Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #9

Maybe my mom was right. As I get older the more I start having this thought and I had it today over something I really wasn’t willing to agree with. My mom always says we (me and my sisters – in my mom’s mind we are like one being) don’t tell our kids ‘NO’ enough. Now in general, I don’t agree with her. My kids ask for 101 things every day, so I have to say no to them often. However, I had an experience with my 10 year old today that made me come to this thought.

9. I work too hard to ensure my kids aren’t disappointed.

I know that sounds CRAZY. I have spent the past 10 years trying to ensure my 2 daughters didn’t experience disappointment. Definitely not from me or frankly anyone else who they believe loves them. I’ve been afraid that being disappointed would make them feel a deep sadness, making them feel unsure or insecure. It also just felt like failure on my part. Disappointing the girls by not being able to be some where or doing something for them, within reason, seemed like one of those things that separated the good parents from the bad.

Then, the cancer thing happened. Being diagnosed in December meant the beginning part of 2015 was going to be challenging. It also meant that we had 1/2 a school year left to tackle.  And all of a sudden, there were disappointments, several of them. Trying to be mom, keep up at work, and endure the chemo and radiation treatments resulted in disappointments. I couldn’t do it all. There were doctors appointments and treatments I couldn’t miss. Because of my immune system, there were places I couldn’t go. And there were days, I just didn’t feel up to doing anything.  I missed a parent-teacher conference, science fair, field day, the end of school performance, class parties, open house, church programs and solos.

I wasn’t there and I knew that was disappointing for the girls. Especially because, I’m ALWAYS there. I jump through all kinds of hoops to be there for my kids. I know most parents do, but honestly as a single working mom this is when I feel the stress of that title. I have competing priorities between work and home. I can’t be in 2 places at once and sometimes I don’t have a choice but if there’s a way, I will make it happen. And up until now, I pretty much always have.

When it happened the first time, there was crying, and begging me to go. I was really sad because I knew they were disappointed. It got better as the months continued. Everyone acclimated to the new reality – which was mom can’t go, go, go! But there was always sadness.

Then today, I experienced something for the first time. I had to tell my 10 year old I couldn’t be at her end of camp performance. She said, I really want you to be there. She was sad, but then she got over it. QUICKLY. No crying, no pouting, no begging. Even after the program, I asked her how it went and she said, I wish you could have been there but it was great.

Now to give you some background, last year (BC – before cancer) she attended this same camp. Last year’s program was at the same time as our company board meeting and my boss made it clear, he wanted me there. My daughter also made it clear she wanted me at her performance. I was determined to do both. The camp was nearly 45 minutes from my office. I figured I could get there but I’d have to get back and maybe even leave early. I called on one of my best friends for help to meet me out there in case I needed to leave and to bring my daughter home since I’d be back at work. I made the haul out there and back just in time to see her dance and do my part at the board meeting. I made it happen, but it was stressful and a little crazy for sure and what I discovered today – UNNECESSARY.

Because she survived me not being there. She still was excited about her performance. She still smiled and did her best. She was still proud of herself, even if I wasn’t there to see how great she did. She lived through the disappointment.

Before cancer, I honestly think none of us believed we could survive me disappointing them. But in a way, I think it makes them stronger. I think it helps them understand that people who love you are going to disappoint you, sometimes it’s out of their control, but even when it’s not, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. I think it helps them be more realistic. They pretty much believe I have a MAGIC WAND and can do anything and everything. Finally they know, I don’t and no matter how badly I want to, sometimes, I can’t.

It’s freeing in a way for me. I was driving myself crazy and beating myself up for the things I couldn’t do, WAY too much. Being FORCED into this situation of disappointing them, was the only way I was going to see how this change in my behavior could be beneficial for all of us.

As I start thinking about what our life looks like once all the treatments and surgeries are done, I know I want to have the ability and flexibility to do more with my girls, to be there for them, and make them a priority, but I also know that we’re all going to be ok even when I can’t.

 

 

 

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #5

I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not, but it’s not really nice. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it, I’ve always thought my daughter had a sort of annoying personality. She’s really excitable and over the top about everything. She has to be the center of attention. Loud. Goofy. Unfocused. And I’m not going to lie – I can get easily annoyed with that personality. And rightfully so, if she was 25, 30, 35. But she’s 10! What was wrong with me? The truth is, I think it was more about me.

5. I’m projecting my own insecurities onto my daughter.

I’ve been using this adult gauge to judge and measure my daughter. She’s SUPPOSED to be all those things – loud, easily excited, goofy. It may not even really be her personality. Some of it may just be attributed to BEING A KID! She’s still searching for who she is and what she will be like. Of course she is. So am I! But I’ve been acting like she should have already arrived. How unfair. And it took me 10 years and cancer to realize it.

I now recognize that I actually get uncomfortable sometimes thinking about how she appears to others. Does she seem well parented, well disciplined, smart, polite, dressed well, clean? That’s all about me. I’m really thinking about what others think about me as a person and a parent, not her as a child.

I think about what she wears and how it looks – not if she’s comfortable and how it makes her feel about herself.

I worry about if other kids like her or not or if she’s difficult to be friends with. And some of that could be valid, but it’s still not about how she feels. It’s about how I feel cause she’s never once come home saying she doesn’t have any friends and nobody likes her.

My daughter is not insecure and somehow hasn’t been programmed to even care that much about what people think about her, which is a gift. So why am I practically teaching her to burden herself with these thoughts and concerns?

Today as I watched her on the volleyball court, I saw an excited, sort of uncoordinated, overly dramatic, loud 10 year old flailing around the court. For the first time, I didn’t wish she’d act differently. For the first time, when she looked back at me, instead of giving her the look to settle down and chill out, I smiled at her and encouraged her excitement.

Despite me, my daughter wants to enjoy her childhood, which she deserves. She wants to not be perfect and worried about how people perceive her. She wants to be loud and snort occasionally. I’m not sure when I stopped celebrating who she was as an individual or enjoying her childhood with her, but I’m happy to say I started again today.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #3

I’m just going to get right to the point on this confession.

3. I don’t spend enough time with my kids.

I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about this one, cause often times there isn’t a good solution to the problem. But if you don’t face it you’re not even going to try to improve it.

I hadn’t faced it until it was thrown in my face. During this cancer journey, I’ve had the luxury of being home more and spending more time with my kids. And even though there were times I wasn’t feeling so great, I learned Me at less than 100%, 90%,70% vs. No Me – is better for them. For us.

With my busy, full time job, I spend very little time with my kids during the week. Let’s do the math.

Mornings!

They get up at 6 am and we’re out the door at 7:30, so 1.5 hours every morning. And that clearly can’t be considered ‘quality time’. Most of it is spent rushing them around, getting them ready, fixing lunches and breakfast and finding out about things that should have been done the night before. It may just be my house, but the mornings are more like a little hurricane than a trip to the park.

Evenings!

On regular days I get home between 6-6:30 pm. Bedtime’s at 8:30 if we’re lucky, so 9 at the latest. So I get 2-3 hours with them after school.

Daily Total!

Anywhere between 3.5-4.5 hours altogether. Unfortunately my job requires at least 2 evening events a week. On those nights I may be home by 8 pm or 11 pm. Either way, I hardly get any evening time with the girls those days and only a total of 1.5 hours of their 14 hour (minus sleeping) day.

Weekly Total!

At that rate, on an average week, I spend a total of 15 hours a week with them. Sometimes, I spend that much time with my employees in one day. Am I raising employees or my children? Yes, I know I get the weekends, but as a single mom, we don’t even get all of those!

There are a lot of issues with this situation.

~Who are my kids with during the other 10 hours of the day? At school, in the after school program, with the sitter, at activities. Do I believe the messages they’re being sent support the way I’m trying to raise them? Are they being poured into with love and positivity, appropriate discipline, learning and health. Not always. I know that.

~I find the more time I spend with my kids, the better people they are. They are nicer to each other. We share more love, smiles and hugs. It’s not because I’m perfect. It’s because I’m what they need. I’m who fills their spirit up. That’s important to acknowledge and therefore try to impact.

~Some people will argue it’s about ‘quality’ not ‘quantity’. You don’t get quality time when you have NO time. Quality time defines HOW the time is spent, so it has to start with TIME!

As my cancer treatments are coming to an end, I have some choices to make. I already see people trying to pile on the night events and travel. I have to set boundaries for myself and my family. Even something as simple as committing to only one night event a week and max 3 for the month. And sticking to it! I have to take a long hard look at how I can build more flexibility into my work schedule and ask for it if necessary. If it’s not possible, I may need to start thinking about if it’s time for a more drastic change.

We can’t make more time. That’s a fact  – One a cancer diagnosis will throw in your face, even with an outstanding and blessed prognosis. We can be better with our time. We can be more impactful with our time.

And we have to face it and try. Being present is critical. Again, will my kids turn out ‘ok’ with our existing schedule and chaoticness. Yes. But like I said before OK is not good enough for them or me. Anymore.