Updated: Nov 12, 2019
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In this age of public apologies, I want to extend an apology to all of the family members that I have neglected over the past eleven years, since becoming a mother. I made my children the primary focus of my life. In doing so, the rest of my family was neglected. In some ways, this neglect was unknowing. In other ways it was quietly observed by me, as if I were watching it happen from above, with no power to stop it. Caught in a fog of motherhood, I could only fully see what was right in front of me.
As a Midwife, with exposure to the private lives of hundreds of families, I knew this was a common thread that we all shared. I can recall many stories over the years, from my clients, that their family dynamics shifted. Mom and Dad became Grandma and Grandpa. Sisters and brothers became aunts and uncles. Family members often asked how the kids were doing in school and if they were well and happy. I began to notice that my travels and accomplishments didn’t spark the same level of interest from my family anymore.
I noted this change with only fleeting disappointments. Since I knew it was common among families, I accepted this difference in our relating, even though it was sad to me. Admittedly, I also cared more about how my children were doing than the rest of my family. I felt the huge responsibility of parenting, knowing it was up to me and their father to provide for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I still cared deeply for my other relatives however, my children were my world and my life revolved around them.
I would like to share the unraveling list of reasons that I feel my relationships with family members took a different turn.
I stopped traveling long distances to visit family, when my kids were young. Thirty minutes to an hour and a half in the car was torturous for my babies and toddlers. They didn’t coo and sleep peacefully in their car seats like the mystical babies of unicorn families that I had heard legends of. Even a ten-minute drive to the museum in my home town, was an exhausting journey, filled with tears. I was not one of those mothers who could willingly take long drives, knowing my baby would be miserable. I imagined what it must be like for them in the backseat, facing backwards, unable to see me and not knowing why I wasn’t coming to comfort them.
As they got older and better able to handle drives in the car, we had an active social life. Weekends were filled with kid parties, outdoor music concerts, and festivals. The thought of
driving almost two hours to attend a family birthday dinner at a restaurant, seemed daunting. It meant a late night getting home, which would delay bedtime. The kids would be expected to sit still for long car rides, as well as throughout dinner. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to have the chance for much adult conversation or socializing with my family due to the kids having questions, needing to go to the bathroom, or whining due to hunger or boredom.
I was elated when family members wanted to make the drive to visit us. I knew our community well, which included knowing the kid-friendly places to eat where kids could roam and wiggle, as they were designed to do. I could plan these visits around nap times. We would be close to home if a sweater or favorite stuffed animal was forgotten. I had plenty of reasons why we should travel less and stay close to home, more.
I recently learned that some of my family members thought I didn’t want to spend time with them. This news came with a pounding in my chest. They said they don’t feel like they know me. They have been hurt by this, for many years. While all along, I was under the impression that they preferred time alone with my daughter. The misunderstanding would be funny, if it didn't carry such a huge weight and wasn't so sad. I would have loved time away from the kids to gather with adults who have known me for most, or all of my life. Time to share with each other without interruptions, to process my new life as a working mother, and to compare parenting stories would have been a welcomed luxury.
We all know that phrase, “they grow up so fast!” Well, it’s so very true. My girls are now pre-teens and our relationship has grown and evolved over the years. I am no longer the center of their world, as they now have deep friendships with their peers and interests that I can’t always relate to. As they crave less of my direct attention, I continuously seek to discover new ways to connect with them. I want to always show that I am here, when they need me.
My desires for deeper connections with my family have spurred on more direct communication, as I share my wants, my upsets, and what I am thankful for. I value and desire honesty, openness, and vulnerability from all of my relationships. I know this isn’t easy for everyone. It’s not always easy for me either. However, it is the only way that I know how to live an authentic life. Thus, I will continue to share my thoughts and feelings, and request the same from those that I love. I would always rather hear unpleasant feedback, from the people I care about the most, than to receive a fake “everything is fine”.
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden