FOR YOU, EXHAUSTED SOLE CARER
Finland, along with the States and many other countries, celebrates Mothers Day today.
I am dedicating this post to my fellow mothers (or fathers, you rock as well!) who are sole carers out there. I’m not talking about those who share custody of their children and have every other weekend off or whatever. I’m talking about those who are solely responsible, not by choice but by things that happen in life.
And more: I’m talking to those sole carers who are just so tired today when it feels like the world is showering all other mothers with roses. (Let’s face it, on my opinion Mother’s Day, as it stands, is a bit like Valentine’s - just a byproduct of capitalism. It’s lovely, of course, but still.)
So hello, exhausted one. How are you really? Did anyone ask you that lately?
Maybe he (or she, what do I know?) left. Maybe he died. Maybe he got cold feet. Maybe he’s in prison. Maybe you had to escape a violent situation. Maybe you had a fling. Maybe you had an affair with a married man. Maybe it just happened and then life happened. Maybe you loved deeply - I know I did.
There are no victims or perpetrators here. There is only life and it is beautiful but, let’s face it, it can be damn hard when you’re tired, broke, ill, worried or whatever and travel through it alone. Never have I been as aware of my own mortality as I am looking at my son and thinking about what would happen to him if something happened to me. You probably think about it too, yet all we can do is trust life. Trying to control it doesn’t work, we know it too all too well.
So I am writing to you this Mother’s Day. Whatever your story, I hope the divine powers of forgiveness and compassion have already started rising from within you - not only towards others but towards yourself as well.
This week my son and I visited the area where we used to live. As I was pushing the pram uphill a familiar street a memory arose from my body as a physical sensation. I remembered how exhausted I was just last year, pushing the pram while carrying heavy shopping bags, heading home. I was so worn out I wanted to cry. It felt like I was physically not able to take another step. I felt like I would die out of tiredness. There were many factors at play - a big operation I had to have postpartum, money worries, some challenges in my interpersonal relationships, problems in the flat we lived in... You name it, it was there. Because that’s how it seems at the time. It’s all there, and I had to look at my own part in it all - oh yes, I had a leading role.
I didn’t die - well, that’s not quite true. Many false identities I held died, and now life looks very different. I’m still doing it all myself, but sleep is better, my son is bigger, my body is recovering and my mind is awake and body feels the light again. Change is the only constant and we must, must remember that. I wake up refreshed and happy these days. I have, of course, been happy about my son throughout the knackered period, but you and I know that tiredness wraps you in not cotton wool but more like tar and feathers -type thing.
You’re doing the best you can. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. Stop and hold your child(ren). Ground yourself and see what you’re doing, and bathe in the love.
The black pit of exhaustion exists in memories but I can’t really recall what it felt like. That’s the grace of time, the grace of life. There is no miracle cure or spiritual bypass to take. Sometimes we suffer a bit and then we don’t. It’s so important not to be too loyal to our suffering, as Jack Kornfield, one of my favourite Buddhist teachers, says. It’s important to understand our story but not make a shrine for it. Travel through it lightly, heavy as it may be.
Get some help if you can’t find your way or you can’t forgive. Talk to someone who doesn’t belittle your fears, feelings or compare them to theirs. They don’t mean any harm, they just don’t understand your reality and you can’t really expect them to either. But you don’t really need to hear comments about how lucky you are not to have to deal with another adult in the household right now, or complaints about how little me-time someone else has right now.
Make sure someone hears you, sees you and holds space for your story. Then you can witness the story beginning to write itself in ways you could never have imagined. That’s what life does when we stop trying to control it and stop putting our energy into things that once were, but are now mere chapters in our personal book of history.
If you’re tired and broke today, then let it be. It will pass and transform - life always does. If you’re joyful, celebrate it. I know I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is so much joy, so much love, so much inspiration and fun and laughter. There’s also tantrums and counting to three and all that. There’s a messy house and bedtimes. But you’re doing it, you’re amazing. You may not know me, but we are sharing this. It’s wonderful, marvellous and fascinating. I hope you’re proud of yourself. I know I am. Not in the I-want-a-medal kind of way, but in this-is-real kind of way.
Happy Mothers Day.