You know that expression people use to describe a person who has many different roles to play, “She wears many hats.” It’s annoying to me because it gives the impression that there is actually an option for any of us NOT to play many roles in life yet I can’t think of a better metaphor for describing the crazy concept (and believe me I have tried). I like saying," I have a lot on my plate." That one sounds more like I'm noshing on some aweomse grub instead of drowining in responsibility.
Being a human being means that we will have contact with other human beings PERIOD. Even the most withdrawn and anti-social people have connections. Being human is hard work, and we choose most of our roles whether we realize it or not. I CHOSE to have children, but like anyone else who becomes a parent I had no idea how fantastically unprepared I was for the role. Let me tell you something else, the mom hat is an ill-fitting, frequently uncomfortable accessory. Of course eating too much is also uncomfortable, but the metaphoric portion control is easier when you are NOT at the all you HAVE to eat buffet of life.
I did NOT choose to be a daughter, yet THIS role was supposed to be an easy one, right? Until recently, the daughter hat has always been the most beautiful, comfortable and perfect fitting hat. I thought that it was a timeless piece that would always be in fashion, but just as I was unprepared for parenthood, I was grossly unprepared for the day when I would not have a parent to look out for me and make me feel safe.
As parents we have an unspoken understanding of each other’s struggles and challenges. We attempt to surround ourselves with people who support us in the journey and understand the complexity of the role. It is a journey that only ends with our death (or God forbid in some cases the death of a child). The role of a child seems that is so simple right?
Wrong, because whether our parents are dead or alive, we will always be somebody’s child, and this role comes with more hats than there are heads on a hydra. People are living longer than ever before. These long lives are part blessing and part curse. The curse is what forges even stronger connections between us as humans, while adding roles to our lives that come with hats that are more like crowns of thorns.
Some people get to watch their parents live healthy, active and independent lives while getting to extend their childhood a bit, just knowing that they are in some way still being watched over and cared for. Others have the displeasure of watching debilitating and painful illness turn them into heartbroken and exhausted caregivers and/or adult orphans. I never imagined being in charge of my own mother, guiding her and keeping her safe. It is the most special and lonely, precious and painful experience of my life.
As always, I have a suggestion that can help with the hat problem. GET CONNECTED and to use another hat metaphor, “pass the hat.” Be generous with your support to your fellow hat wearers. I see time, treasure and talent represented by things like shared experience, advice, and support (in any form, from money and meals to hugs and or a shoulder to cry on).
That’s why I love what Moms Who Drink and Swear has become for many, and I am so proud to wear this particular hat lately. I don't feel guilty for complaining. I don't want to be the repressed, short tempered, martyr who has a complete breakdown because I can't ask for help. I used to ask my mom for everything, not realizing that her plate was full of hats. I used to wonder why she would sit there at the kitchen table drinking wine with a friend, laughing, or meet friends for cards or dinner. Why was she leaving me? Now I understand. Without my friends, I'd be the conductor of the crazy train.
Remember bitches, you are only alone by CHOICE. Know your role(s), embrace them and wear/and pass those hats, even when you have a lot on your plate.
Art by Lori Mercuri McDonough at http://www.etsy.com/shop/whimsystudios, a dear, old friend, mother of 4 and wearer of MANY hats.
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