I often look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person looking back at me. I have changed so much especially the past 3 1/2 years. For the first time I truly like who I see. It was a long journey to utter those words and these are words I hope my children learn to say about themselves much sooner.
Growing up I was this awkward, chubby, and in my mother’s own words “homely” looking girl. My parents had to push me into doing things. But once I started them, I loved them. While other girls seemed to come into their own so effortlessly, I just seemed to stumble my way through. My mother and I did not have a good mother-daughter relationship. I would try as much as I could to get her to do things with me like go to the mall, go get our nails done- just do anything together. She would always say no because she either didn’t like it or would use the excuse that we didn’t have the money to do it. What she wasn’t seeing was me desperately just wanting to have some sort of relationship with her like all my friends did with their own moms. I learned how to shave my legs on my own. I learned how to apply make up (very poorly) on my own. I learned many things on my own. But the one thing I couldn’t learn was to like who I was or believe in myself. I was extremely insecure and just did what everyone expected of me. I never stood up for myself. I ignored my voice for years.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that the insecurity started to slowly fade away. I feel like my 30’s I knew what I wanted and what I was capable of achieving. My self-doubt slowly began to fade. I remember that was the beginning of my voice getting louder within me. I no longer struggled with believing I was good at teaching. I was good at my job and I knew I was reaching my students. My personal relationships were no longer about the quantity of friends I had, it was about the quality of the friendship. I kept the people in my life that truly loved me for me. My marriage was strong and even though parenthood added stress to our relationship, we were partners and we were each other’s cheerleaders. I knew I was enough and the people who cared about me loved me for me.
My voice came to me after the death of my husband. I was left to take care of our 3 children who were 5, 4, & 15 months at the time. I had a house to take care of and maintain. I was the person who made all the decisions now. I had no choice but to hear my voice and let my voice be heard. I could no longer worry what other people thought of me. I had to get over all my insecurities. My voice didn’t go over too well with my family. I no longer acted desperate for my mom’s approval. I no longer let her comments affect me. My voice enabled me to let her know how all the years of me trying to build a relationship with her and being told no made me feel. My voice enabled me to stand up to her and her backhanded compliments. My voice ended years of self-doubt. My voice ended years of trying to be the perfect daughter. My voice ended my relationship with my mom.
This was not something I ever thought would happen. But when I lost my husband she, like she was in the past, was not there. Yes she would say to me, “We are here for you if you need us. Just ask.” Just ask? Who says that to their daughter after losing their husband and left with 3 small children~her grandchildren? I remember the day I let my voice be heard to her. I remember pacing the floor and shaking as I held the phone. I remember saying to myself that I needed her to know she has hurt me and she isn’t here for me. I opened up my mouth and my voice came out. I said all of that and more. The way some of it came out, I am not proud of. But it all needed to be said. Unfortunately instead of trying to own her part of the breakdown of our relationship, she chose to do nothing. She chose to blame me and share that with other family members.
I have agonized over this for 2 years now. I have spoken to my therapist and others who are familiar with this breakdown of family relationships. All of them have told me I did the right thing. All of them have told me that it needed to be done for me and my children. I agree. I am a much stronger person right now. I never say bad things about the situation to my children. My children know what they can handle. They know it had nothing to do with them. They know if they ever want to spend time with their grandparents, all they have to do is say the word and I will make it happen. They know I needed to separate myself from my mom so I could be a better mom and person.
I want my children to hear their voice. I want them to use their voice. I want them to know that I am here for them no matter what. They are well aware that I may not like their choices but no matter what I am here and will always be their biggest cheerleader, supporter, and their voice until they hear and use their own.