Mother’s Day

It’s the week I dread most in the entire world. The week that rubs motherhood in my face and makes me feel utterly devastated every year. I’m happy for those who are mothers, but completely jealous. I try not to be bitter, and I apologize if sometimes it feels that way, but it’s hard for me.

You can tell me all day “your time will come” or “you’ll be a great mom” but it doesn’t help the pain. I’m grateful that my partner understands and when I tell him “It’s gonna be a hard week” he gets it. It’s gonna be a hard week, and every year it gets worse.

It’s hard to look at (what I view as) “the success” of others and feel failure in my own story. I know that this is an irrational thought and I shouldn’t believe it, but it has sunk so deeply into my soul that I’m worried if I never have kids, it will just break my heart to the point of being broken forever.

For those of you who don’t know, I had kids who called me mom before. When I was married, I had two sons. They called me mom and I knew them from when they were 2 and 3 until they were 9 an 10. These boys meant the world for me. It was my true crowning victory at the time. I know those of you with kids will understand the joy that having a child brings to your life, and this feeling (I’d imagine) was the same for me. I felt my life was complete and my family was whole. When he and I divorced in 2008, my whole world came crashing down. At first he told me he wanted to allow me to interact with the boys. He sent me letters they had written and I visited them a couple of times during the next year. Soon after, he got another woman pregnant and she harassed me into submission. I had to let the boys go. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to see them one last time, and I didn’t get to tell them why. It wasn’t ok for me to do that.

A couple of years later, I (very hesitantly) started dating another man with children, a ten year old boy and a three year old girl. After he and I had been dating 6 weeks or so, he wanted to introduce me to them. From the second I met them, I loved them. They were the kind of kids that just wrapped themselves around your heart and didn’t let go. For about a year I stayed at home with the kids, mostly the three year old while the boy was at school. I bonded with the kids, and once again I felt at peace with my life. But I wanted a child of my own, and the man I was dating didn’t want that, so eventually the relationship ended. Once again my heart was broken. He and the kids moved away, so I couldn’t stay in their lives at all even though my ex would have been ok with it. About once a year he sends me photos of the kids. While I’m grateful for this small, kind gesture, and I appreciate it more than he’d ever know, sometimes it still hurts. It reopens that deep wound and I feel the loss again.

Some people will make comments like “I know you’ll make such a good mom one day” or “you are so good with children”. They even say things like “your time is coming, it’ll happen”, but the more days that go by, the more those words hurt as well. I’m impatient and I would like that day to be here already. I’m not getting any younger, and I’m worried about my ability to get pregnant as I get older and become “high risk”. “You can take mine for a few hours and then you’ll never want kids again!” Really?! You think a few hours with your children will stop my desire when I’ve spent years with caring for both my own and other people’s children. I love naughty, challenging children. They are so undervalued. I’m as ready as I will be. I know there will be challenges, but I enjoy problem solving. I’m already exhausted many times, and I am eager to accept these sacrifices in the pursuit of my dreams.

What’s the worst is when they mention any of “my kids” like “you were so good with them, it’s just proof you’ll be such a good mom”… Ouch. It’s those words that cut me to my core and break my heart.

Yes, I am good with children. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education partnered with 12 years of experience in that field. I’ve always been good with children. I love their sense of creativity and wonder. I love their ever-exploring and questioning minds. I relate to all the questions they ask, it drives me to never stop learning.

You’re right, it may happen some day, but what if it never does? How will I accept that fact? How will I deal with that “failure”? What will motivate me to continue my life and feel successful? How many hours will I weep the day that I really know my window is gone. Yes, there’s always adoption, and I have always been open to that option. I’d love to become a mom to a child who needed a compassionate and safe caregiver. I wouldn’t mind an older child that others consider “damaged” or “traumatized”. I’ve done work with trauma survivors. I know it’s challenging, but I feel I would be understanding and possibly a good fit, depending on the child.

You are welcome to ask me to care for your children. If I’m able, I’m happy to do it. I won’t always be able to do it for free, but I’m also open to hanging out with you and having your children around. I don’t mind. I’m happy to give you a break from the stress of being a parent. I know you (and your partner maybe) still need time to yourself.

Finally, yes, I was an amazing mother to those kids (both sets) and I have every intention of being that kind of parent for my own kids, if and when that time comes. I still love those children with all of my heart. They are now going on 17 and 16, 16 and 10. As time speeds by I think about them and all the milestones they are experiencing. I try not to focus on the fact that I’m missing them, but rather that they are growing up so fast, and I’m glad they have fathers to raise them to the best of their abilities. Yes, sometimes I wish I was still a part of their lives, but I try to remember that I was a good mom to them, and that they loved me very much. I like to think they remember their time with me fondly or still may care about me, but I may never know it.

So I want to send my love and light to those that feel like me. I want to give you all hope and support. I know I’m not alone. I know there are others who have lost kids by divorce, death, termination of rights and alienation or many other ways. I want to let those of you who long to have children that you’re not alone. Those of you who have loved children and lost them, there are people who understand that pain, myself included. I want to encourage you to not listen when those irrational thoughts come creeping in if you want to be a mother. There are ways regardless of age, relationship status or income. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can choose to be patient, or you can take matters into your own hands, the choice is up to you. It’s your life. Do what you want with it and don’t worry about what others think. Sending you much love as you also struggle to celebrate Mother’s day. And please know that if you feel like you’ve been a mother in any capacity, this day is for you too.

 

What it feels like to live alone and childless during the holidays

Living alone (unmarried and dating or just plain single) really sucks around the holidays. For me it means spending time alone on one of my favorite days of the year.

When I was a child Christmas was the most magical time of the year. I’d wait longingly every year for the holiday to come and I was always ready! I was ready right after Thanksgiving if not sooner. And every year I always got what I wanted, even when it wasn’t even on my list! Now that I’m an adult, Christmas means something different.

Christmas means buying gifts. For everyone. For my horseback riding instructor, for my hair dresser, for my postal worker, for my boss and my direct reports. I always forget someone. I always feel guilty. I always spend way more than I should and I always go broke at some point during the season. It sucks.

No, I can’t go to coffee with you because I broke the bank buying you this gift. Oh? You didn’t get me anything? That’s ok. I’m doing my part to feel like a good friend. No, I understand that you need to prioritize your kids at Christmas. No big deal. I don’t need a gift anyway. #fml

Christmas means eating way too much. There’s Christmas goodies everywhere and staying away from them is HARD! I love baking. I love making my special Oreo truffles. I love making ten kinds of Christmas goodies. But who will taste-test these when I live alone?? Sad day, it has to be me. Ten pounds later I’m sorry I ever started baking.

Christmas means being alone for much of the holiday. Without having multiple holidays to attend and no kids around it means that I will spend at least at least either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day alone. This year it’s both. Hooray.

Do you know how much it sucks to spend Christmas alone? Do you realize how terrible it is to wake up on Christmas day and instead of an excited child and family members I wake to nothing? No screaming children waking me up at 5 am. No dogs barking. No meowing cats. Nothing. It’s just a normal day because I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to parent or tend to. I have literally no reason to get out of bed. So most of the time I don’t, and most of the time I spend most of the morning crying. Getting up only reminds me that I have no good reason to be out of my bed anyway.

It’s December 18th. Do you know where my Christmas tree is? In the closet. Do you know where my Elf on a Shelf is? Not on a shelf, in the box next to the tree. No stockings are hung by the chimney with care. There’s no hopes of Saint Nicholas around here. Nope. Why bother? No one comes over here. There’s no one to surprise with a thoughtful gift. There’s no mistletoe and there’s no holly or ivy. And there’s no Christmas songs.

When I had step-kids Christmas meant something because I was doing it for them. I was decorating for them. I was baking cookies with them. I was making paper snowflakes and garland with them. I was drawing pictures to mail to relatives with them. I was staying up late on Christmas eve to eat the cookies and put out the presents in their stockings. I spent hours buying and wrapping gifts I couldn’t even claim were from me. I was helping them make the memories I had from when I was a child. But when I got divorced I no longer had any kids, so the reasons to do any of this faded.

The thing is, if I had never gotten married I wouldn’t even know what I was really missing. I wouldn’t understand that wonder on kids faces. I wouldn’t understand what it’s like to play the magical elf for a fat man who doesn’t exist. I wouldn’t miss it. Only I do because I have experienced it first hand.

So here I am at thirty-something childless and hurting because I want my Christmas to be magical too! I want to have what all my friends already have and don’t even appreciate! They actually COMPLAIN about it all and it hurts more than you would believe!

I can hear them all now:

“OMG I just *know* my kids are going to wake up at 5 am on Christmas morning!”

“I’m spending so much money on gifts for my kids that I’m going broke.”

“We’re so busy going to both my husband’s/wife’s/partner’s/lover’s and my Christmas celebrations!”

“My kids are acting so crazy now that it’s getting close to Christmas!”

“I just know my parents will get the kids noisy toys for Christmas and I’ll have to listen to them all day.”

“I forgot to move the stupid elf and now my kid doesn’t think it’s real.”

“I wish I got to sleep in on Christmas day.”

No you don’t… you absolutely don’t. Because without those cherub faces you would die. Your heart would break every single holiday that came after and you would die a little bit every time someone complained about their child like it wasn’t the most precious gift in the whole entire world. The mere mention of a baby would make your uterus cramp with longing. Your arms would ache to hold your partner while you watched the kids open presents while screaming the whole time. You would not care. You would look at magazine ads featuring families and you would well up with tears. You would long to see mistletoe and have the chance to kiss someone you care about under it. Thinking of spending Christmas alone would make you sob because once you have experienced the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child, you can never go back.

Fortunately, most people don’t experience this. There’s not too many people who have children one year and the next year they are gone. Aren’t I just the luckiest one to have experienced this twice with two different sets of kids?!….Nope. Not really, it really sucks. It sucks more and more each year because each year brings that stinging confirmation that I may never have a family. I may never have children. I may spend the rest of my life waking up on Christmas morning to nothing but the tears falling on my pillow.

The worst part is that I’m expected to never talk about this. I’m expected to suck it up and be happy for everyone out there complaining about their kids and their bills and telling me how lucky I am to be single. Asking me when I’m going to get married and have kids of my own. Do you have any freaking clue how lucky you are? Do you know what I would give to have kids of my own? I’d like to have kids of my own like YESTERDAY! Sadly most of my friends have never and will never know this cruel pain, so they don’t want to hear about it either. This only complicates things. No wonder the suicide rate more than doubles around the holidays!

But once again I will suck it up, and I will spend Christmas alone. I will make myself breakfast and wrap myself up a gift to open on Christmas morning and I will try not to think about how I feel so sad, so empty and so alone on one of my favorite days of the year, on what should be one of the happiest days of the year.

So when those of you with children are opening your gifts at 5 am on Christmas morning, I’ll be drying my tears on my pillow. Stop for a second and think about how lucky you are to have so much to be truly thankful for this holiday season.

Merry Christmas from me… just from me.

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