I wrote this post at the start of the week after an emotionally taxing weekend. I wasn’t showing myself much grace; I wasn’t giving myself space to just breathe.
I’m on the upswing now with a lot of support and love from my village.
I sat on this post, changing the post schedule repeatedly. It was too raw; it was just too much. I felt ashamed about my meltdown. I felt embarrassed about whining about how hard this journey is…a journey I chose. As I begin to feel better, I realized that I needed to just go ahead and put it out there, hoping that giving it air and light would validate the raw feelings of other folks who are struggling.
So…here it is. I hope my transparency makes someone who also feels these feelings know they aren’t alone.
As a parent, I would like to think that my good characteristics outweigh the bad. I hope so. I hope that one day, when I’m really and truly called to account for my many, many flaws, that the good stuff will get me through the pearly gates.
I have a terrible temper, seriously it’s awful. It makes me shake it’s so awful. I sometimes have a hard time controlling it. My preferred weapon is words. I will grind you right down; my anger makes me want to make you small with words.
I have the capacity to be really, really mean. I know this; I’m not proud of it, but I know this.
I’m passive aggressive, though through the years I’m managed to abandon a lot of those behaviors, but please know that they are still there.
I’m selfish, incredibly selfish. I like what I like and I don’t want to compromise or give it up or whatever. I often think about what I had to give up to be a parent, and I feel some kind of way about all of it.
My natural state is to be super blunt without care for feelings. I am a good Southern woman, though, appropriately brought up to mind my tongue most of the time. I try to mind my manners and demonstrate tactfulness, so the bluntness often appears dulled.
I am very comfortable with conflict. I don’t necessarily like it, but I am very comfortable with it and sometimes will trigger it just so I can use my word weapons and “win.” Why? Because winning makes me feel better about myself and sometimes I really just want to feel better about myself and sadly, winning a conflict, no matter how ridiculous, is the quickest way to achieve that.
At 44 as much as I try to continue to evolve, especially as I parent, I know that my personality is locked in. I am who I am. My dissertation was all about resistance to change; yeah, I am. I’m totally resistant to change. I hate change. I hate thinking about it. I hate the need to be flexible even though I promote it and have to practice it for everyone’s well-being. I don’t want to.
I liked the old me and I’m not so sure that I like the parenting me. Actually, I’m sure I don’t, which just makes me feel awful. I love my daughter, but I’m not a huge fan of this parenting thing.
As I think about these flaws, I wonder what the hell made me want to be a parent. Seriously, talk about the most-long term triggering activity one could sign up for. I mean…seriously, parenting…while it brings out the best in me; it also brings out the absolute worst in me. I spend countless hours biting my cheeks trying to hold my own dragons in check.
Hope knows that biting my cheek is my anger/anxiety tell. She learned that early on. She also knows I have a wicked temper. She’s been subjected to the brunt of it a couple of times. She knows that I have the capacity to destroy her. It’s the truth, and it’s a truth that shames me. emotionally.
Our mutual knowledge of this fact terrifies me. I try so hard to build her up knowing that a horrible bout of anger and frustration could bring it all crumbling down. Knowing that kills me; the guilt…is…crushing.
Daily, especially bad days like one I had recently, I wonder if I was the best home for Hope. I think she could have done better. I wonder was this route right for me? Could I have led a child-free, but happy and fulfilled life? There are days when I wonder if I’m just making things worse for her, in spite of the permanence she desperately needed—is this really what was best for her?. I wonder a lot of things.
It’s taken me years and a lot of therapy to face my own deep seated flaws and I had a “conventional, normal” upbringing. Will the glare of adoption ever dull and allow me to just be a regular old parent? My flaws, while still bad, don’t seem so drastically horrid, under the softer lighting of parenting with no adjectives.
I’m struggling with my own identity as me and not ABM or Hope’s mom. I’ve been so consumed with trying desperately for Hope to be successful that my own personal goals and successes have fallen by the wayside. I’ve had two major work publications come out in the last two months. I barely acknowledged them even though they are the culmination of years of work. I have withdrawn from friends because I’m “busy” making sure geometry homework is done, chemistry quizzes are taken and A Brave New World gets read. I spend an absurd amount of time monitoring the general comings and goings of online behavior because…distractions are bad and ADHD teen life is stupid.
I’m going through the motions just trying to keep my own dragons at bay while I tend to Hope’s dragons.
I’m tired, so very tired, and I suspect falling back into my old chilly friend, depression. I’m sure that my self-care game is weak right now, which allows the time and space for my flaws to step to the forefront.
Hope and I remain hopeful, but right now it doesn’t feel like hope bears out. She insists that the world is against her and finds the tiniest evidence that fits her world view and magnifies it into a universal conspiracy against her. I keep hoping that overnight her limitations will disappear leaving me with expectations that are routinely unmet making me frustrated, angry and disappointed in me, her and the world in general.
We are doing everything we are supposed to be doing. I am marshaling every external resource I can. On the outside, we are doing it, but behind these doors, we struggle. We struggle day in and day out. We struggle with our individual flaws, our individual limitations, our shared problems, and ranges of emotions that are just…overwhelming and exhausting. Some days, we struggle just to stay alive. And it’s rarely seen under the carefully worded and curated social media posts. It’s rarely shared because the glare of judgment is likely to just sear a hole through me.
And I’m afraid. As much as my own self-criticism and loathing bring me down and the fear of external judgment paralyzes me; I’m most afraid of Hope’s view of me. I am terrified of what she must think of me. I know she loves me, and I’m sure there’s a healthy amount of “I hate you!” because she’s a teen girl, but critically, I fear her perception of me as her adoptive mother.
I’m afraid as I listen to adoptees talk about what works and what doesn’t that Hope will one day tell the world about all of my shortcomings as her mother. Will Hope be hypercritical of me? Will she spend these latter years of adolescence thinking that I was a failure as her mother? Will she be on social media talking about me badly? Will she write lists enumerating all the things I should’ve, would’ve, could’ve done despite what feels like the sacrifice of the very core of my being and the need and desire to suppress everything I ever thought or thought I knew about parenting to parent her the best I could?
I’m mindful of the pain I caused my own mother as I often wrote about her in the beginning of this journey and my disappointment and anger towards her for how she “treated me” in the early months of my journey with Hope. It wasn’t pretty, and it should’ve been private, but it wasn’t. Will Hope look back on these years with righteous anger about all I did wrong when I was trying desperately to hold on and do right by her? How will she see me? How will she see us? I already know that I live in the shadows and shoes of those who came before me and that there are romantic notions that I will never be who they were or could have been. I acknowledge that but I do wonder, five, ten years from now, will Hope know how hard I tried to give her the love and life that she deserved?
Parenting is so very hard and it magnifies all of your flaws. Parenting a kid from a hard place with a ton of her own baggage…it’s another level of crazy.
Ultimately, my confession is that I have no idea what the hell I’m doing and I’m desperate not to screw up. I feel like every personal flaw is on front street and out of control right now. I feel like I can’t get anything right and that I can’t motivate, coax, drag, pull, prod, cheer, nudge or pray Hope into the success she deserves. I’m back to wanting more for her than she wants for herself, and worse, I love her so much that I now own that failure, and I know somewhere, somehow that she and others probably think I own that self-hate too.
It’s just too much.
May 26th, 2017 at 10:57 am
“I think she could have done better.” I don’t think so having followed your journey, I think you’re the right mom for Hope at a time when she needed it most.
May 26th, 2017 at 11:18 am
Thank you. Sometimes I need to hear that. ❤
May 26th, 2017 at 11:50 am
There is no way she could have done better. You are the PERFECT mom for her and one of the ways it is obvious is that you live by example in really looking critically at yourself, your mental health, your strengths and weaknesses. You have more self awareness than nearly anyone I’ve encountered and that will be a wonderful strength for Hope to develop in time!!
May 26th, 2017 at 1:42 pm
welcome to parenthood…. I think all mothers feel this way – that we are not good enough and just cant be and that is a hard thing to bear when it concerns someone you love….
and that feeling gets magnified a thousand times when its an adopted child (at least from my experience) – you walk into their lives where they have a past without you and you have to navigate that walk without knowing where the false steps are… its so hard!
our first adoption completely broke me…. I have healed some but I will never ever be the same person…. my anger/temper/sadness is much closer to the surface now and I struggle
you are human and that’s perfectly ok…. you don’t have to be perfect…. Im pretty sure Hope doesn’t even want a perfect mom – this is new water for both of you, but when you reach the other side and are both a little older and wiser, you can look back at this time and know that you got through it…. and hope will know that you loved her…. I wonder if she wonders the same things as you about being a “not enough” daughter like you worry about being a “not enough” mother
I personally think you are a perfect fit for hope and you are giving her a place and a future… as an adoptive mom, I think you are doing a great job… and we all worry about not getting this motherhood thing right…. Im glad you are on the upswing now and I hope you are kind to yourself…. thank you so much for sharing, its nice to know that Im not alone in my own feelings
May 26th, 2017 at 1:44 pm
May 26th, 2017 at 1:59 pm
This is such a raw and vulnerable post, and I’m glad you’re feeling better now and getting support from the village. I would suggest prioritizing self-care at this point. Are you seeing your own therapist regularly? If not, maybe start again? And load up on whatever other self-care works for you (Yappy time, gym time, cake, private Netflix time?).
You are so very loved. We all do our best. ❤
May 27th, 2017 at 3:39 pm
I see you, ABM. I see you and accept who you are. You are good enough. Your love is good enough.
All parents fail. In one way or another. And the more you love someone, the more it hurts when you fail to be everything in every perfect way to this oh so special person.
You are human. Hope is human. And as the saying goes “to err is human.” So yes, I’m sure it’s true that you’ve made mistakes, that sometimes your anger has gotten the better of you.
But I’m also sure that you’ve apologized when you’ve wronged Hope, that you’ve been working to find strategies to better handle your temper. And I’m sure that Hope sees you are human and imperfect but the perfect mom for her.
May 27th, 2017 at 7:57 pm
This is interesting. Look back at this and replace “adoptive mother” with “mother of a newborn baby.” Babies are hard. Moms struggle with “what did I do?! Why did I do this??!” They lose sleep and lose patience. They lose hope, too. They all doubt if they are doing the “right” thing for their child. My mom tells me this all-consuming “is this correct? Am I ruining everything for this child?!” Never ends. When you stated “I chose this” I think about when adoptive parents are told this very thing when they struggle. But would you say that to a mother who gave birth to a child with autism? Colic? Down syndrome? No. Love is love. We all do our best. Having a family and at lest one person to depend on? Infinitely better than managing this world alone. Love is always the best choice. Love wins. You have already won. You are NOT alone.
May 27th, 2017 at 9:35 pm
I agree the struggle and self doubt are real. I can so completely relate to so much of what you are saying. I glad you are starting to come out, you are beyond a doubt good enough. Yes I feel this way and assume many other parents due but you know what in the end you did the best you could and when you acknowledge later in life the “faults” Hope might point out she will gain more respect for you and learn that you too are human. Hold tight you totally got this really hard job of parenting.
May 28th, 2017 at 2:07 am
Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with all of us who read your blog!
Sometimes, these posts that we hesitate to publish because of that terrifying vulnerability, are teh most helpful for others because then we can see that we’re TRULY not alone when it feels like we are most of the time. And it’s always good to get these feelings of self-doubt and frustration out in the written form so that such thoughts quite cycloning through our minds.
The other night, I was drifting off to sleep, and remembered something I’d said when I Iost my temper. I sat up for another hour or so, just hating myself for losing my crap and letting words that I can never take back escape my lips.
Ugh. I hate those nights.
May 29th, 2017 at 9:02 pm
one thing I love about your blog is your willingness to share about how hard it can be. I have no doubt that Hope is right where she should be. Sometimes during the hard times I used to think of my wife and daughters and I as fellow travellers who ended up on the same life raft. It wasn’t that we had to get her through it – somehow we all had to get through it together.
you’re a great mom, and it doesn’t matter that you make some mistakes – even some really big mistakes. All moms do – adoptive or biological. But you love that girl and you have her back no matter what, and trust me she knows that.
May 29th, 2017 at 9:26 pm