Michelle has been a single mom for 11 years. She has had relationships, but the kids were always her responsibility & help was often scarce.
I am strong, until I am not
As a single mom, I learnt to stay strong. I learnt that I have to keep my head on straight and focused because these children only have me to rely on most of the time; financially; mentally; physically. I tell myself every single day, every single moment that I am okay, we are okay and we will get through it. Every time I find myself repeating myself, talking to the walls or re-sweeping the same floor for the fifth time, I tell myself, "It's okay, I'm okay, we are okay." This works, for a little while. I have also learnt that every once in a while, I get tired. I get tired of being strong. I get tired of being positive. I get so exhausted mentally that the smallest annoyance will trigger an eruption of tears, of resentment, of horrible negative thoughts and false wishes. Now I am raging. I am crying. I am spewing out the most insane lies. I want to throw things around. I want to run. This one has been a recurring one. I just want to run and never look back. Find some cabin in the woods and go hide for a few years off the grid, just me, nature, and literature. I am so freaking exhausted that in this moment and mindset, I feel like I could give up my kids. Give up my full-time status and just visit them. When I am triggered, I crave freedom.
What is freedom?
Right now, I am reading a book called, "Freedom Seeker", by Beth Kempton and in her book, she helps you find freedom. She explains that freedom is a lot more mental than it is physical. It is the idea that mentally, we can live in a cage and oftentimes can get to a place or mindset where we feel suffocated. This is an area that I am working on because I struggle in finding the freedom I crave so intensely in my current life of being a single mom with a million and one things on my to-do list not counting the extra things that will pop up out of nowhere demanding my attention. I am hoping that as I continue to gain insight and work on my mental state, I will be able to achieve freedom exactly where I am therefore eliminating the intense breakdowns and my need to physically run away. If you find yourself also struggling with this, I suggest you seek out this book. It is an amazing read!
Let's talk about my recent trigger
The other morning, I woke up and felt okay. Not overly tired and somewhat looking forward to the day. Until I asked my eleven-year-old to clean her mud-covered boots before leaving for school. I specifically told her, "Put your boots on and knock them on the ground outside to get the dirt off that way it doesn't make a mess in the apartment." This is happening as we are supposed to be getting ready to go out and wait for the school bus. She has a tendency to take her time and or not do what I ask of her right away so I look where her boots were sitting. She is crouched down with wet toilet paper trying to rub away at the caked-on dried mud. I immediately lose my cool reminding her of my instructions. She gives me that "oh" reaction and goes to throw out the piece of paper. By now, I'm tired of waiting so I grab my coffee and keys and head outside with her nine-year-old sister. I figure that my eldest only needs to put on the boots, her jacket and grab her bag to make it outside with us. A few minutes pass and she still hasn't emerged. I am getting even more annoyed because I know the bus will be here soon. I turn my head to check, as expected, the bus is rolling up, my daughter nowhere in sight. I stress out and run inside while my youngest tells me she will alert the bus driver to wait. I open the door to the apartment and notice that not only are the boots not on her feet but neither is the jacket! I don't ask questions. I inform her that the bus is waiting and to hurry up. I've raised my tone but I am still in control. I know she can hear the stress in my voice. She rushes. She finally gets the job done, and runs out. I wish her a good day and slam the door to the apartment. The muttering starts. I am complaining to myself. I am venting and ranting. I am cursing the kids and their non-existent logic. I make my way to the bathroom to go pee. As I sit down, I notice the trail of dirt on my floor. OH MY GOD! I don't even pee because I am barefoot and I just washed the missing bathroom rug so I need to sweep the dirt now before I step all over it. As I walk to the kitchen for the broom, I notice the trail of dirt making its way to the front door. Now the trigger has expanded into a bigger one and lead me straight into a mental breakdown. I go pee and run to my laptop, attempting to start writing this article, and quickly realize that I should wait as the ideas presenting themselves are horrid. I need to wait until I have a clearer mind. I am silent now holding back much-needed tears and short-answering my best friend's text. If I don't silence myself, I will lose my mind. This is my way of controlling my emotions.
Inside my breakdown
F*cking kids! They can't ever do anything f*cking right! I tell her what to do but noooooo! I am f*cking tired of having to do everything! This is unbelievable. I wish I didn't have kids at all. Why do I have kids, damn I can't even take care of myself! I am so tired of raising them by myself. I am done! I don't want to do this anymore! I am so sick and tired of them. They can go live with their dads and I'll just visit, this is too hard. I need a smoke, oh my God I wish I could smoke right now, who cares if it's been two years since I quit, stupid kids making me want to smoke again, I can't freaking stand them!
My head fills up with the worst thoughts. I am mad and I don't care. As the minutes move forward, I soften up, the anger subsides and now, I'm left with the guilt of even thinking such things. I sit there in silence wanting to do something to distract myself but I can't focus on anything else but the stress I feel. I want to cry so bad but I'm pushing back the tears. I don't want to cry. I'm tired of crying. But I can't help it. The tears fall without even trying. My whole day is out the window now. My girlfriend says she's going to Tim Hortons to get coffee. "Cool, have fun." She knows something's wrong and I can't even hide it. I'm already done with today.
She came over with coffee in hand and let me vent some more. Within 20 minutes, I was laughing and feeling better. She reminded me that I am not alone. She went through it too and I will get through it as she has.
Heal yourself so that you don't abuse the kids
I will dedicate another article to the full story another day but long story short, I put my kids through hell in earlier days. I was disciplining with shouting and violence or ignoring them and pushing them away. When I would get stressed like I did that morning, all those intrusive negative thoughts would be said out loud TO them. I would curse them and blame them for my anger. For my feeling suffocated in my life. For my not having the life I wanted. When I smoked, I consistently blamed them for my smoking habits. They were the cause for everything wrong.
People keep telling me that they're resilient and they will be fine especially that I am turning things around these days but I've seen firsthand what parental mental illnesses and involuntary abuse do to kids. It's nothing good. I am still healing my childhood traumas. Granted my parents never healed their darkness and to this day have never made up for their mistakes but it doesn't stop my guilt from eating me up on certain days. I continue to try to forgive myself and focus on my present actions, I need to so that I can move forward. All I can do now is hope that all the changes I am making with myself make an impact on the women they become in the future.
How I feel in my stress is not the truth
In the past, due to depression, those negative thoughts were there every day. I thought I truly felt what my brain was saying. I hated my kids. I blamed them and resented their existence. I constantly wished I didn't have children. I was so lost in my darkness; in my traumas; in my stress. I even considered giving up my youngest to her father because one kid would be easier than two. This one still hurts a lot.
Now, when the breakdown visits, the emotions get out of control, and the thoughts start a tornado in my head, I know it's temporary. I know I am angry. I am stressed. I am tired. I know that I don't mean them. I know that I love my kids. Being self-aware and able to recognize these emotions has made it easier for me NOT to project my darker moments onto the kids. They're just kids. They rely on me, my guidance, and my lessons to know better. The only way we can teach our kids better is by teaching ourselves better, especially if we were taught by parents who battled their own darkness.
I am also on my period right now which seems to affect my emotions monthly. This breakdown was definitely a side effect.
When you heal yourself, your truths are easier to see and the kids are then spared. I am definitely exhausted as hell, but I know it's not the kids' fault. All I need to do is breathe, take a break and recharge my low energy levels.
© 2021 Michelle Brady
Michelle Brady (author) from Ottawa, ON on April 09, 2021:
Thank you so much hun for this beautiful comment, you totally made me cry haha! Thank you also for the tips :D Yes, you are right, our kids see and know when a parent is changing and healing. Thank you again xoxoxoxo
SevenfromHeaven on April 09, 2021:
Michelle, you are beautiful and so are your girls. They look happy and healthy in the photo. Thanks for sharing what you’re learning, for being honest. It’s the only way! We have to admit there’s a problem in our parenting and we see it because we really do love our kids. You knew there was something wrong with your behaviour, it’s not what you wanted to give them. It is such hard work. But it is the MOST IMPORTANT work. Take pride in your character that you are doing the work. Take pride in the love you have for your girls. Children are so incredibly precious. One thing that helps me too is remembering that family life is JOYFUL. We are so drained by the tasks and the expectations we put on ourselves by thinking of what the world thinks we should be doing to be good moms. When I stopped caring about what other people thought of my parenting and focused on the sweet and simple happiness we feel just being together, or creating JOY between each of my kids and myself, things got exponentially better! I wasn’t just ‘hanging in there’, I was literally happier (not just ‘trying to be positive’ happier. It was genuine and my kids can feel it, it gives them the freedom to feel truly happy too and not tip toe around all the expectations). I needed my kids to know that I enjoy them, I enjoy being around them, I enjoy them being around me. We are their gentle guides through the mundane and the magical parts of life. Congrats on how far you’ve come, you’re doing AMAZING - we think no one sees when we do a good job of being calm or kind. But our kids do!!