Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mothering with a Mood Disorder

I read a blog post yesterday that brought up a lot of emotion for me.  So I thought I should explore it.

Please read this blog post first.

I love Rachel's blog.  I relate to her on a lot of levels.  And I think she is a really great mom to her kids.  I wish I had her patience and was as solid emotionally as she seems to be.  I will not say anything bad about Rachel, because there isn't anything bad to say.  She seems like a great lady and I love her products at LuSa Organics.

The mother she talked about in her blog could have been me.  I have days like that.  I had days when Son was very small and I had no patience left in me.  A grandmotherly woman made mention of it to me once.  She meant well and it did make me think. 

Hell, I have days now when Son is older and I have no patience left - especially at bed time.  But I tell him I'm cranky and that it has nothing to do with him and that he needs to tone it down a notch to help keep me from becoming any more cranky.  And he adjusts.  And he hugs me and makes me smile.  And when I'm grumpy, I apologize.  I've told him that sometimes I'm sad for no reason and I take pills for it.  And when he shows signs of anxiety I explain it to him and tell him it should pass and that things will be better by morning.  I have a physical/psychological problem, and he needs to know about it so that he can deal with it.  We don't make a big deal of it, and most days it doesn't affect us at all.  But when it rears it's ugly head it does affect US - everyone in our household.  Not just me.  And my child needs to know about it so he can understand it.

I know that I am not going to create the perfect childhood for my son.  But I'm hoping that it is good enough.  I'm hoping that in controlling my mood disorder, in taking care of myself, that I'm creating a better mother for him.  But I'm not going to be perfect.  And I might snap at my kid and seem like I'm holding him back at times.  To a stranger in a store on the wrong day at the wrong moment, I'm a bad mother.  I am that mother that sometimes keeps her sparkly kid contained because I need to. 

But I'm also the mother who nursed him until he was 3.  At 8, I still cuddle him to sleep most nights (although many feel this is coddling and that he should be going to sleep alone).  I am the mother who sat in the Principal's office in Grade 1 demanding that the bullying be dealt with when the teacher wouldn't do anything.  I'm the mother who happily laid aside my career so that I could be a decent mother (something I knew would be impossible for me if I was working full-time).  I'm the mother who encourages him to feel what he's feeling and to let it out ... even though I'm told he's a mama's boy and cries too much.  And I'm the mother who chose to have one child because I knew that if I had more, I couldn't be a decent mother at all. (I've heard the comment that it's child abuse to only have one child [and, believe me, almost everyone else in our family wanted me to have more than one] - well, they aren't in my shoes).

Here's the thing - we all have strengths, we all have weaknesses.  Each one of us needs to live the life WE NEED TO LIVE.  We have families and we need to create a family life that suits our family.  We have to work around our abilities, our flaws, our strengths and our weaknesses.  We can't all be perfect every moment of every day.  And we can't all have the same family life - nor would we want to.  We just have to do our best given our circumstances.

That mother might have been me.  She might also be a horrible woman who is hard on her child every moment of every day.  She might be beating the sparkle out of her daughter.  But I doubt it.  If she was, there would be no sparkle left - certainly not one that a stranger would see at a store.  That mother obviously has her challenges (as all parents do).  And her daughter will have challenges, undoubtedly, too (as all children do).  But there IS a sparkle in her - and that makes me think that her mother allows it to come through sometimes.  Maybe not all the time, certainly not at that store on that day, but she hasn't extinguished it yet.

I pray that I don't kill the sparkle in my son.  I love him more than anyone could imagine and I worry that my illness will hurt him in some ways (actually, it's probably inevitable that it will hurt him in some ways).  But I also have hope that I will be able to help him understand his emotions better, help make a more understanding adult of him, and allow him to be more accepting of all different types of people.  Everyone has their own challenges in life.  And our parents help eliminate a lot of them ... and help create others.  We all just do the best we can.

I love the first stanza of this poem because I see the truth in it - in the lives of everyone I know.  I'm leaving out the last (3rd) verse because I really don't like it - look it up if you are curious.

This Be the Verse
By Philip Larkin (1922–1985)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.


  1. Hi Sandi, Thank you for your words and your thoughts. I grew up in with a mother who was clinically depressed for all of my childhood. She didn't know it, but ultimately found medications that help her immensely. But my childhood was one of "walking on eggs" as she puts it. In truth? She is still one of my favorite people. She wasn't perfect. None of us are. She lost her cool more than she cares to remember but for me, I don't fault her for it. I've made some different choices because of her path. Her illness in many ways became my gift. I have a point of contrast from which I navigate, and she does too. She's does her best with my children and I think she's amazing. I bet your child will think the same of you. Peace, Rachel

  2. Rachel - the great thing about your post is that it got lots of people thinking and being more conscious - and talking. Thanks for your words. I know my son will be just fine (mostly). He is loved, there is no doubting that. Sandi

  3. Sandi - I came across your post via the comments on Rachel's blog, and I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing. I feel like you wrote down everything that I think but have been too terrified to admit to anyone. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for your honesty; I admire you so much. Personally, I am working hard to teach myself to really accept my imperfections and weakness, and not be so hard on myself. It seems as though you are where I would like to get to: having a healthy acceptance of and perspective on the fact that life and relationships are imperfect. It is really encouraging to me to see you modelling this and being so open. Thank you, truly.

  4. Val - I try to be honest. I don't think we do anyone any service at all if we aren't honest. It's not always pretty or what I would necessarily want people to know about me, but I want people to understand that they don't need to hide who they are and they aren't the only ones dealing with anything. You are not alone. Thanks for your feedback. Comments like yours keep me going and feeling like I might be making a small difference out there.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.