I’m a mother of a toddler and I’m going through some version of a midlife crisis, but it isn’t your run-of-the-mill midlife crisis. No torrid affairs happening here. No impulse purchases of a hot convertible or other expensive, youthful treasures. It’s just a crisis that’s happening in the middle of my life.
Crisis is never comfortable or well-timed for anybody, but I still would like to register that I feel too old for this. My therapist would say “Try to be gentle with yourself,” to which my internal response is “Um, what?”
I’m happily married, have a fantastic daughter, live in beautiful Vermont and have a good job.
So what happened? My daughter happened.
Pre-parenthood, I rolled my eyes at all the annoying claims made by the parent population. Statements like “being a parent changes you,” or “it puts things into perspective,” yada, yada. The righteous sentiment drove me crazy.
But here I go. Everything they said was true. As a parent, it became my truth. I love, love, love being a mom.
However, there’s a bit more. I am:
- An adult child of an alcoholic (father).
- An adult child of a compulsive overeater (mother).
- A survivor of sexual abuse (teacher).
- A survivor of a violent childhood.
The residual impact of my childhood experiences sort of crept up when I was struck by our baby’s reliance on us for absolutely everything. All she could do for her own survival was breathe, and the rest was up to us. I began to think about how I had been reliant on adults and how sometimes I was hurt by those adults. That’s when the flashbacks intensified and the questioning began, which is something the parent population never talked about.
Into therapy I went.
I’ve been in therapy for over a year now. Draining? Yes. Progress made? Yes. Slow, steady, painful progress, which is why I’m able to write this blog. I know I’m not the only parent who has had these experiences as a child. I’m in the thick of discovering how my childhood impacts my relationship with my daughter.
I’m wary of every stranger. Nervous about friendly neighbors, teachers, etc. Uncertain how to instill trust when my ability to trust is tenuous. And the worst, the worst is having flashbacks when I’m with my daughter. It feels like stolen time, so I’m writing this blog to reclaim it.
The other reason I’m writing this blog is that I read parenting blogs on occasion and I’ll admit they make me feel terribly inadequate. (Yes, I gravitate to the blogs that make me feel inadequate the same way I read about famous people in Us and People even though they make me feel insignificant, but that’s for another blog.) Are these women really so put together? Compared to their fun family excursions, nifty crafting, and 30-minute recipes that yield Top Chef caliber meals, I feel like Loser Mom.
Meanwhile, I’m looking for a parent who will say “I raised my voice at my kid today and I’m wondering if this is a downhill spiral to becoming my abusive father,” or “my toddler triggers me every day,” or “I really want to run a background check on everyone in the state who is not in jail.”
I realize that every parent, trauma survivor or not, has had these thoughts. For me, however, they are all-consuming. There is not a minute of the day that I don’t have some foggy trauma memory that triggers fears that are unrelenting, anxiety-provoking and crazy-making.
I’m convinced I’m not alone. If I were alone, there would be a lot of unemployed therapists. So, here I sit, typing, selfishly attempting to connect with other parents who can relate. Are you out there?
My intention is to relate my personal work in therapy to my parenting. No recipes will be posted.
I don’t plan to use the real names of individuals, except for mine. Key people and animals have nicknames. Before I sign off, I’ve provided a legend below.