Have you ever thought about your identity and what it means to be you?
Is it that you are an entrepreneur? A mother? An amazing speaker? Or even an Olympic runner?
Now imagine that, gone. Imagine your business going into liquidation, or losing your voice or ability to speak, or what about the ability to walk?
Being a mother is one identity that I felt comfortable with but that was removed in a sense when my 14-year-old son left my home to go live with his dad.
I am a mother of 3 so you might wonder how one child leaving can make me question my identity. It’s not like I have lost all my children so have nothing to live for?
It comes down to the circumstances. Adjusting from being the main parent to the other parent, even less, as my son has not spoken to me since he left.
The circumstances of his choosing to leave came about after months of rebellion and even violence against my husband and daughter. I gave him the option to go to his dads because I had to put the safety of the rest of the household first.
This was my baby boy stashing weapons in his room, that he pulled on my family, who we later discovered has been doing drugs.
Therein lies my identity crisis. The questions. What kind of parent had I been?
I searched high and low online for information to help me feel like perhaps I wasn’t alone. But all I was met with was judgment. Statements like clearly I wasn’t paying attention to him or giving him enough. I felt more alone than ever.
So naturally I started questioning my decisions I had made. Was I a bad parent? Had I given up on him? Was there more I could have done?
I had him to pediatricians, counsellors and psychologists over the years but it hadn’t helped him. I know now that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped but that hasn’t stopped me from questioning my ability to be a good parent.
I was raised in a family with a mother who was schizophrenic, undiagnosed until later in life and a violent, alcoholic father who was never around once they split. My siblings also had violent bouts such as my brother who stabbed my sister in her mouth during an argument. He once tried to get me outside to stab me as well, that same night my dad strangled me on their front porch. This was all in our teenage years, violence a regular occurrence.
My son becoming violent against not only my husband but also his sister was a big trigger and alert for me. Parenting without projecting my issues was not easy, and it may or may not be one of my failures as a parent. Lets face it we have plenty of what we perceive as failures while parenting.
When I found out I was going to be a mother all I wanted was to be unlike my family. It felt like life repeating. It felt like my identity was meant to be this mess forever. But it’s not!
Because of all of this I’ve learnt that it is OK to make choices other people might not agree with.
I’ve learnt that people who judge you will know only what they have wanted to hear.
I’ve learnt sometimes what is best for you isn’t what other people think or agree with but that doesn’t matter because those people aren’t living your life.
Its been 4 months since he has left. I’ve only seen him twice, glimpses in the school car park. I’ve had breakdowns seeing him and knowing he hasn’t wanted to communicate yet. He hasn’t been violent or aggressive at his father’s place, so maybe that is where he needs to be. But not actively being in his life hurts. At our house he was the middle child, at his dads house he is the oldest, maybe that will be the change he needs.
Its been hard not knowing anyone who has been through this personally so I’ve felt very alone.
I have received a lot of criticism and judgment since he moved to his dads and after all of this I’ve decided to share my story.I want to open up about my experiences and be honest. I’m undecided whether it is wise or not as parenting seems to be the thing most open to judgment and interpretation.
My identity, I’ve discovered through all this, is that it has very much been a parent. I’ve also discovered that I am an amazing parent. I have 2 beautiful children who tell me so all the time. I should probably listen to them. And I know one day my son will speak to me again but even if he doesn’t I know that I love him with all I have and I always try my best and that’s all anyone can do.
I’m starting to learn about myself now and who I am without the parent title.
There are many books relating to different things about parenting, but this subject I have found no help for. Its been a learn as you go experience. And parenting is only one aspect of my identity, all be it a big one.
Maybe its just time to give me a bit more of me.
Maybe its time to make my identity not just a mother, or the other parent but an inspired woman.
So whats the moral of this story?
Do what is right for you. Not the people who aren’t living your life.