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emotions

Fathers have a heart too

October 27, 2017
fathers

A few days ago, I took my daughter to a birthday party of a boy who was going to the same daycare center for a while when they were both four.

God works in strange ways. I became friends with his mom when we learnt that her son had a crush on my daughter. They later moved to another place, and changed the daycare center. She and I kept in touch, as we were brought together by children’s love and the fact that we both bring up our children on our own.

From one birthday to the next, we exchanged experiences and watched our children grow.

Just like me, my friend Supermom had separated from the boy’s father before he was born. Maybe she did it out of pride, maybe she had no choice, or maybe love simply vanished.

Anyhow, the boy hadn’t seen his dad much until recently.

I never commented her decisions. I don’t judge other people and I expect them not to judge me. Everybody knows what’s best for them.

I was delighted when she told me that the father and the son had finally established contact. It won’t be easy to make up for all the years gone by. It will take time to build the relationship based on trust and intimacy. That might never even happen. My opinion is that children should meet and see the parents they don’t share their house with, provided of course that at least the basic conditions for this are in place.

My daughter sees her father regularly, and that has always been the case. Not because I’ve managed to discover all secrets of parenthood or because I’m this noble person who places her child’s interest before conflicts and ugly situations that have come up from time to time. The reason is that her father has been persistent enough despite the fact that I condemn his way of life.

Our characters, habits and principles are completely opposite. We have confronted each other about many issues countless times. I disapprove of many aspects of his life, and that is unlikely ever to change.

However, he once said something that left a strong impression on me. We quarreled about where our daughter’s scooter would be stored in the future (oh yeah, a scooter can also be a good reason for an argument). When I told him that she didn’t live with him (and therefore the scooter should be kept at my place), he replied:

In my mind, all my children live with me.

What he said really made me stop and think.

Fathers have a heart, too

They are often selfish, like men are due to a lack of responsibility. They lie and cheat. They rarely manage to understand the children’s interests and daily needs the way we do. But in that fragment of a second, this admission that came directly from his soul really got to me. I realized that his lack of commitment and responsibility, which I always tried to neutralize by lavishing care and attention upon her, didn’t necessarily mean the lack of love.

Fathers can love, too

Is that the consequence of the established tradition and norms? Do mothers simply carry a gene that makes us act the way we do?

I don’t know, and I don’t care anymore.

My daughter is six. I’m not sure time really heals everything, but the years I’ve spent raising her alone have helped me learn plenty.

Nothing is just black or white,

To forgive is divine, as some say, but I’d also add – it is often the only thing we can do if we wish to be in peace.

Answers sometimes literally fall from the sky. All we have to do is remember to look up.

I wanted to tell the friend I mentioned at the beginning all about it, but I haven’t had the chance. One of the reasons why I’m writing this post is so that she can read and understand it.

 

One day, I’ll tell my daughter about my past

October 20, 2017
past

As my daughter’s growing up, life is becoming more and more interesting. It is said that a small child equals small problems, whereas an older child…
But that’s not all. An older child demands more logical answers to increasingly difficult questions.

Our most interesting conversations usually take place early in the mornings, when she opens her eyes, and in the evenings, when we hug each other before we go to sleep. The other night, just after I turned off the lights and tucked her in her bed (she has moved out of my bed), an unexpected question came from the darkness:

Mom, have you ever got married?

It took me by surprise, and the time wasn’t exactly opportune. I’ve never been married to her dad. Maybe her playmates from the daycare center had talked about the marriage or she was just comparing herself to other kids. Who knows?
But, she sounded worried, so I replied: “No, I only wanted to have this child. That was mattered most to me. A sigh of relief. “Mom, I’ll do the same when I grow up!”

I don’t think this has closed the subject though. Me, her father, marriage and family will be discussed many times before she becomes an adult.

And not just that.

I wondered if we should tell our kids about our past, ex-boyfriends, former husbands?

 ******

Tidying up the closets is among the most regular and preferred female activities. After a month of serious mental preparations, I recently decided to give it a go. I applied the only efficient method I knew of: I just took out the entire content of the drawers and closets, piled it up on the floor and started rummaging through it. At some point, I came across a long forgotten shoe box which stored some old photos and letters. I opened Pandora’s box filled with long suppressed memories.

******

My past is by no means a thriller, but the pages of my book of life turned slowly. One day, long ago, the present collapsed and turned into the past.

After a period of reconnecting with myself, new currents drew me away to the open sea. The past remained captured in the shoe box, offering as evidence some two-decade old photos and twenty letters or so.

******

I sat on the bedroom floor and took a long look into my past. There were photos to illustrate it, with me in them, and some people who were close to me at the time. The woman in the photos looked like me, but she was still different. She travelled. Her hair was short and blond, then a bit longer, and finally a bit darker. She looked nice, smiling, in a white silken dress, spotted with many colorful butterflies. She was getting married…

******

The past had been held captive in the photos, in the box, in the closet until I finally plucked up the courage and opened it.

I asked a friend if I should tell my daughter about my life before her some day. Would it be wise to show her, maybe not the letters, but at least the photos of her mum and that man she couldn’t possibly recognize, the man who meant so much to me in my past life?

“Keep it all”, she told me. “You’ll show it to her some day. It’s incredible how a look from the future heals everything because it is the only right way to look at it. The whole life trembles inside of us and it never gets to be told. Only our daughters will be able to make sense of it all and shed some light“.

I will take her advice. The box has kept its place on one of the lowest shelves in the closet, tucked in between the old sweaters I avoid discarding and keep storing “just in case”.

The past was beautiful while it was the present. It’s a part of me, of the way I once was, the way I’ll most likely always be. One day I’ll show it to her and we’ll look at it with her eyes. We will look at the old photos, at the good-looking, smiling bride in the colorful silken dress and at the man in dark suit. Together, we will find new words to recount my past.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like for moms whose children have half-siblings?

October 13, 2017
half-siblings

My daughter has a half-sister and a half-brother. Writing about it isn’t easy for me. In all likelihood, I’ll be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Yet, I’m writing this post because this subject is very important to me, although painful.

Some time ago, I talked to a friend whose ex-husband had married his neighbor and had a child with her. She was fine with it. The neighbor was never hers and his life is his business. But, their daughter still hasn’t agreed to meet her half-brother.

Another friend has a half-brother whom she has never met because their father’s ex-wife didn’t allow it.

It took yet another friend two years to accept the fact that her daughters now have a half-sister.

There are many such stories. Thankfully, there are just as many examples of the children who get on perfectly well with their half-siblings.

They say that the children should meet their siblings, spend time with them and learn to love them. They may depend on each other in life, regardless of their parents’ fates and relationships.

Psychologists and social workers insist that children should establish and maintain close relationships with their half-siblings.

That is all fine and doubtlessly true. But maybe it would be a good idea to reflect on the following for once:

What is it like for moms whose kids have half-siblings?

This is what it’s like for me.

Hard.

Like I said, my daughter has a half-sister and a half-brother. They are good, loving and happy children. All three get on well and love to spend time with each other. And that is all right.

But, whenever I see them, I can’t help thinking how my child lives with only one parent and how many times she wanted to be with her dad and I couldn’t make it happen. I often think about what she’s missing in life and about the cheap, unbearable wisdom I’ve heard so many times: “That’s the hand of cards she’s been dealt in life”.

I also sometimes remember an American sitcom in which the last in the line of wives accepts and helps her husband’s children from his two former marriages. Furthermore, neither of her husband’s ex-wives has any problem spending time at her home and all works well for the merry bunch.

I wish my life was more like that sitcom. But it isn’t. Maybe, at some time in the future, we will all sit around the same table and chat cheerfully while we drink coffee and nibble on our biscuits. And I will be sincerely happy because my daughter is not the only child and she’ll be able to rely on her siblings later in life.
Until then, although these “other” children certainly had nothing to do with their parents’ bad relationships, and more than deserve to be treated with kindness and warmth, every thought about them fills me with sadness.

Maybe this confession reveals what a dreadful person I am. My experiences have taught me to not to hide my emotions and to always describe situations as I see them. If things seem ideal, they’re probably fake. Our lives are not perfect, our daily routines are stressful and our feelings are prone to changes. In a single day, my mood may vary from incredible joy to unspeakable sorrow, and I never know what challenges the next day will bring. I’d love to be able to feel differently, to open my arms and embrace those little people, those innocent kids who have become a part of our lives. So, if anyone could explain to me how it can be done, how I could free myself from bondage and start looking at things from another angle, I would deeply appreciate the advice.

The day when I was the prettiest mom in the world

September 3, 2017
mom

It was a morning like many others. The alarm on my mobile phone sounded twice: when it was time for me to get up and when I already should’ve been half way through my morning routine. The second buzz did manage to wake me somehow. In theory, having slept all night, I sat on the edge of my bed and wondered about the potential meanings of my dream, in which I carried a motorcycle (!) with both its tires flat under my arm…

I started to get ready for work, racing against time, shouting the usual Have you peed already? Stop watching cartoons and get dressed! Unless you do, you’re going to the day care in your pjs. I’m not waiting for you a second longer… The mirror showed me an exhausted face, with large bags under my eyes and layers of makeup as a sorry attempt to present a fresh and ready-for-work version of myself. I’d gone to bed late again and again I was sleep deprived, frustrated, nervous. I felt the familiar pain in my lower back and remembered I have never really had any treatment for my lumbago. Is there a single mother who has time for seeing a doctor and receiving physical therapy?

I was in a dreadful mood.
I grabbed the first dress I saw in the wardrobe, made a miserable attempt to do something with my hair still full of rollers that I’d worn overnight. My apartment was now chronically untidy, the washing still lying hopeful in the ironing basket, the dirty dishes in the sink…

And then…

Life seen through the eyes of a six-year-old

Mom, I wish you never grew old. I would then always stay a child, your baby. And we would never die, neither you, nor me, nor grandma, nor dad…

She came close to me, took my hand and glanced at my chipped nail polish.
Mom, I love this enamel…

Then she touched my dress and moved away:
This dress is so pretty, and so soft… Will you let me wear it when I grow up?

She looked at my tired face:
That lipstick looks so good on you, and the blue shade on your eye lids is so nice…

She gave me a hug.
You are the prettiest and the softest mom in the world.

Life seen through the eyes of a six-year-old…

Pure magic.

The wrinkled clothes in the ironing basket didn’t bother her at all. She was simply happy because her favorite dress was clean again…

She didn’t see the lines on my face, the puffy eyes, the spider veins on my legs, the extra pounds on my body.

To her, I was the most beautiful and the best mom in the world.

Mom, when I grow up, do you know what I’ll be? I’ll be a mom, just like you!

That day, I finally put together a list of my achievements in the previous six years – what I’d managed to do, to accomplish.  

The overview of my first six years of motherhood

It was hard. It was stressful, challenging.

I spent nights without sleeping a wink, crying, trembling with fear.

I didn’t always do what I should have done.

I often didn’t have a clue what I should do, or how, or why. I just soldiered on, day after day.

Because I didn’t have a choice. From the first baby feeder, her first pair of shoes, the nursery, her first fever to this day.

Is that period finally over?
I don’t know.
But at least I can now say that I’m aware of what we’ve been through and the fog through which I felt my way intuitively has now lifted.  

Before I gave birth to my daughter, I’d come by and read many books about parenthood.
In them I found detailed instructions about what to do in case of gas discomfort, how to put a baby to sleep, what to do, and what not to do in many other events.
But I don’t remember reading that I would be exhausted and frustrated more or less all the time, that I would never be able to find the other sock in the washing basket, or that the back seat of my car would be covered with breadcrumbs and shredded paper tissues.

There’s another thing I couldn’t find in the books: that my child would love to eat a simple sausage with some yoghurt or pancakes with chocolate and hazelnut cream for dinner.
Or that she wouldn’t mind riding in a “sensible” stroller or wearing an ordinary inexpensive dress as long as she gets loads of love, care and warm hugs.

And popcorn.

Truth about single mothers

August 28, 2017
truth

Let me start from the beginning.

I’m a single mother. But I’ve always disliked this designation, so one day I simply decided to become a Supermom. Because single moms are moms with many arms who somehow manage to do everything on their own.

And because it sounds better and more powerful than the ordinary “single mother”.

I became a Supermom by chance. If I’d had a choice six years ago, I’m not sure I would have preferred to raise my daughter with a partner.

No, it’s not sour grapes. For six years now I have been acting like Shiva (Hindu deity with eight arms), and the fact is that I have already grown accustomed to that kind of parenting. I make all the decisions alone and I am the only one responsible. I don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission or help. And although I do need help, by all means, I can’t always count on it. This is why I always make plans like I can only rely on myself, which is true most of the time.

Has it been easy? Not in the least. I’ve felt abandoned and helpless. I’ve been hurt.

Anyone would feel hurt after coming to terms with the fact that the truth is a bit different from what one used to believe in.

Fear.

Sadness.

Loneliness.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been through these.

But I always pretended I was fine. I used to hide my fear, helplessness and loneliness from others. I used to hide behind being constantly busy; I walked with my head high, and tried to act like everything was under control.

I used to cry at night, when my child was asleep and couldn’t hear me.

Nobody was allowed to see me with puffy eyes, so I hid behind the makeup and the image of a “powerful, independent woman”.

I analyzed my life, my actions, my mistakes a million times.

I started doubting my sanity and my own value.

There was a time when I asked myself if I’d made the right choice and if my life could have been different, better, more fulfilled.

All of us have been in that dark place surely. Our value was assessed by others and we acted the way we thought we had to in order to be accepted.
The fact is that single mothers are not always accepted and fully appreciated everywhere. Our society always expects a woman with a child to be accompanied by her husband or the child’s father. Faced with these expectations, many single mothers spend years criticizing themselves and trying to block the thoughts that make them uneasy.

I was like that.

But the truth is:

There are no guarantees that everything would be easy, pleasant or even normal.

Things might turn out crazy, sad, unbelievable, dull, fabulous.

Our life is in our hands and we make the decisions. Nobody has the right to judge our lives, mistakes, happiness or misfortune.

We are worth what we believe we’re worth.

And we will live the way we see fit. With our head down or chin up.

Each one of us is an exquisite person.

What we think really matters because we raise little persons and guide them through life.

And we deserve all the best, the kind of respect and attention nobody has the right to deny us.

What I’ve learnt from FB

August 21, 2017
FB

Social networks are amazing: fun and useful at the same time. The other day, I got a feed of my posts from 5 years ago on Facebook, including a photo of my daughter and me on our first trip. She was ten months old and had already embarked on a 10-day trip adventure with my friend and me. I looked at the photo in wonder, having trouble to recognise myself, let alone my daughter.
Peanut, as I called her then, grew from an impish toddler into a fine little girl. Where have all those years gone? And how? What was I doing? How did I spend those first five years of her life?

While we raise our kids, we make big plans for them and usually wish they could learn foreign languages, have a good education, get a good job and start their own families.

Buried under a pile of endless chores, as we try to make sense of this hectic life and resolve problems and dilemmas, we tend to forget that every day that goes by is gone forever and will never return.

We forget to soak up every moment of their childhood, each more significant and memorable than the other.

We always worry, comparing ourselves to other parents and our kids to their kids.
And then one day FB reminds me of a photo made five years ago. I felt like I was looking at another person.

A proud, but obviously clueless mother and a sweet little child.

Could I have imagined then what our lives would be like, how many silly things I’d do, how much time I’d lose, how many mistakes I’d make? Perhaps.

So, because of the FB’s On This Day feature and before I receive any of the future reminders which will bring back all my errors and make me aware of the time wasted on unimportant stuff, I want to try to be smart and happy for a change:

Because:

1. Nobody’s perfect. What matters is to do our best in each moment. We are all different, and so are our kids and our paths. The rule is – there are no rules.

2. If something really bothers me, I’ll try to change it. Changes are the only way to improve my life, and if I feel better, so will my child.  

3. I won’t pay too much attention to what other people say or think. My life is my business. It is I and not them who set the rules.

4. I am a good mother. I’m not a good cook, but it doesn’t matter. My child prefers eating spagetti without any sauce and – she loves hominy.

5. Kids are prone to doing silly things. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent. It simply means that kids are only kids.

6. Panic and nervousness are bad companions. The sooner you get rid of them, the better in the long run.

7. I often think that parenthood is extremely hard and stressful. And it is.

8. Sometimes we just have to be good to ourselves. A sink full of dirty dishes, piles of unironed clothes, untidy rooms? So what? Us mothers also need a break from time to time.

9. Children enjoy what we think is ordinary, unimportant stuff, such as going to the movies, buying popcorn, hugging.

10. Anything is possible if you really set your mind on it. In life, one should expect the unexpected.  

And always keep in mind that in life, like in travels, what matters most isn’t the final destination, but the journey itself.  

Why do I still carry my child?

July 6, 2017
carry

I started thinking about all kinds of dos and don’ts even before my daughter was born.
Among other things, I was wondering if children should be carried, as a rule.
Some mothers carry their children all the time: their offsprings lie in their arms like baby koalas, in front carriers, in back carry wraps, on their heads… Be it their own decision or acting on advice, they surely realise at some point that this sweetest burden is also a hindrance. Children get used to being carried around and there’s no way for them to lose the habit easily, at least until they start walking. Having considered all the aspects of my future life as a single mother, I decided not to carry my child.
And, against all odds, I persisted!
Or maybe I was just lucky to have a child who’s not too demanding by nature, who knows?
Anyway, she spent most of the time in the crib and began to discover the outside world only after she found her way out of the crib. OK, that was obviously an exaggeration, but I really didn’t carry her much, and I’m sure this made my parenting much easier.

One sweet day, my baby started to crawl… and then to toddle, holding on to the furniture as she walked past it unsteadily. In time, she became more and more stable.

Don’t think I’ve never carried her at all

Far from it: for a long time, I did carry her down the stairs (we live on the third floor, no lift, oh joy!).
I used to carry her when she was asleep or simply when she was tired and cranky.
Of course I did; there’s no greater pleasure than feeling the tiny arms around your neck or the small legs around your waist.
Cheek to cheek, as she whispers into my ear: „You smell so good, mom. You are the best mom in the world“.

But, the child has grown… and become heavier…
Mothers are strong by definition, and single mothers are stronger still – they simply don’t have any choice.
Still, carrying a child who weighs 45 pounds can be a problem.

And so I started denying her that pleasure quite consistently.

Until one evening, we arrived home; she was exhausted, and I was frustrated with all the everyday worries and problems. She lay on my bed („our bed“ – she still sleeps next to me) and asked me to play some cartoons.
When I called her to have a bath, she just squealed – „I’m so tired, please, carry me…“.

My first instinct was to say no.

I thought: What if I hurt my back, who will take care of her and do everything instead of me?

Then I saw her pleading eyes and just extended my arms.

I lifted my big, heavy child and carried her to the bathroom. Pity no one was around to take photos. I’m sure the picture would be hilarious.

I carried her knowing that such occasions would soon become very rare, if not impossible.
Time will come when she will no longer want to be my baby. She will move to her room and shut the door when her friends come to visit.

I will soon remember those lovely moments with nostalgia, her arms around my neck, the sleepy child who will always be only my baby. One day, soon perhaps, my child will want more independence and laugh at my need to carry her from time to time.

Until then, I’ll be happy to take any opportunity, any occasion. I will live each blissful moment, each second of happiness to the full. I will enjoy her childhood, her soft cheek rubbing against mine and her thin little voice, whispering that she loves me into my ear.

 

 

Do our children suffer because they don’t live with both parents?

May 7, 2017
children

I’ve recently exchanged a few emails with one of many single mothers who, like me, often worries if her children are sad or may become sad one day for not growing up with their father. 

There are all kinds of single parents. I write about mothers because I am one. I have the greatest amount of respect for all the single dads out there, and there are surely many who deserve the highest praise, but I can’t put myself in their shoes and have no idea what it’s like for them, so I rarely ever mention them.  

My child has a father, she knows him, she loves him. I believe he loves her, too, in his peculiar self-centered way. That’s fine. I know many women who are raising children on their own, whose kids have never met their respective dads and they are very unlikely to ever meet them. Is it harder for them or for my child? I don’t know.

I spoke to psychiatrists, psychologists, child therapists, etc. They all agree that children cannot grieve for what they have never known. Children of divorce suffer because their parents have separated and one of them has moved out. Children who have never lived with both parents cannot miss the kind of life they haven’t experienced. I’ve been told to refrain from explaining or interpreting. Apparently, children simply accept whatever’s served on their plate if this is done with self-confidence.
In my case: mom and dad don’t live together because they’ve agreed that’s what’s best.

Period.

I’m not sure this approach is absolutely correct, but I try to accept it as such because that makes my life easier.

Another thing I truly believe: our kids absorb our emotions. They see and hear everything, even when we are unaware of it. They can’t be fooled easily. A happy mother = a happy child.

So, do your best to be happy.

I know it’s not easy. I know that it’s a struggle against yourself, against time.

Very often, it’s a struggle to come up with enough money.

In short, a struggle to survive.

I don’t know how it’s done, how I can become the world’s happiest mother over night. But I now understand how important it is.

A smile. Good mood. Jokes. Playing games. A daily dose of fun everyone needs.

That is how our children will grow up without frustrations and complexes, and they’ll always remember that with us, their mothers, they had the most beautiful childhood imaginable.

 

 

I’ll think about that tomorrow

March 29, 2017
love

Another busy day has gone by, an exhausting race against time, filled with small joys and frustrations. While I’m watching my daughter sleep, I’m wandering where to start, what to do first. I decide to open a drawer full of memories…

Mother’s day is celebrated in many countries on different dates and in different ways. But, there is one thing they all have in common, and that is the love expressed to mothers by their children. Those precious small gifts, made by tiny fingers with utmost care and in the greatest secrecy, are among the most wonderful joys of motherhood. For several years now, my daughter has been clumsily designing and constructing these trinkets in the kindergarten workshop, the presents I always receive happily and store in a safe place so that I can show them to her one day. I’ve already filled one drawer with memories: birthday cards, drawings and all kinds of figurines and other objects made by my child. Whenever I feel sad, displeased or simply tired, I open the drawer and remind myself of how much I love her and that nothing else in life matters as much. Like so many times before, I analyze the things I’ve done, what I could have done better and what I haven’t done at all, although I should have. I could criticize myself all day long and make plans for undoing my failures. But the time flies… Her childhood will be over soon, and I will probably regret the missed opportunities for good. 

So, I leave the unwashed dishes aside. I put the wrinkled clothes back into the closet. I jump over the toys scattered on the floor. I turn off the phone and forget about the unread emails.

None of these really matter. What I haven’t done today, I’ll do tomorrow.  

One thing does matter though, now and forever, and that is love and attention.

All our children need is to feel loved and cared for. Our children do not see the things that bother us. They are nourished by our love and by the emotions we express. They need the security we provide, our unconditional love, smile and embrace.

And the dishes, ironing, cleaning? Well, tomorrow is another day.