As a mother of four, I am always working to care for my kids in the best way possible. I make sure that they have rides to their activities, I give them hugs and kisses and tell them regularly that they are loved, I ask about their mental and physical health on a regular basis. I put my best into my children the majority of the time, so they should turn out great. They should be the most successful individuals in the world, always striving for the best in their own life. I mean, I know that if they go astray, it cannot be my fault, right?
I find it funny that I am writing this post after teaching the Prodigal Son in Sunday school today. Here we had a hardworking father, a dedicated son and another son who wanted his wealth while his father was a live. There are so many different messages in this story that I am not even sure we could cover them all in this post, besides which, this post is not about this section of scripture. Instead, this is a Point of View post about being a parent to a child who has gone astray and how this can affect your spiritual, mental and physical health.
I chose to talk to Toni about her experience with her eldest son. I won’t add his name here, but I will certainly allow for her point of view to be shared here because this is not only her son’s experience, but a mother’s experience as well.
Sara: In terms of making it through this time in your life, what are some of the biggest things that helped you make it through?
Toni: Mental health care and friendship, reading, research and garnering as much information as possible. Then finally, giving him to God, which allowed for a full release.
Sara: How did this affect other family members?
Toni: It drove a wedge between him and other family members as well as a wedge between me and other members of the family. There were times when I had to explain to other family members why I was helping him or why he was around our home.
Sara: Do you think he understands your need to talk about his situation?
Sara: What is something you can help your other children take away from this situation?
Toni: That everyone has a “sorry language” and even though he has not said those exact words, he has another way of saying that “he’s sorry” and that might be by doing things as opposed to sitting down with his siblings and actually saying the words.
Sara: After we talked about all of this, do you think there is anything different that you could have done?
Toni: From the second that I found my son leading a deceitful life until now which is two years later, I have asked myself what could I have done differently. He is now back with us with his 20-month-old daughter. The parenting of the children has always been a front seat position that I have taken.
Since he was in fifth grade, he would randomly make bad choices, even though he knew better. For instance, he loved school and loved his teacher in fifth grade but refused to turn in his already completed and finished papers. We found them in the bottom of his locker. All he had to do was walk them over to the teacher. Take that minor incident and fast forward it to his 16th year. He was away at our church camp where he was a counselor. Our church did this one week out of the summer. While he was there, I was shown a letter that he had written to a staff where he worked that was extremely inappropriate. Jeff and I decided to drive up to camp and pull him out. There weren’t many instances between those two, but the instances that there were, were major. Things that stopped our family and its track and have to focus on how we get him out of this one.
We have always bailed him out of situations that he has gotten into. We justified it by giving him punishments and consequences at our house but always intervened on having consequences handed out wherever these issues arose. If I could go back in time, I would have had him face whatever consequence somebody else had for him.
Proverbs 22:6 states, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
We have had all of our children in church from the day they were born. They have gone to Sunday school, during the week programming, youth groups and any other special event at church. On top of that, we try as much as we can to live the faith in our home as well. I just could not understand why he would throw away 22 years of being a Christ follower for the first pretty girl that looked his way. He made his profession of faith when he was 16. In our faith, you stand up in front of the congregation after you have gone before the elders of the church and you publicly claim Jesus as being your one and only Savior. There’s no certain age when you do this. It is when you feel you are ready to. Nobody twisted his arm. Within a blink of an eye, he turned his back on his personal savior.
Should I have “managed” him better? Should I have “micro-managed” him?
What was he thinking every time he lied or stole from us? Did he even think of us when he got married in a courthouse and not only were we not there, we were not told about it. What did he think when he found out he was going to have a baby and he didn’t tell us. After I confronted him about being married, that was the last straw for me. We were at the hospital because my dad was in for more health issues. Our son, his wife and the baby came to the hospital. I finally just confronted him and said "I know you’re married, don’t lie to me". I started to cry and asked him what I had done wrong all these years? He said there was "nothing" that I had done wrong. I asked him what I could have done better? He said he didn’t know.
Most of this was happening when my mom‘s health was worse and getting to the point of us putting her into hospice. Most of my attention was on both of my parents at that time. I was the primary caregiver for them. As well as the fact that we were transitioning our foster kids to their adoptive homes. Both of these children were labeled severely emotionally disturbed. Basically, that means you have to have eyes on them at all times. I had run myself into the ground. I had nothing left in me.
I firmly believe that I would have caught this if my attention had not been so divided. I knew something was wrong, there were signs, as there have always been signs. I just didn’t have any strength, both emotionally or physically to dig deeper. I completely regret that.
If I had advice to give myself in hindsight, it would have been to confront him straight on. Tell him that we knew what he was doing and he either stopped or leave our house.
The great theologian Cher, has a song that would come to my mind.
If I could turn back time.
In honor of my son’s birthday, I thought I would take to the computer and jot down a few things about mothers and sons. Throughout “On the Wrong Foot”, you will see many different posts about fathers and daughters and how messing with a father’s little girl could prove detrimental for anyone who wrongs his daughters. What you may not know or perhaps you do if you are the mom of a son, is that mothers feel the same way about their sons.
The other day I was cleaning off the ceiling fan in my bedroom while my teenage son was talking and laughing with me. I remember looking at him as we were talking about girls and opposite genders having the ability to be friends without feelings getting into the mix. I casually said, “I will never like anyone that you bring home. I will always be kind because that is how I operate, but I will never believe anyone is good enough for you.” I meant this too. Sure, I will likely find some girls nice and funny and really good wife material, but there will always be a part of me that will believe that they will never be enough for my son.
Think of this, and for me and my situation, I carried my son for nine months. He was my first born, the child who made me a mommy. I held him close to my heart the moment he was born and if I close my eyes, I can still imagine the room he was born in and how it felt introducing myself to him. “Hello,” I remember saying, “I am your mommy.” I am in love with a little boy who has slowly and in front of my eyes been becoming a young man, and this breaks my heart. Sure, he drives me nuts with his teenage angst and the activities that get me driving here or there, but I love him. I am also thankful that my son still talks to me and seems to enjoy laughing and talking with his parents. There is something special about raising a boy that I am so glad I have been able to experience because my son Grey is a piece of me. He is smart, really really funny, handsome (so darn cute), stubborn and loves his mama (my favorite part).
A daughter depends on a mother even after she has moved out and I look forward to this with our three daughters. I told my son the other day that I hope he still comes around when he is older. I remember talking to my dear friend many years ago. At this time, Grey was still in his extremely cute phase where Star Wars was popular and Nerf guns ruled the wild west. We had a good laugh over the girls fawning over her son and the girls who cheered his name while he played sports. To those girls, he was the cute hunk who played basketball. To a mother, he was the one who wore superman underwear and ran to her with flowers from the yard. There is an undeniable truth that raising sons is an experience that words cannot fully express. When he is walking down the aisle to his new wife, I will probably see a little boy in a bear costume, walking with his bucket as he “trick or treats” around Fort Riley Army post. Should he have a broken heart and he will, my heart will also break. As a mother, I will see that same little boy crying as he rushes to my arms with a boo boo that needs a mother’s kiss.
Grey is strong, but there are some hurts that I know that I cannot take away even though I wish I could. I wish all the best for my boy, a little boy that I had no idea how much I would love. No matter what, I will be there to hang the banner to all your success and pick up the pieces to any of your broken hearts. I will challenge you and give you grace when you just feel like taking the day off.
Listen ladies, gal or little girls. My son means the world to me. I will probably look at you sideways and judge everything that you do when it comes to my son. I will try to be a good mother in law or let's not jump the gun, I will try to be a good "mother" when my son brings home a girl he is interested in or "dating". However, let me make myself clear. I will curse your name if you hurt my son even though I am a good Christian woman. I will probably want to turn your hair blue and step on your toes, but I will show you what a mother's love is all about by instead smiling warmly. I will try my best to be a good girl when we bring you up, but know that this mother is fierce and fiercely LOVES her son. As long as we have an understanding that I don't have to like you one bit, we'll be good.
Caring for a loved one who has a serious medical issue can be difficult, caring for a loved one who has a mental impairment such as dementia is devastating. Unless you have been in a caregiver’s shoes, you have no idea what goes on in their heart, mind and life of a full-time caregiver. I am speaking on this point of view series in a different spot now, being the daughter who had to make the difficult decision to move her mother into a long-term care facility. This opens up a whole new can of worms for me, a different form of sadness and grief. When I brought my mom into our home, I had already had four children and one of them was not even a year old yet. I had no idea the ride that I was about to embark upon, and I am blessed to have been the one that my mother trusted enough to care for her. Believe me, it was not always easy, and I was not always the best at it, but I have learned to give myself some.
This is from the daughter who was the full-time caregiver to her mother who has Frontal Temporal Degenerative dementia. This is in present tense form because it was a recycle from mid-internship last summer when my mother was still living with us.
Truth One: I hate doing this taking care of my mother while struggling through finding my own identity, being a mother of four young kids is difficult. I constantly wonder if I'm doing the right thing by everyone.
Truth Two: I have learned that honoring your parents does not mean that you should feel guilty if they have to go to a facility. In fact, I have learned that to honor my mother, I have to learn to make the best decisions as to what would be best for her, for myself, for my children. I'm still honoring her even if she's not in my direct care and I know a lot of people struggle with that notion, as I have heard first hand many times over.
Truth Three: Even with the best knowledge and the best tools on self-care, you can still find yourself struggling with depression and anxiety. I have even experienced a nervous breakdown, which resulted in me going to the emergency room. Now, this is not all based on just taking care of my mother, but this is based on a combination of trying to be the best mother or trying to be the best professional counseling intern that I could be. Biggest thing that I have learned is that I need to be honest.
Truth Four: Over and over again and in all the information that I read, I kept hearing that “your parent’s still in there somewhere”, your “mother's still in there somewhere”. Well, truth be told, they're not the same person. They're becoming the exact opposite and it's okay to acknowledge this. It's okay to be frustrated and angry for the things that you're losing or for things that you may ever have. This illness is taking over your parent and, in this case, it's my mother. Let's be serious about this dementia thing, it is no joke. I'm not talking about just Alzheimer's, I'm talking about what my mother has and that's Frontal Temporal Degenerative Dementia and it's no joke. They're definitely different animals, they're going to revert back to being a child to needing depends and having their food cut up. It's not fun, it's not great, I'm not being happy-go-lucky. I get angry with the thought of “oh my mother is still in there. She’s not the same person, no I can't have conversations with my mother, and it hurts terribly, awfully bad.
Truth Five: I have learned to finally say out loud that I am stressed, I'm angry, I'm confused, and I don't enjoy any of this. This is not what I want to be doing. I'm glad that our family is blessed to be able to take her in but finding the blessing through the pain is difficult. Honesty has truly become my best friend.
A dear friend of mine asked, “are you worried about your mother going into a nursing home because you're afraid that you're not going to visit her”? Choosing honesty, I said “yes”, and I say yes because as a wife, a student, as somebody who wants to work and as a busy mom of four, I am busy with various things for kids’ activities and I can't guarantee that I can get up to see my mother on a regular basis. To be honest, I don't really want to see her as she continues to decline. Now of course, I would go see her and of course, I would be the manager of her care. My MAIN point is being honest with yourself is going to help release the anger, the anxiety, the stress, and a little bit of the depression. It may not be a cure-all, but at least you will be honest with yourself.
To the child who cannot or is not able to visit their parent on a regular basis, I see and hear you. I do not judge you because I understand where you are coming from. It is not an easy task to go do especially when you are busy with a young family. My children do take my first priority, and I can also say that my health has been a cruel enemy and I am trying to find a way to get better and to be able to give more of myself to the life I already have. Just try to give people some grace when it comes to visiting a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility. DO NOT judge them and ask first, how are you doing? You have no idea what life is like for someone who has to see their parent pacing the halls of a nursing home, unable to talk, cannot acknowledge you and what you know is “my mommy is gone”.
So, I know that I am a good mom. I wouldn’t say a great mom, but I think that I do well for my kids. The first two out of the four kiddos were easy to raise thus far. Sure, our eldest son had a bout of depression that was difficult to get through and I had to balance my time between school, caring for my mother and caring for our four children, but I still counted myself as a good mom. So, why do I feel so guilty about how slow our five-year-old is doing in kindergarten? When I first heard how she was struggling in kindergarten and had to have additional help, I felt like I was failing.
I told my husband earlier today that I felt guilty because I had wondered if I should have not put her into bilingual classes and that I was selfish. I was selfish because I wanted our daughter to have a chance to speak more than once language because I did not have the same opportunity. Thankfully, my husband is the partner that was meant to be a parent with me. He told me, "you are looking to give her the best opportunity in life not only now, but in the future." He is correct, I want something better for her life and she will get that by being in the dual immersion program. It is my personal truth that she would have had difficulty in class regardless of where she was. Truth is, our daughter just needs a little extra boost. The 3rd child of four kids means that she gets little attention for herself, a reason I was so adamant that I didn’t want another child after her (yes, I LOVE ALL our children equally). We have welcomed Marie into our life without any regret. However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have times when each child is lagging a little.
What my husband mentioned was that before, our older two had my attention as our younger children have not had. My heart still hurts, and I feel guilty, but I have begun to think differently as a mother. Going from being a stay at home mom to a working mom is going to have unique challenges. I am going to have to make sure to turn the outside world off and be available for my family. I have even begun to do this by leaving my cell phone in the vehicle when we are out together. I have put off writing numerous times because I need to sit with a little girl who is crying in my arms because she is hurt and tired. I am going to have to fight a tired kindergartner who doesn’t realize that her tantrum has been brought about because she is exhausted and not because she is a bad girl. I have to schedule in time for my children like I never had to before and that is okay.
I am on a mission to change the world, but I have to make sure that I do not forget the next generation that sleeps in a room across the way from mine. I have to remember that feeling of guilt as a motivator for good and not allow it to depress me because believe me, I can get depressed. I have depression where I have no motivation and want to shut myself off from the world, so I really have to be diligent at keeping my guilt in check.
As parents, we have a lot of pressure on us and this can be a good thing. We cannot go backwards to when children were simply seen as a tiny adult who could work in the factory for hours, making peanuts to bring home to their families. We cannot get lacks on the laws that protect our children from not being in proper car seats because these things are better for our families today. However, we have to be sure to give ourselves a little bit of slack. We are not going to feed our children perfectly at every meal. Shoot, I cannot get my youngest to hardly ever eat. So, when she does eat, it’s a mom victory for me. My kids’ hair isn’t going to be perfectly coiffed at each outing or maybe, just maybe, they’ll go to bed without brushing their teeth one evening (gasp!)
I have to allow my guilt to motivate me to be a better parent and remember that mama or papa who struggles is my comrade and not my enemy. When we see other parents struggling, remember to smile at them or offer a helping hand if you can. Until next time, mommy failure 3.0, I will strive to be the best mom I can be.
Ah the topic of sex and the even more joyful parental responsibility of teaching your child about sex. You toe the line between making sure that your kids know enough about sex to keep them safe but worry about giving them too much information and encouraging them to go out and engage in said sexual acts. Let’s just set the record straight, kids informed about sex are not going to go out and jump into bed because they “suddenly know about it”. Let’s dispel that myth. It’s like the myth that if you ask someone about being suicidal, they’re going to go out and commit suicide because you asked them about it.
Let’s face it, sex is a part of the human creation. It’s literally the way that humans are created. As Christians, we believe that sex is meant to be enjoyed within the marital union. This doesn’t always happen though as we live in a sinful world. Sadly, sexual transmitted diseases, cancer as well as unwed pregnancies are a real part of life, difficult and sad parts of life. Arming our children with knowledge is our duty as parents. Educating our children starts at home and it can be simple from the start. You don’t have to wait for “the talk” to begin to educate children about sex. Here are a few pointers starting from young to adult children.
I understand that as a parent, we want the best for our children. I want the best for my four children as well. If I say it here to all of you, I pray that I can put my own wisdom to work should I need it later on in my children’s lives. Sex is special and should not be used to trade for anything other than the love, honor and respect of one another. Remember everyone uses the bathroom, everyone farts, everyone sneezes, and yes ladies and gentlemen, everyone has sex organs. Don’t treat the human life like it’s shameful, but with honesty and respect.
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The sounds coming from our house are often quite loud. With an active toddler who makes it a point to let her presence be known, a one-year old baby girl who swears you are breaking her heart each time you leave the room, and two adolescent siblings who fight near as much as they breath air, it is no wonder it is loud. I haven’t even got to our house yet. Oh boy, it looks is like a cross between a teenager’s bedroom and a toy box that threw up and then threw up and well, threw up again. And then there is my mother, she is often very quiet. Sometimes I worry that she is too quiet, and I feel like a terrible daughter because I am not spending more time with her, guiding her as she does something she once enjoyed doing. The other day I made the mistake of leaving her alone to cut some fabric that she had purchased for a few quilts she intended to make. Let’s just say a slight disaster ensued. I made the mistake of telling her that the fabric for her quilts was under the bed (in my defense, at one point it was), and that she could start cutting it soon. Oops! I didn’t realize that she would take the steps to get the fabric or would not have notice that the fabric she decided to cut was the hand-me-downs that I have been saving for our 2 younger daughters.
These are the things that I live with now. For us, it is Frontal Temporal Degenerative Dementia that is slowly taking my 56-year-old mother. It has been less than a year that she has lived with us, but there are some days when I think it has been much longer than that. It has been at least two years since her mind has began to decline. In the early stages, when something was not quite right, I knew. There was a feeling inside my gut that told me it was some form of dementia, but I must admit, I was in denial. Then denial was taken over by a very much unexpected pregnancy (I mean supposed to be permanent birth control unexpected), and then that was followed up by a traumatic car accident. To say the least, we are a busy family. For us, the dementia adds new challenges every day. The fact that my husband and I are in our early thirties means that we often have hectic schedules, doctor’s appointments, school activities, 4-H, and boy scouts to only name a few happenings that fill up our calendar. For other families living as members of the sandwich generation, it may be cancer, unexpected accidents, or another form of illness. I started graduate school after the birth of our third child, which was way before I knew that we were taking my mother into our home.
I struggle on a daily basis to find a balance to my life. There are times when my heart hurts, when all I want to do is sit in my room and allow the tears to flow. There are times when I am so angry with the thought that such an illness is taking my mother, a woman who is one of the kindest, sweetest, and hard-working people that I know. We are in the moderate stage of her illness, but I am in the beginning stages of wrapping my brain around what the next few years, hopefully more, of our lives will look like. How on earth am I going to survive this? This is a question that I often ask myself. I have read more lists on how caregivers should take care of themselves, but I struggle to find enough time in the day. I have researched over and over again the timeline of progression for someone with my mother’s illness. I have been pulled in so many directions that at times I literally feel like the room is spinning. I have change baby diapers then hop up to make sure my mother is no longer tangled in the straps of two of her tank tops. There are so many times when I feel like I am not doing enough or that I am stretching myself too thin, but then I really don’t have much that I can cut out.
So, here I am, trying my damnedest to survive, to pray and trust more. I have gone through Army deployments with my husband of ten years, I have felt the pain of childbirth, I have graduated college, I am a survivor of trauma, but I am honestly feeling like I am being punched in the gut on a near daily basis. Being a part of the sandwich generation seems like an cliché, but it is a true fact of life. What I have learned, honesty has become a stronger part of my life. When people ask how I am doing, I make it a point to tell them honestly that I am not doing well. I make sure not to make life seem happy-go-lucky all of the time. Asking for help is difficult for me to do, but I graciously accept my husband’s assistance with cutting my mother’s meat at the dinner table. I allow myself to cry on my husband’s shoulder and try my very best to explain to him what is going on inside my mind and heart. I have even sought out the fellowship of our local support groups to surround myself with others who know what it is that I am going through (at least partly). Speaking honestly, this does not mean that I have found the time to follow through with actually attending a meeting, but the fact that I am even considering sharing my world with others (especially strangers) is a big step forward.
Shew…on to another person who needs something from somewhere for some reason.
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She had her father’s eyes from the first moment she was born. We were a younger couple, living about 30 miles outside of Fort Riley in mid-Kansas. I was about to be a second time mother, but my husband was new to the experience of delivering a child; new to the sights and sounds of anything to do with having a baby. He was a rough and tough sergeant in the Army. Our wedding was a quick no family affair, but the birth of our first child together was going to be anything less than routine.
I was nine months pregnant on our first Christmas together. Before putting our son to bed, we all sat down to watch a movie, a Christmas present for our two year old. It had been a wonderful Christmas as we spent the duration of the time laughing at the movie “Cars” then at our energetic boy who raced around the room with excitement. In between laughs my husband and I would steal glances at each other; we were in utter joy that we were able to have this Christmas together, a recent deployment fresh in our minds. Everything was perfect, sitting on the couch as a family, a little life kicking inside of me, waiting to get out. Out little baby wasn't due until January.
It was shortly after midnight that I began to feel the pangs of contractions. I nudged my husband who rolled over and asked me how intense the pain was. It was pretty intense, I remember telling him. All he knew, at this point, was that he had to begin counting, calculating how far apart the contractions were. The difficult part about all of this was that my husband was able to roll over and resume his sleep. It didn’t matter if ten, twenty, or thirty minutes had passed. Each time I nudged him, he sounded as if I had aroused him from a deep sleep. Truth was, it never really took much for my husband to fall asleep, not when he was tired. Overseas, he was known for sleeping through mortars outside his room or famously falling asleep in his mashed potatoes down in the chow hall. So naturally, the precursor to childbirth wouldn’t be any different. I was in pain and he was blissfully asleep.
Nothing about this pain seemed normal, it didn’t have normal intervals. When our son was born, it was all “textbook”, meaning the pain increased at steady intervals and I had plenty of time to make it to the hospital. This pain was alarming and I should have known that something was unique about this. Still, our baby wasn’t due for another three weeks, so I had no plans for this baby coming so soon.
Roughly two hours had passed by the time I finally decided to get up. I figured attempting to use the restroom would aid in relieving some of the pressure and I was sorta right. My husband, actually roused slightly from his sleep, didn’t even follow. It was only when I yelled from the bathroom that I believed my water broke that he appeared in the doorway. I saw my husband snap into action, and he roused our son from bed, started the car, and grabbed our hospital bag. But as he stopped in the doorway to hand me a pair of pants, I felt the pressure increase. I knew that something beyond our control was about to happen. I pleaded for my husband to understand that we were not going to make it to the hospital, not before our baby’s grand entrance. Once he understood this, he asked what I needed him to do. I instructed him to gather clean towels and bring them to me. Before doing this he laid me down on the bathroom floor. To this day I remember the look of surprise on his face, seeing his baby’s head coming from his wife caused him to utter a simple, “whoa.”
Down on the bathroom floor, I fought the urge to push until I saw my husband again. He knelt in front of me readying to catch a little bundle of joy as he or she may their way into the world. It didn’t take long. I didn’t see what my husband saw that evening after the baby was out. Here was his baby, a purplish tiny creature, no sound. I remember my husband’s look of dread as he wondered what the consequences of not being at the hospital were. Then there it was, the tiny black orbs looked up at him, blinked once or twice then closed again. This was their moment. The first person to see the baby was my husband, who looked up at me, his messy child in his hands as he informed me sweetly that it was a girl.
The 911 dispatch worker timed the birth at 2:35 am December 26th. What rounded out this evening was the fact that her umbilical cord was tied off with 550 parachute cord, and then cut by her father. My husband was a branded joker, so as I laid there, our daughter wrapped in his arms, I remember mentioning to him, “your mother is never going to believe this.” In fact, we couldn’t believe what had all just transpired.
After returning home with our baby girl, the Captain of my husband’s company called to congratulate us. He offered my husband a few extra days off then informed me that my husband had been aptly titled, “the doctor” around the motor pool.
Eight months after she was born, her father was deployed for 15 months. I saw how this separation changed a little baby and a man, yet to this day, their relationship has never been stronger. Four children in total now, and this little girl was the only one to be born while my husband served in the military. There is something that words cannot describe when it comes to that moment because I know it is the moment that created an amazingly true, father-daughter relationships. Nearly ten years later and her eyes are still fixated on her father and his on her.
Honestly answer the question, “How are you?” in relation to you or a loved one’s condition. If you’re not doing well, what would you say to yourself to help you get through this moment?
I was at the dentist the other day for my own routine cleaning and teeth maintenance, and though I had put it off for some time, I decided that I should probably get my mother into the dentist. There’s significance to this, earlier this year, my mother was diagnosed with Frontal Temporal Degenerative Dementia with primary progressive aphasia, which means that although her behavioral demeanor has remained mostly in tack, her cognitive abilities have begun to dwindle. I am now her primary caregiver, and as of earlier this year, my mother has moved into our already crowded home (husband, wife with 4 children). Nowadays I am often found running around the house either changing a diaper, helping our older children with various task including 4-H and Boy Scout projects, and more often than not, switching around my mother’s backwards shirt or assisting her in some other fashion. To say that most days I go to sleep exhausted would be an understatement. To say that I still cannot get adequate sleep on most nights would also be an understatement. My life is consumed with being a caregiver, and this often times leaves little to no time for me. The time that I do have for myself is often spent working on my own college school work, or ducking away in my husband’s barn for some alone time with him. It is not uncommon for people to ask “how I am doing” or “how my mother is doing”. In the beginning, I rarely answered this question honestly. Nowadays, the question still seems loaded, but I try to be honest when I answer it. Truth is, I do not know when I will honestly be able to answer the “how you are” question in relation to my mother’s disease with “things are going well.”
The other day, my mother began to cry. I believe this was because she comprehends that she is becoming more and dependent on someone else. All I could do is look at her and tell her that I would be there for her through all of her disease, a disease that has struck my mother in her early fifties. Truth is, it tears me apart to see a once independent woman, the soul breadwinner of our home reduced to uncertainty and child like demeanor. Truth is I am saddened by the thought that there will come a time when my mother doesn’t recognize me. I am angered by the fact that this burden is on my husband and four children. I get frustrated with having to take two vehicles if we want to go someone as a family. It is no fun to deal with my mother’s unexplained sadness, tears, and hugs (which she never really did much of before). There are days when nothing gets me though the day, when nothing seems to get me though the moments of despair. It is easier to deal with the frustration because I remind myself that this is not my mother’s fault. Given the opportunity, she would buckle her own seat belt in the car, she would handle her own doctor’s appointments, handle her own bills, and she would certainly dress herself. I know this journey is going to get darker, and I honestly do not believe I am ready for it, no matter how much I prepare. So, right now, I can honestly answer “how are you” in relation to my mother’s illness with “I am scared”. I am scared because I do not want to see my mother become more and more fragile, and I am sad that my children will not get to grow up with her as a grand mother (the woman who was once going to be their guardian). I am trying every single day to grab on to life with two hands and fight to stay on the ride. Most days I am successful and we have joy and laughter, and some days there are tears. Today just maybe one of those good days, time will only tell.
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The other day I was watching Strahan and Sara, where the host Sara talked about the privilege of breastfeeding and that breastfeeding is more than just a nutritional food source debate for infants. As the mother of four, breastfeeding was something that was talked about when I was pregnant. I’m going to be completely honest with you, the first two kids I breastfed for maybe three months and then switched over the formula. When it came to our third child, I again attempted breastfeeding. She was a tiny baby with Uterine Growth Restriction and weighed 4 lbs. 8oz and this meant it was very difficult to get her latch on. Our sweet baby had a tiny, tiny mouth but I struggled through it because I wanted to give her what I believed to be the best start to her tiny life. I ended up breastfeeding her for a whole year, so when it came to “surprise your having baby number four”, I knew that I was going to attempt to breastfeed again. I had such determination from the last pregnancy that I was going to breastfeed her no matter what it took, whether that was breastfeeding directly skin to skin, mixed with pumping or just pumping, I wanted her to have breast milk. I struggled through the depression portion of breastfeeding, a sadness that you can feel, and successfully breastfeed another baby for a year.
During the time of my last two children, I was going for my master’s degree in professional counseling. Breastfeeding, taking care of four kids, their school, my school and everything else that goes along with being a parent kept me busy. When it came to taking my last intensive, which meant that I had to fly to Virginia for a week, I ended up having to postpone. I was still breastfeeding and couldn’t leave her, nor would I have the time to step out of class to pump.
I mention this because it ties back into Sara’s comment on breast feeding being a privilege, being able to stay home with your kids or having a job that can help fit in the feeding of your child is a privilege. Everything becomes about your child, you begin to fix your schedule around when they need to eat or when you need to pump. You wonder what you're going to wear, where you can go and for how long or if you have enough milk for them if you go away for the day.
I absolutely have had the privilege of being a parent to four children and I have had the privilege of breastfeeding all of my children. I love the idea of breastfeeding because it does connect you to your child in a special way that nobody else can. I am definitely not knocking using formula because like I said, I used formula mostly for the older two children. Furthermore, a feed child is definitely the best. There is a significant amount of pressure and guilt placed on mothers who don't have that privilege of being able to breastfeed. Everyone has to remember that circumstances are different for everyone because of job because, family circumstances, physical circumstances or mental health, a woman may not be able to breastfeed. You must do what is best for your family and for your child.
Please, be careful with pressing breastfeeding upon mothers especially in a time when her hormones are all whacked out, and please keep in mind that hormones do not regulate themselves right after birth. It is not as simple as flipping a switch and we’re “all good”.
I encourage you to breastfeed because it is a wonderful experience, it can be painful and frustrating, but a great way to connect with your baby. Doing what you believe is the absolute best for your children because in the end, that is exactly what matters. When they look up at you and say, “I love you” or come to you when they're crying with a hurt only you take care, you’ll know whatever choice you made was the right one. Above all, remember as a parent, whether that be natural or adoptive, you were chosen to connect with this child and that is the greatest privilege of all
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I have had some trouble writing this post because something has been nagging at me. A part of me feels bad, feels devastation for women who desperately want to be mothers and are having difficulty achieving this. I just want to preface that I'm talking about my situation and by no means intend to seem callous to the struggles other woman have had becoming mothers. Here is why making the transition from being the child bearing woman to simply a busy mom of four has been so eye opening for me. When I was growing up, the thought of having children always scared me because I knew that I would have these “beautiful children”, love them and then I would have to let them go. This always terrified me, the thought of getting older and being closer to death has always plagued me.
I love, love being a mom even through there is often a lot of screaming, fighting, bickering and busy schedules. There is something precious about being a parent especially being a mother. When it came time to have our third daughter, I knew that she was going to be our last and I became content with this. After all, the way that the whole situation went, the pregnancy with Pre-eclampsia and all the all the aches and pains as well as the struggle with gestational diabetes, I really got on board with only having three children. I even became content with God, “I got it, this is going to be our last kid” and I started making peace with it. I was content. Then, surprise, here came an unexpected 4th child! I mention this so many times because she really was an unplanned and very much unexpected blessing. If you get a chance, please read my post, “Unplanned but Not Unloved” about learning of our fourth child. I was so stinking ready to be done having children that I became angry with the pregnancy. Soon after seeing her face, any anger melted away and my love for her became immeasurable.
So now here we are, our youngest child is going on four and I have found myself learning to be content with where life is bringing us. I mentor at the Alpha Women's Center and get see young babies all the time. I love canoodling next to other children and fawning over them. Interestingly enough, I didn't used to enjoy this before because all my heart and mind was devoted to being a mother to our children and canoodling over our children. The change, now I'm content to know that I can snuggle with these babies and go home to my children, be completely content with the fact that I'm no longer in the childbearing era. My husband had a vasectomy while I was pregnant with our fourth child and I have since had birth control coils removed and my tubes “tide”. I was at peace with closing this stage of life for us. My husband and I love the fact that we no longer must worry about birth control, and I don't miss those nights of being extremely exhausted and tied to changing diapers or whether my schedule was going to fit into an infant’s schedule. I do not miss rushing home from a doctor's appointments because my child is tired, and I needs a nap or moreover, I need a nap before they wake up.
I wish I knew exactly what it was that made this transition all the easier for me. I believe that it is the fact that I have begun to create an identity separate from being a mother (my most coveted role) that allow me to be more at peace making such a large transition. Perhaps, it could be that our oldest child is a freshman in high school, which means that in a few years, he's going to graduate and shortly thereafter, will leave our home. Fingers crossed, he will stay with us while he is in college, but whatever choice he makes, I am sure I will ball my eyes out then learn to come to peace with his adult choices. Of course, we have a decent age range between the children, so we’re looking at another eighteen years of parenting before we say good-bye to all our children. We will likely become grand-parents before our last child is out of the house. Oh geeze, I haven’t even thought about that role in my life and all the joys that time will bring. For now, being the referee between a five and three-year-old has kept me busy as well as starting a counseling practice and applying for state licensure. I am content knowing that I am no longer a child bear, giving birth, holding an infant because this means that I can move on to other stages in my life with a thankfulness that many other mothers before me have experienced. I am looking forward to passing my motherly wisdom down to other woman who are becoming mothers for the first time.
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