One Day at a Time, Step 9

This is the piece that I wrote for my Listen To Your Mother audition, and was honored to have been selected to share it with you all on stage last week! Thank you to all of my family and friends who came to support me! ❤

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Most women know that when they have their first child, the relationship they have with their own mother is going to change. Some women complain about the unwanted “advice” their moms give them, and some women are grateful for the time their moms take to help them with a newborn baby. Overall, I think I speak for most ladies when I say that the bond created between a mother and a daughter after childbirth is one unlike any other. To understand what it means to love another human life more than you love your own, and to understand what your mother went through to have you, well… that feeling is indescribable unless you’ve lived it.

For me, things were a little bit different. The day my son was born, I did not only become a mother, I became a daughter. Of course, yes, I’ve always been a daughter, but not in the traditional sense. In fact, I had already been a mother for quite some time if you want to know the honest truth. I was a mother to my brothers long before I was a mother to my own baby. My mother and I had more of a “friend to friend” relationship when I was a teenager and young adult, rather than a mother/daughter one… which is what it can be like to be the child of an alcoholic.

I learned to “mother” my siblings very well when I was in high school. I would take my two younger brothers to soccer practices, I would pack their lunches, and I would sign their parent permission slips. I would schedule their doctors and dentist appointments, make sure they had a ride home from a friend’s house, and keep the grocery lists up-to-date. I even filled out one of my brothers’ college applications! These weren’t really things that bothered me at the time because I truly didn’t know anything different. I knew my parents were loving, and I knew they were proud of me.

The first time my mom said “I am an alcoholic” out loud, I was a sophomore in college. Among some other very drastic life changes that included my parents getting a divorce, she told us that she was going to 12-step meetings. I was so happy with this news. Finally, I was going to get my mom back. I even went over to the local tattoo shop in Chapel Hill and put “One Day” on my wrist as a reminder of that feeling. But, by the time I came home for Thanksgiving break, she had fallen off the wagon for the first time, and my feelings of frustration, resentment, and sadness were growing. My mom was in pain, and I was in pain, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to cure it or to control it.

After going to treatment a few times, and continuing to build her support network in the recovery program, I could slowly see my mom coming back to me. The ways in which her alcoholism affected my life were deeper than I had realized at first, and would continue to be for a long time. When she first started talking to me about working the 12 steps, and who she needed to make amends to, I wasn’t ready for it. The day she asked for my forgiveness, I said all of the right words, but I wasn’t ready to give it. I think I was afraid that she would let me down again, that this time wouldn’t stick. Today, my mom has been sober for 6 years, 9 months, and 20 days, (not that anyone is counting!) and she has been a Mimi for a little more than a year.  I am grateful for every single second.

When Harvey was born, my mom came to Chapel Hill for the occasion. I was hesitant to ask her at first, because I just wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I had never done the whole “pushing a baby out” thing, and I didn’t know what kind of mojo I would need in the room. As it turns out, in the heat of the moment, I wanted my mom there.

I needed her support and nursing skills, and I think that having her with me while my baby entered this world was one of the single most significant events that either one of us has ever experienced. She has been the sweetest Mimi in the world, and Harvey is going to grow up knowing her for who she really is: a warm, loving, smart, and caring woman who has a heart that’s bigger than this room.

Now that I have my own child, and I have officially entered the newest chapter of my life, I feel ready to accept my mom’s amends. I feel like we have had an opportunity to start over, and I know not everybody gets one of those. I feel a renewed strength in our relationship and our ability to bond over my child. There is a new truth to the way we interact with each other.  I do not regret my life up to this point, you see, I would not be the teacher, coach, wife, mama, or friend that I am today if it weren’t for my experiences thus far.  If it weren’t for my mom and her new sense of self through sobriety, I wouldn’t understand the concept of beauty within our imperfections. I know that in her heart of hearts, my mom has loved me and wanted the best for me my entire life. The “Big Book” describes Step Nine as follows: “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development,” it says, “we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”  The day I became a mother, I also became a daughter. The day I became a mother, I forgave my own mother. The day I became a mother, I also gained a mother.

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Here are some pictures from the show! 🙂

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The First Day of School

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I am going to start this post with a disclaimer: if at any point, my words or ideas seem discombobulated and sporadic, it is because my brain is currently in that state. I sit here and write this as Harvey is spending his first day in daycare. I am floating back and forth between confidence and tears. I knew it would be hard to leave him for the first time, and I knew that I wanted to write while I did so. I have to capture these feelings in their rawest form, so please hang with me as I try to make sense of this new time in my life.

This August, the first day of school has a whole new meaning in my life. For the past 22 years, the thought of school starting has made me excited, a bit anxious, hopeful, reflective, nervous, but overall happy for another year of learning and friends. As a teacher, I feel all of those things still, and I would argue even more so than I did when I was a student. This year is no different. I feel all of those things the same way I used to, but… there is a new spin on it. For the first time, I am walking into my building as a mother. A mother who is leaving her child in a day care facility. A mother who would give anything to live two lives. You see, while I wish I could stay at home and raise my child, I also wish I could go to work and teach. Honestly, what I wish I could do, is bring Harvey to Leesville with me, haha! Let me do my best to articulate my feelings about this… because I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few months, and I know there are a lot of moms who have to make a lot of different decisions about their own children and their own jobs. It is hard, and there is no right or wrong answer. However, I do think that we are all filled with different questions/doubts/fears/etc… that part is for certain.

I love my job. It is the only job I have ever wanted to do. I also love my baby, and knew that someday I would become a mother, and it would be one of the best things that ever happened to me. What I never really thought about was the day I would become a teacher AND a mother. For the first time, when my classes start filing in the room on the first day of school, I will know that every single one of them is loved by their parents the same way that Nick and I love Harvey. Wow… what a wave of emotion! To every parent who has ever trusted me with your children on a daily basis, thank you! I can now tell you that I have a renewed sense of purpose in my task as their educator and role model. Honestly, when I think of some of the best teachers I had growing up, and when I think about some of my coworkers who I look up to everyday, I think of a very important detail they all have in common… parenthood.

I can tell you right now that I have always wanted my children to see me work. It is important to me. When I was growing up, my mom worked. She helped provide for my family, both monetarily and physically. However, I can’t help but think sometimes that I am working so that my money can help pay for childcare. Obviously, other moms who work think about the same thing… but that expense is not my entire paycheck. You should also know that I am not a teacher because of the money! I find fulfillment in my job, and in being a mother. It is also important to provide for my kids in as many ways as I can. There are a lot of things that Nick and I would not be able to do if I stayed at home… like buy a new house, travel as much as we do, and expose our kids to new experiences that sometimes cost money. It is a double-edged sword, but not one that we have to fall on, you know?

I am not trying to rationalize any of this (although I knew this entire post would be a back and forth with myself over my decision to return to work). I am a teacher. I am a mother. I am a coach. I do not have to pick one. And do you know what? Mamas who stay home with their babies, are also teachers and coaches and mothers. Having spent the last 5 months at home with my nugget, I now know this. I know so many stay-at-home moms who’ve raised beautiful kids. I also know so many working mamas who’ve raised beautiful kids. I don’t view this as having to “pick one.” I truly believe we can be both! I also know that the grass is always greener. There will be days where I wish I was home with Harvey. There will be days when I can stay home with him (because teaching schedules are pretty dang awesome when you consider all of our breaks) and I will wish I was at school.

I will check back in once the school year is underway, but just know for now that I am torn. I can’t wait to start school, and I can’t wait to see Harvey at the end of the day. I am in love with my job(s). I am a mom and I am a teacher. I would love to hear from some of the women and men in my life who have to do both. How do you cope? What are your thoughts? Any advice moving forward? Send me some positive thoughts and vibes throughout the next month… I am definitely traveling uncharted waters!

PS – Harvey has started eating a few solids and rolling over! I included a picture and a video for your  viewing pleasure 🙂