While I’m not married, I have been. I’m not single either, but I certainly have plenty of experience in that department as well. One of the things I AM, proudly, is a Mother. But, again, I’ve spent just as many adult years not being a mother.
I didn’t know the significance of this until recently.
For the past month, I’ve been waking up my 7-year-old daughter around 11 p.m., before I go to bed. Sleepily, she’ll roll toward me with one hand pointed in my direction. I choose a finger and wipe it with an alcohol swab and she waves her hand in the air to dry the finger, at this point she starts to sit up, her eyes mostly shut to shield out the sudden brightness of her bedside lamp.
I then proceed to prick her finger with a needle.
Even though I’ve already done this at least 5 other times since morning, this is the worst time of day. I hate this, I think to myself, as I’m gathering all of the tools I need to perform her nightly test. I hate having to wake her up for this.
Since the day Lexi was born, I’ve enjoyed watching her sleep. I think most parents can relate. There’s an angelic and calming feeling that comes with observing a child peacefully lying on their pillow, surrounded by a bed-full of “stuffies” and wearing a mind that is completely free.
Of course, as children grow, we make less time to find awe in these simple moments. That is, until life hits us with a curveball and reminds us to be aware again.
For me, this reminder came when finding out my daughter has Type 1 Diabetes in April. In fact, the diagnosis brought with it plenty of reminders.
While my heart ached badly for this little girl, there were moments when, internally, I asked “Why me?” After 7 years of parenting her solo, I’d finally got my groove back again. I’d moved out of my parents house and settled down with a partner after years of dating unavailable men (and perhaps being unavailable myself). I was writing and making a living with other side gigs that I was passionate about.
Essentially, I was finally learning how to be something other than a single parent.
I wanted these seemingly selfish thoughts to vanish and they did, because, turns out, diabetes is an all-consuming “illness.” I spend my days researching the Internet and reading books and calculating carbs and always being on the lookout for the highs and lows of blood sugar.
“Mother’s Day is coming,” a friend said to me. “You need a break. Some pampering.”
In the moment, I laughed and blew it off but thought a lot about her comment for the days following.
We often feel so defined (and maybe even confined) by our roles in life, forgetting that those roles changes drastically over the years, months, or as I learned, overnight. Being a Mom one day can have an entirely different meaning the next. As can any label we attach to ourselves.
I was feeling guilty when I’d think about giving up the pieces of me that weren’t Mom-related. But, ironically, I can’t do that now. Now, more than ever, I need to model balance. And while, it’s for my own mental-health, it’s also for my daughter.
The last thing I want is for her to feel defined and confined by this autoimmune disorder that has no prevention and no cure. She can’t stop dancing out of fear that her blood sugar may run low. Just as I can’t live in fear that doing something outside of parenting means I’m not being there for her.
But isn’t that a lesson for everyone? I remember being single for all of those years, thinking, why would I ever give up this freedom? If you’re doing life right, you’ll never have to feel like you’re giving up anything.
I think back to my friend’s comment about pampering. Pampering isn’t a day at the spa; pampering is empowering those around you to feel confident in their choice to wear many hats in this lifetime ... celebrating each one along the way.