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The Wake Up Call, The Kick in the Ass, and The Silver Lining

I never thought it would happen to me, but there it was. I had known about it for six months, but assumed I could right the sails and keep the boat afloat.  I got caught up in what many families are facing:  The end to a well-paying, long-term job.  During those six months, like a cornered animal, I got a tad cranky.  I felt threatened.  After 18 years of working in my bunny slippers, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in hand, I had a wake up call. One I didn’t want to answer.

I was about to be thrown out of my comfort zone and into the world of *gulp* job hunting.

Which wasn’t easy. Especially in this small town where professional jobs are at a minimum and the lines are long for the rest of the jobs that open up. Small towns are awesome.  Small towns create a sense of belonging. I love knowing everyone at the bank or the grocery store. I love the fact that one of our busiest streets really isn’t so busy after all.

But none of that matters when the well runs dry, when I’m faced with decisions, when I feel like a failure.  A new plan was needed fast.  The more I thought about it, the more I looked at the circumstances, the choice was clear.  I needed to look outside of this town.

If I were to be honest, I’d been feeling as if my wheels were spinning and that I forgot who I was – still.  I’d been talking about a finding new direction for awhile, but since I was swimming in my comfort zone, I had no reason to get out of the pool.  Well, guess what.  Losing my job was the kick in the ass that I needed to move forward.

What I hadn’t counted on, though, was that I would be going at this alone. The boys and I had been a tight unit and I assumed we’d move together. But ‘twas not to be.  They wanted to stay with their father in Idaho for their own reasons. Reasons I understood, but still I felt I failed on many levels. Was I that bad of a mother that they didn’t want to be with me? Shouldn’t I sacrifice a few more years and stay here just in case they needed me? How much would this hurt them in the long run?

Infused with guilt, I spoke with my uncle who reminded me that, in the face of knowing we would miss each other, would miss the routine we’ve developed over the years, both boys made a very deliberate decision.  Sure, they could have taken the easy way out and followed me, looking to me to handle things, but I’ve taught them to be free thinkers and to make choices based on what they felt was best for them.  It had always been my intention to pass at least one morsal of something to them, and here I had my proof.

Feeling somewhat better, I chose to practice what I preach:  Do something that is best for me.  After putting my needs on hold for 25 years, now is my chance to follow opportunities that will further my choice of career. Opportunities I cannot find here in North Idaho.

I want to show my boys a side of me they haven’t yet seen before – the woman who waited patiently behind the mother.  I want my sons to see me as a healthy and successful person, not the overbearing, overprotective mama bear who pushed them to realize heights I knew they were capable of, all while I was feeling frustrated because I wasn’t reaching my own potential.  I want to be the best person I can be, to show them that my happiness is as important as theirs. My reasons for doing this, as painful as the process might be, will serve them as well as me.

And the timing is right.  My job had allowed me to work from home for the last 18 years and over those almost two decades I’ve seen my oldest through to graduation and my youngest get through middle school.  I’ve taught them as many life lessons as I have experienced myself, taught them social graces, and how to be kind to others.  Now the rest is up to them.

Yes, I’ll definitely miss the little things, the daily routine, the chance to hug them when they’re feeling sad or happy, but through Skype, texting, phone calls, and Facebook, I’ll still be able to nag – I mean, guide – them through the trials and successes and celebrations big and small. The moments we share will be sweeter, the visits will be anticipated events.

The silver lining to all of this is that I will have the opportunity to discover who I am and what I need to feel whole, because when we become mothers and wives, so many of us lose sight of ourselves.  It’s a continuous process, one I started two years ago. I have a very specific plan A, with no plan B, so there won’t be any falling back.  Only forward movement. By expanding my horizons outside of this town, I will be able to bring more of the world to the boys.  It’s the put-on-the-oxygen-mask-first-before-putting-it-on-the-children mentality.

My uncle also told me, “Go ahead and feel guilty if you must, but it would be a mistake not to try.”

So try, I will.

This song, The Reason, by Hoobastank, is for you, boys. You are my reason.  I love you.

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Girl Power – Totally Real, Totally Raw

“Mom…That’s not right.”

“What’s not right, honey?”  I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was referring to.  I was focused instead on getting us across the busy street in one piece.

“That.”

I backed us both up and followed his gaze in the direction of his pointed finger…all the way to my stomach.

To the approximately one and a half inches of exposed skin.

“I don’t get it.” I asked.  “What’s wrong with that?”

“I dunno.”  He wouldn’t meet my eyes when he said, “Mothers just don’t do that.”

Is this what he had in mind?

Hmm…Okaaaay.   So show me whatever book that is written in so I can refresh myself with the rules of being a mother.  Obviously I had forgotten them.

“Who said mothers don’t do that?” was my reply.

“Well, Jeffrey’s mom doesn’t do that.”

That stung a bit and I got a tad defensive.  “Yeah?  Well, here’s a newsflash for you, kiddo.   I’m not Jeffrey’s mother and I am not like other moms.”

In the silence that followed, I thought about this and quietly rephrased it.  Most moms are not like most moms.

It’s hard to live up to the standards and expectations that society has so cruelly branded into our foreheads, and when we deviate, either privately or publicly, we usually end up with an elephant-sized guilt trip riding on our shoulders.  We worry what others might think.  We wonder if we’re going to be the topic over the next morning’s coffee.  Will so-and-so’s mother let our little Johnny play with her son anymore?  In a little town like the one I live in, word of deviant behavior travels like wildfire.  We might as well be walking around with some big scarlet letter silk-screened on our shirts.

I understand that not every woman has an alter ego kicking and screaming to be heard, and that’s okay.  As long as she is happy.  Happy is good.

But speaking for myself, I love a great trashy novel, love slamming down shots of tequila, and have been known to drop the F-bomb on a few occasions – but only when no other word in the English language would suffice.  Okay, on more than a few occasions.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that I’d be willing to bet there’s a little bit of wildness to some degree in all of us women, mother or not.

In an earlier blog I spoke about trying to be someone I wasn’t – the perfect example of the wife and mother – and it killed me.   So I loosened up a little and stopped trying to be so perfect.  I mean, how bad can it really be when even the Queen Mother will toss back a beer?

queen mother

I can’t be wrong on this because there are a minimum of 4000+ women who have embraced their wild and aggressive side and made it more than okay to be that way.  A close friend of mine has created a Facebook page for women, mostly mothers, to vent their frustrations and generally blast apart whatever is annoying them at the moment.  It’s not a place for the easily offended, because it gets totally real, totally raw.  The page is called Give Me A Valium With My Latte.  Reading the threads usually has me laughing out loud and/or shaking my head in amazement.  These women say what I can only think, and I consider myself a fairly outspoken person.  Here is where it all hangs out.

Facebook harbors a community of like-minded women who feed off of each other’s boldness and use it to fuel the smoldering fire within them.  Other fabulous mommy pages on Facebook are The Brazen Apron, Maybe It’s NOT Me, Maybe It Is You, Epic Mommy Fails, and Reality With A Twist Of Lime.

Keep this in mind – Just because we allow ourselves to dance the line between the expected and the unexpected, doesn’t mean we don’t love our families or fail to put them at the top of the priority list.  It’s just that we agree to share that space with them.  As it should be.

So how about you (men included)?  Do you tend to play down certain characteristics out of fear of disapproval?  Is cutting loose ever an option for you?  Do you allow yourself to be truly you?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear from you!