with Karli Larson
The transition from stay-at-home mom to divorced-and-working-full-time mom can be challenging, and sometimes very lonely. Throw in a few cats, an ancient dog and one very brave boyfriend, and life gets downright crazy. Join me as I talk through my thoughts and struggles, my miscalculations and my triumphs. We're in this together, you and I.
When I'm not writing here you can find me over at work on the TisBest Philanthropy blog.
Guilt is a common resonating theme in many of my posts pertaining to Motherhood. In fact, in three years of Motherhood, that thorny, useless emotion has reigned supreme in my conscience, in the forefront of many of my other (much more productive) emotions.
I’ve felt guilt about my career, the fact that eight hours a day are dedicated to my computer and my phone, while a little blond chunk of my soul plays quietly in the care of near-strangers, meeting childhood milestones away from the company of his Mother. I’ve felt angst about the dissolution of my relationship to my son’s father: about the way our inability to make it work might impact him in future years. I create all kinds of ugly scenarios: he will not trust, he will remember discord, and worst, he will blame me for the loss of a traditional “family” in his formative years.
I read blogs, too many of them, and with sharp inhalation I absorb rampant criticism of Mommy bloggers: blaring and finger pointing text, accusatory. You are screwing up your son’s future social life by writing about his life online. With your words you are creating future turmoil, mocking, laughter, at his expense. There are the Mommy Wars and the studies about the long-term impacts of divorce, everywhere I look, I am doing it wrong and He Will Pay.
As a Mother - and especially, I think, as a Single Mother, I worry every day about my decisions and actions creating discord in the future well-being of my son. I lie awake at night, heart racing, staring at the ceiling, as guilt pulsates through my head: not enough time with him, Mommy and Daddy not together, how many times have I said too much, what am I doing that is not enough? Guilt, in concentric circles, plow and swirl uselessly in my heart and create panic.
Until this week, that is. My son was with his paternal grandparents and Father for Christmas, and I took the child-free opportunity to see a movie with my Mom. My co-workers had recommended Slumdog Millionaire, a slightly obscure movie turned critical darling for its passionate storytelling, pulsating scenery, and emotional musical score.
For those of you who have not seen it, let me recommend this movie to you not only for its cinematic brilliance, but for the fact that it just might release you from the cloying chain of Mommy guilt.
Here’s why: Slumdog Millionaire is a work of fiction, about the life of a young boy who lives as an orphan with his brother on the streets and train tracks and slums of Mumbai, India. It is the story of a boy who witnesses the brutal death of his Mother, heart-lurching child abuse, deception by a sibling, torture and corruption. It is, indeed, a work of fiction, but I’ve traveled enough in third-world countries to understand that, in many countries around the world, it is unpolished Truth. It’s not something we think about everyday, but our subconscious knows what this movie brings to the surface: children are born into heartwrenching conditions every single day. Children witness horrors we as adults cannot fathom, at every moment in our lives. We do not compute because we cannot, on a regular basis, or our hearts would break irrevocably : but movies like this punch us in the face and tell us clearly: you have it good, North American Jerks. You have it so, so good.
My child, your children, are growing up in a home where their Mama loves them. They have clothes, and food, and a constant place to rest. They do not know torture, they will experience corruption much later, they will almost certainly never have to fight death for food. If the worst thing that might happen to my son is a grade ten bully who mocks him for something I wrote on the Internet a decade ago, so be it. For every twinge of bitterness he might have at growing up in a home without a Father, with a Mom who had to work too much, he’ll also undoubtedly feel gratitude for rainy forest walks for warm honey donuts, for trips to Science World and the skating rink, for an extended family who envelop him in love and an unconditional warm embrace.
We are doing a good job, bathing our children in light and love in the most prosperous, opportunity-filled portion of the world. We are working for their future. Us single Moms, especially, are providing a soft place for our children, one without discord, one filled with hope and strength and an example of strong Motherhood. I am OK. You are OK. Most importantly of all, our kids will be so much more than OK.
I, for one, will be morphing this guilt into anger and turning it where it belongs: to the grim but worthy cause of helping improve the lives of children who do deserve our guilt, in the form of attention, awareness, and action.
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