This one is a very tough one to write. Recently I have made a discovery regarding my emotions and their ties to my children. I began wondering why this emotional relationship dependency was forming and I think there are several lifelong themes that have carved a cavern in my soul which longs to be filled with acceptance and worth. These experiences have also made me a mother that parents carefully and is very sensitive to the needs and thoughts of my children and how they correlate with my actions.
I am very lucky to have the childhood that was provided to me. My parents were split but all worked very hard to give me an ideal life and all loved me very much. As a child I was in between families a lot. My father lived 10 hours away. I had a loving father, mother, brother and sister in Mississippi and lived with a loving father and mother in Chicago as a single child.
I would spend my school breaks either driving down south or flying back and forth with a flight attendant by my side. I would spend my summers going to my brother and sister’s softball games, swimming in my parents pool, and living the life of a girl with siblings. Those summer days are so bittersweet now that my brother has passed. Eating popsicles and oatmeal cookies in the backyard playing for hours upon hours with my siblings and cousins without a worry in the world. Spending time with my parents over dinner in the evening. Living the perfect southern life.
My home life in Chicago was great too. I had two parents with great jobs. My father worked out of town and would come home on the weekends and shower me with gifts, take me for ice cream, teach me to drive his car…it felt like Christmas every time he came home. During the week mom worked about 45 minutes away as a controller for a big company. She is super smart and very accomplished. She held down the fort while dad was working away. Because my parents worked so hard to provide a super awesome life, that meant during the week I was alone a lot. I normally would fix my breakfast and get myself to the bus stop in the am (of course when I was older. About 10) and I would catch the bus home, make a tall glass of milk and plate of Oreo cookies, and watch 90210. At the time, I was happy. I was none the wiser on how a split family would effect me as an adult and how it tears me apart given my current situation.
While my parents did EVERYTHING to make my life the best it could be, given a split family, the older I got, the more I would wonder where I actually belonged. My life in each family setting was so drastically different. Eventually my mom and dad in Chicago split and I packed up and moved to MIssissippi for good. I didn’t do sports like my siblings, I dressed like an urban chick in a valley of polo tops and hair bows, and I was now living in a town where cheerleading was EVERYTHING. My high school team won nationals. If you weren’t a cheerleader at that time, you were a nobody. It was during my childhood that I learned to be a chameleon. I learned to conform as a social survival mechanism in order to be accepted. I learned to be a YES girl. To work hard to make others smile. To not rock the boat and always fit in. My mom in Mississippi pulled strings and got me a very “undeserving” spot on the cheerleading team and called her friends around town to set up playdates with their kids so I would have friends before starting high school. I was super appreciative but felt out of my element. This is the time in my life where I began to fly JUST ABOVE the radar to be known but not too high to be fully known. To be loved by others from afar.
It was my unique childhood that made me so independent as I was able to learn individually from each of my parents but it made me sensitive now that I have gone through a divorce myself. It instantly brings tears to my eyes to think that my boys could ever be confused at where they fit. Eventually I may remarry and Ben may remarry. Will they feel like they are in the middle? I struggle with how to prevent this from happening. One way is to never move away from my ex-husband so they can see both of us as much as possible. Another way is to correct them when he says mommy’s house or daddy’s house. I always tell him they are YOUR houses. You belong to both. This is a topic I think about a lot. One that worries the hell out of me constantly.
It can be the most exciting time of your life but can also deteriorate to the most excruciating time. The fact of the matter is, I felt like my marriage was very unbalanced. I never knew how to fix it and ultimately it went down the drain.
Rejection was the biggest theme here. Because I always longed to feel like I fit and really wanted to be truly known, I felt that having a family of my own and being married would give me the best friend and confidant that I lacked as a kid. Sure I had best girl friends who would do ANYTHING for me but to have that relationship with a family member gives a sense of deeper security.
I tried everything. He seemed to associate himself with people who had “things” and placed worth on objects of notoriety. I had it in my head that if I was worth more in his eyes, I would be loved more. What was worth though? More money? More education? More assets? I went back to school for a bigger title. I opened more stores. I purchased a home and name brand cars. The more I did, the more he bragged about me, the better I felt…for a short while. I felt like Stewart on MadTV…”Look what I can do! Look what I can do!” Eventually, I became tired and it all caught up to me.
Maybe I put too much pressure on my marriage, or expected too much. I began to feel like I would not be sacrificed for, and the resentment set in. I was devastatingly let down and the hope of having that “ride or die” person that I could be so openly transparent and raw without judgement died.
I felt like I wasn’t good enough, rejected, disrespected. There was nothing I could do or attain to be “THE ONE” in his eyes…or maybe it was the other way around? There was nothing he could do to MAKE ME FEEL like the one.
In the end, I began to lean on my boys for happiness. Of course I NEVER spoke of the split or anything but I reverted. For example, I had my kiddos soundly sleeping in their bed at night. During this time I would be so lonely that I would propose movie night in mom’s bed where we would watch TV and eat popcorn. I felt like I had friends. I know no matter what, my kids will always love me as that is the way I feel about my parents. Of course, I realize that this is somewhat unhealthy. When my boys get to a certain age, this can be viewed as VERY inappropriate. LOL After a week of movie nights and staying up late with my miniature friends, I realized that I needed to deal with this loneliness on my own. They need the healthy routine that I worked so hard to instill and I need to establish a healthy routine for myself. I began to workout, paint, interior decorate…anything I could do to minimize my emotional dependency on others, especially my kids.
While sometimes I feel that they are all I have, the fact of the matter is, they are NOT MINE. They are God’s. He just gave me the blessing of bringing them in to this world. I learned this the hard way when watching my mom grieve over my brother’s death 5 years ago.
Sure they look like me and have inherited the same gestures and some personality traits, but just in the time that it took me to deliver them into this world, they can be taken away. This whole notion has me being the ultimate helicopter mom. I am constantly terrified that if I take my eyes off of them they will be kidnapped, hit by a car, be in an accident, drown, catch on fire….it is a worry that haunts my head every single day. Even when they go to my parents house, I worry about the worst. Not because I don’t trust my parents, but my boys are my little lights and any freak accident could snuff my little lights out. I know this sounds insane and I am not denying my bit of “crazy” when it comes to my kids. The thought that we are not promised tomorrow has me idolizing their every move. I can’t be the only mom out there like this? Can I?
Definition: excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner or loved one, typically one who requires support.
“Hi Guys…My name is Alex and I am a codependent mother.” Whoa! Pretty crazy huh?
I give myself a pat on the back that I noticed it on my own, I shame myself because this is ultimately trapping my kids and depriving them of a full, unsheltered life if it continues. Don’t worry, I have been making cognitive changes over the past few months and am well on my way to nip this dependency in the butt.
If you relate on any level, especially single moms out there, I have discovered some fixes.
Don’t take things personally.
Honestly, I don’t have a problem with this. Kids will be kids and unintentionally say hurtful things. I do know some moms who have verbalized that their children do hurt their feelings and as a parent, we cannot let this happen. I know, I know…we are all human and it’s easier said than done. Try to understand the cognitive level and development of their little unexperienced brains compared to your brain and don’t let it get to you. They love you…. that unconditional kind.
Stop Associating the Key to Your Happiness with Others
Yea…this one hits home. While I can’t imagine life without my kids, I do know that I was happy once before they were born. Which proves that I can be happy, independently of their emotions or thoughts. Of course they mean the world to me and as a mother, I will celebrate in their joy and feel concern with their sadness, but it doesn’t mean that I need to rely on them for happiness. It’s simply not fair.
Spend Time Alone
This is one of my favorite things to do even though I don’t have much time for it. Whenever I get the chance, I plan an little date with myself cooking, trying a new wine, painting, learning a new hobby or trade. I always come out feeling empowered, more appreciative of myself, and with a sound mind. Spending time alone and being present with yourself is the ultimate food for your soul and self recognition.
Whoa…. according to willingway.com and goodtherapy.com, here is how to tell if you are or were codependent. I found this list after writing this post. Can you see a resemblance in my truth with some of these bullet points? Pretty sure I have successfully diagnosed myself!
“Common symptoms of codependency include: Low Self-Esteem: Codependency may cause feelings of shame and worthlessness. Poor Boundaries: Codependent people often feel responsible for others’ happiness. They can have a hard time saying “no” or putting their own needs first.” – www.goodtherapy.org
How to Tell if you are codependent:
- You tend to love people that you can pity and rescue.
- You feel responsible for the actions of others.
- You do more than your share in the relationship to keep the peace.
- You are afraid of being abandoned or alone.
- You feel responsible for your partner’s happiness.
- You need approval from others to gain your own self-worth.
- You have difficulty adjusting to change.
- You have difficulty making decisions and often doubt yourself.
- You are reluctant to trust others.
- Your moods are controlled by the thoughts and feelings of those around you.
OK…. so there it is. The theme of my emotional life currently. Outside of this major hurdle, everything is going great. I am honestly thankful for the blessings of selling my house, my business and blog growth, the new and exciting projects that have come my way, and the time I get to spend with my boys. I am not writing this post to be seen as a victim, to proclaim that my life has hit a rock bottom, or to cry “whoa is me.” I am simply sharing my truth in hopes that it helps others out there who may be feeling the same.