If your life is your kids and your kids are your life, it’s hard to see them grow up, because they inevitably grow away from you. I had to come to that conclusion when my two sons declared in rehearsed synchronized unison that they no longer wanted to go to the museum with me anymore. I was crushed. I lived for those Sunday after church excursions where we’d segue to the Museum of Science and Industry. The exhibits thrilled the heck out of me. Not so much with my boys. At age 11 and 16, they’ve had it with the family field trips. My husband sat there in silence. I looked at him, mouth opened. I soon realized, he was in on the “honesty” intervention. He never liked museums that much anyway.
I was a die-hard career woman in the “glamorous” field of advertising. I had made a commitment, to put my family first. And with that I unknowingly entered the mommy track. But what I failed to do was carve out a separate life of my own – one that fulfilled me as a woman, artist and lover of people. During my mommy years, I devoted my time to making sure my sons got a decent and fair education, they were involved in extracurricular activities, they went to church, they were fed three colorful and healthy meals a day and clothed well. I was and still am a good wife, but I was dead set on being a great mother – just as my mama told me I was when she saw me breast feeding my baby.
But I forgot about me.
I was success at work, got to write and produce cool campaigns, worked with great talent, flew to California, Toronto, NYC. I won a few awards, mentored interns – some of whom became phenoms in their own right, volunteered my time with kids in my church and in the community, coached struggling parents. Did it all – almost… all except…
I forgot about me.
Mama, grandmama, raiser or children: We love our babies strong. We love them longer than the day is long. But if you can’t spare some love for yourself by doing things that keep you in touch with who you are and what you’re about, then your loving is in vain. Don’t exclusively wrap your life around your kids. When my sons got older, they wanted to hang out with their friends. They didn’t want to eat dinner at the table. They started “macking” on the girls. I no longer had my running buddies. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I forgot about me.
My parent advice is simply this: Get a life. Get a life outside your life. You don’t have to be a secret call girl or anything, but just establish yourself separate from others. Do what you enjoy.
I started listening to Tony Robbins tapes. Did I hear a chuckle? That’s okay. Tony really helped me out. I started taking art classes again. That was huge because I was first an artist before I could write my name. After almost two decades I was sketching on my pad. I attempted to make friends. Not that I’m some reserved anti-social butterfly or anything. Quite the opposite. I use to be “out there” – in a good way. I tried to sustain some promising friendships, but I found out many of these women were wrapped up in their lives too and couldn’t break free.
I also searched for my distant relatives I heard tales of. I was for all practical purposes, the matriarch on my mom’s side. All my close loved ones were dead and gone. So there was (and still is) an added twitch to this feeling of isolation and loneliness. I did find my great Auntie’s first cousin and her nieces in Arkansas and Texas. She was almost 100 years old, no children of her own, like Auntie, and nearly deaf and blind. My husband and sons accompanied me to Pine Bluff to meet them for the first time. Even the elderly nieces and their families drove down to meet us. My family made that all-important field trip. That was huge for me. I was reconnecting with myself.
Today, my transition professionally, personally and physically bring about new challenges. I’ve struggled, as we all do in life. But I now have grandkids to take on field trips, and hopefully future daughters-in-law to hang out with. I’m writing a book: And my husband and I are making new friends.
In your journey in life don’t ever forget to water your own roses. You will lose your bloom. I now keep a can of water beside me to stay alive and grow.
Don’t forget about you.
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