

it does make sense. and looking so far ahead and loving them so much makes your heart hurt. i just see that my love for my boys (and theirs for me) has evolved greatly. and how they need me and what they need from me is different than what i am used to giving them. it's been an extreme paradigm shift for me. one that i didn't see coming. i know what you are going through is extremely personal and i am not trying to tell you that i know best. far from it. but your post resonated with me something i see in myself and many women. and i think the physically draining mundane stuff dictates our emotional state, to a degree. to a degree.

you're the best!

Heather of the EO said...

You're beyond right, Deb. That last bit really struck me. Of course I KNOW that my physical state (due to the demands of this stage) dictates (largely) my emotional state...but I wasn't really KNOWING it.

Mamas out there fighting sleep deprivation and lifting and run run running...yes, it takes its toll on us in every way. How quickly I forget...

deb said...

I won't pretend to know what you're going through.
But as the mother of five who had absolutely no clue what was in store for me , I can imagine much of what you may be eluding too.
Honestly , if it wasn't for my husband , I wonder howthings may have turned out.
I had a shift in perspective when those treasured evenings disappeared as the kids got older . I really have less freedom in some sense, and that includes weekend nights where we are on pick up duty etc.
And everyone always told me to get out, go see a movie, take a course etc. But those things aren't or weren't attractive to me. Or financially feasible. Or I was too much of a control freak and didn't want babysitters etc.
It's all so much to work out , when I spend so much time talking to myself.
In my head.
Where the good answers usually aren't quick to come.
It is incredible to me that you are sharing this journey of finding that you are free, by being so bound, with others who will find hope and healing and words they need to tell themselves.

Sending love, too long of a comment that rambles, but love.

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

I understand what you're saying, and said in such a lovely way...

From here it looks like motherhood has changed you for the better but not in a way you could have predicted. It seems you are more vulnerable and also stronger than you ever knew. Rough road to get there but what a gift and great example for you and your sweet family.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Maybe motherhood didn't change you for the better. But it didn't really change you at all. It just exposed what was already there.

I've thought about this a lot over the last few years, after I survived a major relational trauma in my life. I wasn't something I chose; I was reacting to circumstances out of my control, and I wasn't reacting well. My first reaction was to say: Well, if THIS hadn't happened, I would never have (insert your own issue here).

But slowly, I came to see that all the trauma did was expose the real me that was buried deep within.

I remember sitting on my front porch one summer morning and looking at all the dead branches from our trees that were strewn in our yard from the night before. I imagined the trees saying, "That storm was so brutal! Look at what it did to me!" But in truth, it just faithfully stripped away the ugly that was already lurking in the deep.

It got to the point where (with God's grace) I was thankful for the agony, thankful for the breaking. Because it helped me to live in truth, not in hypocrisy. I tasted grace. And I grew.

Hugs beyond measure.

Ellie said...

Your words struck home with me, definitely. I've been thinking about this a lot recently.

Motherhood definitely did not change me for the better, not for a long while. I look at it this way, now: I didn't know how to love that fiercely. It made me so afraid ... afraid I would screw it up, afraid something would happen to them, afraid I could never measure up enough for these two beautiful souls. And for so long, what did I do when I was afraid? I drank. So I was hiding from the fear.

I heard, over and over, when I was first getting sober: How could you do that? Don't you love your kids enough to NOT do that? The answer was that I loved them so much I didn't know what to do. I thought, perversely, I was doing them a favor by erasing myself from the picture a little at a time.

Only in sobriety can I accept myself and all my flaws, and know that the only perfect Mom for them is me. Some days I remember that easily, some days not so much. But at least I know it, now.

Thanks for your post - it really got me thinking.

-Ellie

Kazzy said...

I love your new blog clothes!

Yes, our kids are the teachers and we are merely students. :)

Shana said...

Wow! Too often women are caught up putting up the curtains. Not only for decoration, but to hide the real truth. I'm tired of having to PRETEND everything about motherhood is a blessing. It's HARD. And it's exhausting. Do the smiles on my boys' faces make it all worth it in the end? Sure. But sometimes that "end" is the end of the WEEK, or the end of the MONTH, not always within sight or even within my grasp. It all balances in the end, or so I hope, but in the mean time it's hard. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty - for your truth and fresh perspective. Thank you for saying what I am feeling even as we travel very different (yet eerily similar) paths. Thank you.

L.T. Elliot said...

I loved what Lindsey said above about it being a critical distinction. One does not equal the other. Motherhood is hard, there's no doubt about that, but my children are the best part of it. They're the part that make the rest of it worth doing.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Remember that you're still mid-game. It's entirely possible that by the time this whole thing plays itself out, you'll see that motherhood truly has changed you for the better. These boys may indeed be the catalyst for a better you than you ever knew existed. :)

Heather of the EO said...

I love what you all have to say. LOVE.

Kelly, I wanted to scream EXACTLY as I read your comment. Because that's just it...strangely, I wouldn't trade this rocky road for anything. I don't like faking peace, and that's what I was doing. Without the addiction and the coming clean, I would still be doing that.

Ellie...OH MY. That thing you said about erasing yourself a little at a time. Well, and your WHOLE comment. YES. YES. I'm so moved by how much it all resonated with me. Thank YOU.

Heather of the EO said...

Steph,

I sure hope it didn't sound like I DON'T think they're the catalyst, they are, and I'm so thankful for that. My boys ARE, but what I was choosing to do with motherhood itself, well, that was just wrong. That's why I know these boys are teaching me how to allow motherhood to change me for the better, on this new road with no booze :)

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

And I REALLY like the new look.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Just wanted to point out that my word "indeed" was meant to agree with what you'd already stated. (sorry if it sounded like I questioned it.) It's the whole end-product that's still a mystery. I have a feeling that if I keep trying the way you are trying to do better the things I know I can, I might really like the mother I become.

Kim said...

See, I think that Motherhood HAS changed you for the better. You may not have ever had this struggle with alcoholism, but knowing the disease like I do, I bet you would have. However, having those two sweet boys and your wonderful husband has helped push you to change and to get the help you need.
We all have our coping mechanisms, mine isn't alcohol, but it also is not very healthy and can be destructive to myself and my family if I don't get a handle on it.
I like what Steph said, our children can be our catalyst for change.

Andrea said...

You said exactly what I feel, and have never been able to say.

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

and your motherhood is not over yet... it never will be. don't make the call on what is better or best. God's the only one who sees the whole picture.

Evolving Mommy Catherine said...

Ah, balance. Balance has always weighed heavily on my heart since becoming a mother. Actually *finding* balance is more like it.

On a random side note I love your wall color, I love your new look around here and I just love pictures of your boys. Okay tangent over now. ;)

Aunt LoLo said...

Some days I feel as if the balance isn't with me...it's with THEIR balance. For example: Yes, I need me time. But, as I struggle to carve out that me time, the kids are also learning their place -around- my me time. We're all just trying to create our Family. Because if I just focus on what I WANT, then I'll end up a very lonely grandmother, with all the time in the world to be by myself.

Heather of the EO said...

Let me be honest here.

I think what I meant is possibly not what I said, if I'm looking at some of the comments.

I don't mean much about balancing time for me. I don't mean that motherhood did not change me for the better-the end. I'm talking about my journey with alcoholism and how I personally handled the challenges of motherhood. No, my story is not done. That's why the last sentence says that my boys are teaching me until I allow motherhood to teach me...but that's a very blurry thing to say and still be understood.

AmyLK said...

That's a lovely distinction.

Kelly said...

I think I understand. I have been trapped in the house with these amazing, brilliant, funny kids and all I can think about it is how good it would feel to escape. If my method of escape was in the fridge or on the counter, I don't know that I could avoid it -- no matter how unhealthy it was for me.

I feel like I should be able to, and that being a mother shouldn't always come to this, but for now it does. I'm coping in small ways every single minute, just praying for that epiphany that will make it all better.

Sheryl said...

i totally get you here! completely!

and i have decided that i am not gonna add one more word to it.

you are loved!

Anti-Supermom said...

I get what you are saying, with every ounce of my being. Motherhood is so very hard.

Never regret the decisions that have led you to this path, it's what makes you, you.

I try to remember this often.

Kerri said...

Heather, I completely and totally understand what you're saying. Motherhood strips down our defenses and forces us to face the darkest parts of ourselves. I love what you said about handling the imbalance.

I don't want to suggest anything, since I haven't walked your exact path, but I'm going to take a flying leap anyway and say that running has saved my life. I was not an exerciser in my earlier life, so talking about running so passionately would have surprised the me with 2 children your children's ages, but I am a happier, better mother with running in my life. Running may not be it for you, but God will direct you to that thing that will be it for you. Maybe it's already there but not excavated yet. Maybe it's writing. Pray to find it, then use it as God intends it.

Your story encourages me to do better and try better every day. Thank you so much.

DeNae said...

Eventually we come to realize that there is no one stage of life that can claim to have defined us - for good or ill. Being single did some things for and to me. Being married did others. Having one child, having two, moving, two more kids, job change for husband, 8 years of undiagnosed depression, move again, watch some dreams die while others I didn't even know I had bloom and bless me in miraculous ways -- we are the sum total of all our experiences, and it would be oversimplification in the extreme to attempt to quantify which experiences were to our good and which to our ill.

I think sometimes life really is just about learning as you go, that "learning" was the point all along. This doesn't absolve us of the responsibilities that come with being human, but it may help to explain why so often we throw our hands in the air and ask, "Why can't I get this right?"

If you're learning, you're getting it right.

Remchick said...

Heather,

I've only commented once before, but I just wanted to send some extra courage your way!! You are amazing and you are brave in what you are doing. Sharing your story with others can help so many others. Thank you!

Lara said...

I have often felt these same sentiments. But I am not sure it's because motherhood didn't make me better, but because it brought out weaknesses I wasn't aware of in other areas of my life. All that motherhood entails has amplified those weaknesses and helped me to see that they are there. It has also given me the desire to obliterate them, even though it is so hard to stare a weakness in the face and still choose strength.

But that is what you are doing. You are choosing strength, and motherhood helped make that choice for you.

Jen said...

I have some of these same thoughts. Thank you for putting them into words.

amanda said...

i don't have the right words. just tears. i don't have near the struggle that you have and i still can't seem to figure out this mommy thing most days. it's frustrating and disappointing. i wish i knew how to fix it...

how can something so wonderful and more amazing than i expected be soo very hard?

kirsten said...

ok: RADICAL idea for this mama that simply coping isn't a) good enough and b) the goal. WHAT?!?!? Yet now you put it out there, it makes all the sense in the world. But of course: all things are excused if we are just trying to 'get through'. If we are trying to live mindfully, wisely, openly, then simply coping isn't even close to enough. WOW.

Heroic ideas tonight Heather. Heroic.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Heather, thanks for commenting on my blog - with such candor and honesty. Loving people in church can be tricky stuff. I really enjoyed your post here too. Can't wait to read more. See you around!

wendy said...

You have things figured out pretty well I think.
Gosh, Motherhood is not always fun
but BEING a mother .....the learning that went with it and those little kiddies we would die for
helped us realize the JOY of
not motherhood
but being that person called "MOM"

Jo@Mylestones said...

I guess I've been hanging out in Reader too long. I had no idea you did a total makeover on the blog. (It's great, btw).
I admit that every time I read your stuff lately, I think "wow", but feel so at a loss to add anything of value. On this post, I ditto Kelly's comment. I think motherhood, marriage, (and the list goes on) often reveals who we are, lays our weakness bare, and sometimes we see it for the first time, maybe even call it new, but it's not. It's been there, and we've just been blind about it.

Now that you see it and name it, you can battle it. And you can win. And you will. How do I know? Because you are a mom who loves her boys with all her being. And they will be a catalyst that keeps you batting and keeps you beating it.

(Long comment for someone who starts by saying she never feels like she has anything to say. SHEESH!)

The Marketing Mama said...

Nearly every day you will have new insights as to why you drank, how you drank, why you want to stop, what it all means. Especially in your early days of recovery when everything is so very raw and you are so wide open to self-discovery. My first 90 days in the program were so eye-opening there were times I wanted to shut it all off... and, well, just drink.

Many years later, I now cope remarkably well, considering my own personal challenges. You, dear, are strong. Even as someone who wasn't coping *well*. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trust those who have gone before you for guidance.

Debbie said...

You are so smart to see the distinction here. And I love the new look around here!

TKW said...

I think that's what shocked me so much about my life as a stay-at-home parent. Nobody told me how incredibly monotonous, how drop-dead boring and taxing it could be.

Mundane tasks that, once accomplished, just need to be done again hours later. The hum of the washing machine. The tenth game of Candyland. The collecting and the sanitizing of sippy cups.

I love my children and I know they are worth it and there are brilliant, wonderful flashes of GOOD in my day. But they are flashes.

And sometimes flashes easily slip out of your sight.

BRAVE post.

Erin said...

Our children really do change us, don't they?

That was a beautiful (and truthful) post.

Kimberly said...

Well said! Becoming a mother spiralled me into a deep depression that I'm only just finally clawing my way free of. Not becauser of my children, but because of my own messed up expectations of myself (like the belief I had to give up all that made me ME). Getting past that is SO amazing...the air is so much clearer here...

Haley said...

I think that it is the fact that you are their mother that has inspired you to make this change for the better.

That is a powerful, wonderful thing. : )

Terresa said...

I'm on board with what Kimberly wrote.

And I like the concept of
accepting the imbalance in motherhood. It's as much dark as it is light, and all shades in between. And that's OK, as long as we don't force/guilt/blame ourselves for staying on one side for too long...

PS: Love those little boy glasses.

Jenn @ A Country Girl's Ramblings said...

So many great comments here to your heartfelt words, that I don't think I can add much to the conversation...Only this...I totally understand what you are saying. Motherhood can be so hard, so demanding and how we cope...well each of us cope differently. I tend to withdraw to hide within myself. Thank you once again for sharing your struggles, you are helping many.

Lee of MWOB said...

I'm not even gonna try. I have no idea what you're talking about.

:-)

All I know is that motherhood has turned me into a yelling monster.

xo
Lee

Heather said...

motherhood takes a toll on all of us. i am so proud that you chose us to share your trials with. This openness can only help you for the better and help others as well. Knowing that you aren't alone in your struggles is something we all need.

the post I wrote today really surprised me as to how many people emailed me to let me know that they feel the same way.

Strength in numbers girlie....strength in numbers.

xo

Mammatalk said...

I always learn a little after a visit here. Your posts and your readers' comments are so thought provoking.

Much strength!

Mommy Mo said...

You are so real and honest and voice so many things that I think a lot of us are afraid to say out loud. I love my children with my whole being but there have been times where I have thought these exact same thoughts. Hugs friend.

Angie said...

Do you ever listen to musicals? One of my favs is Wicked... and at the end the two witches sing a song called, "For Good". The gist is... "Who can say if I've been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I've been changed for good." Such a beautiful play on words... and what I see in you. You are being changed for good, friend.

I keep praying.

Arizona Mamma said...

Seriously, I love the way you write. I think I am going to have to delve into some of your older posts. Not tonight though. Tonight I have a date with my pillow.

Add me to your large list of followers!

Em said...

I always find myself turning your posts over in my head as I go about my days. Your words, they strike so close to home.

Thank you for being an excellent voice.

love said...

my goodness heather. you are a wise, brave, beautiful soul. motherhood is hard. it changed me in ways that i haven't been able to express. and i totally agree that MANY more of us are coping & don't know what to do with it. i may not cope with alcohol, but i certainly cope. but, you are just right that THEY, our children, are still the absolute best things that ever happened and our very best teachers.
what a journey this is. THANK YOU for sharing honestly what so many of us can't put into words.
so much love....so many prayers for you.

Jack said...

Parenting is an ongoing adventure. I think that one of the cool things about blogging is that it gives us the opportunity to record moments in time.

And then later on you look at these moments and see/learn so much about yourself. At least that is how I view it.

minnesotamom said...

Loved this post, Heather. I hope you don't mind I stole a snippet of it as my "quote of the month" (which means it may be up for the better part of a year). :)

Kate Coveny Hood said...

It's truly a myth that becoming a mother makes everything about your life better (for example - children being good for a marriage - HAH!) Take any single element about your life, and there is a good chance that it suffers as a direct result of the overwhelming demands of motherhood. BUT your life as a whole is changed in profound ways that bring a whole new dimension to who you are and what you can be. Motherhood tests you and strengthens "you" - and for most of us, it makes us better. And makes us appreciate the life we do have far more than we ever did before we became mothers. And that is so very basic to personal happiness.

My rambling, pre-dawn/should be sleeping version of "yes - I totally agree."

Tooj said...

I've thought sometimes if I was changed for the better myself, when I became a mother. I don't know. I feel that I am LESS patient because I have more forces driving my limits. Maybe it's because we became the bosses and that added pressure of having to make decisions, the RIGHT decisions....

who knows. It's all too much one day, and perfect another. And in between, it just IS.

Ali said...

Beautiful Heather - you are a wonderful, amazing mother. That is truth. I am thinking about you and holding you closely in my prayers in your journey. Oh, and I am so stinking proud of you. xoxxo Ali

JCK said...

You are such a great writer, and I have missed being here. Your honesty is exquisite and painful, but beautiful to read.

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