There have been many moments in the past few years when I’ve stuffed down my feelings about my divorce and all the life changes we’ve gone through as a family. I’ve cried in the closet or the shower. I’ve waited until my kids were with their father to break down, lie on the sofa, and do nothing but stare out the window. I’ve gone to bed at 6 p.m., because after acting fake-happy and shiny all day for my kids, the thought of functioning suddenly felt too heavy — and I just wanted the day to be over.
Yet, I’ve realized something. I think a lot of my dark times have been intensified because I’ve tried so hard to paint a joyful picture in order to protect my kids.
I have not just done this since my divorce, either. I’m guilty of doing it their entire lives. No one wants their children to be scared, hurt, or upset. It’s the nature of the “mama bear” instinct.
The truth is, however, these challenges are a part of life. We know it, and soon, we come to terms with it.
I know there are parents out there who try to pick up the slack and be “on,” when in reality, they aren’t. I know there are parents who try to “pull it together” all the time and wear a mask for their kids when they are struggling.
I know this because I talk with fellow moms all the time about it, but mostly because I am a mom who has done this for a very long time, too.
When our children see us having a bad day — breaking down and crying because we feel like we just can’t get through anything without feeling irritated — it hurts us, too. We somehow feel like we are failing them. Yes, they are able to show us what life is really about and get us out of a funk some of the time, but that doesn’t take away the guilt we feel when we can’t hold it together.
These past few months, I’ve had to accept that my kids are going to see me feeling sad and irritated. They are getting older, and they are going to see me struggle.
I can’t help but think that I’ve tried too hard all these years to put a positive spin on everything. I just can’t do it any longer. I am too tired.
Life is hard. It can downright suck some days (for weeks). I want my kids to know their mother is a human being who is mourning the loss of her marriage. It is going to leak out of me, whether I try to hide it from them or not, and that is okay.
It has taken me a while to realize there is a difference between “dumping” on my kids and simply crying in front of them. It’s okay to let them know I feel a little lost and am going through a hard time, because the truth is, we all face hard stuff — divorce, losing a loved one, stress at work, arguments with friends and family — the list goes on.
In the end, we are all trying to do our very best. We aren’t doing our kids (or ourselves) any favors if we try to put on a mask for them. I believe it’s one of the many ways we can teach them to show compassion for others.
Since I’ve let go and been my true self, I can honestly say I feel lighter; like somehow a weight has been lifted and I’ve realized my kids are not traumatized because their mother is crying.
Kids are resilient. They can handle it, and it doesn’t take anything away from your parenting skills if you don’t put a positive spin on things all the time to protect your children.