Some of you may remember a Mum Life Story I posted back in October about a mum named Almondie Shampine. Almondie told us of her experience of being a working mum and how her perceptions and goals changed after her health took a turn for the worst. Now a stay at home mum, author, blogger and a book publisher she has graciously decided to share with us once again.
This touching, thought-provoking article describes the evolution of a Mother from a teen mum to a mum of teens and how her desperate cry for freedom was extinguished by the love of her children.
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Photo by Katie Emslie on Unsplash
‘The Institute’ by Stephen King (Buy it now)
I’m 37 today.
(Funny, aside of me visualizing a little dance, swaying my arms in front of me and behind me, while singing ‘It’s my birthday. It’s my birthday.’)
I hated my birthday for a good three or more decades. I’m sure many can relate. The birthday goes downhill the moment one’s mind gets caught up on it being ‘a special day’, and the expectations are quick to follow. One minor disappointment thus leads to frenzied overcompensation to make it ‘the best birthday ever’. It becomes an emotional roller coaster, as what goes up must inevitably come down, and special occasions are full of those ups and downs.
I became a teen parent, pregnant in my 18th year of life. Instead of sending out my wedding invitations, which had been the original plan, I was making phone calls to share the news of my pregnancy with the shamed side note that there wouldn’t be a wedding, as my then-fiance had walked, taking all my dreams of my desired and aspired-for future with him and changing the entire course of my life.
A whole life ahead of me, a life I’d barely just begun, and I was to be a Mom, first and foremost, for the rest of my life, and a single Mom, at that. Three years away from being able to have a legal cocktail, yet responsible for raising and supporting a tiny human all on my own. I could no longer fit in with people my age due to being a Mom. When they were partying downstairs or next door to me, I would outwardly complain that their music was too loud, their swearing too much, or that the stench of their pot-smoking was making its way into my apartment, while feelings of loneliness and betrayal ate away at me on the inside, because they’d been my friends, and not a single one of them made that 13-step trek up the stairs or took the three steps next door to my apartment to see how I was doing – not throughout my pregnancy or thereafter. They’d stopped inviting me, stopped asking me to drive them places, stopped even asking if we could talk or if I could give them advice on something they were going through. It was as though I just stopped existing.
I began frequenting places where I could find other Moms, such as parks, and tried making friends with coworkers that had kids, but they looked at me like I was too young and would treat me like the ‘typical teenager’ that I couldn’t be, wasn’t allowed to be, and would never be able to be. Many times I made the mistake of thinking that interested males were making the choice of wanting to be with me, while accepting I had a child. I assumed that meant they knew that I was looking for commitment, so it would devastate me when, after the fact, they’d tell me they weren’t ready for a family, or didn’t want to be a family guy. It confounded me to no end. Until I watched movies like American Pie and all-the-rage young adult movies at that time that talked about MILFS, single moms being perceived as ‘being more experienced’, and the idea that single moms or older or more mature women were great for casual affairs, but nothing more than that. This led to many years of false hopes.
Time was my enemy. It was torture. Being so young, it seemed to pass intolerably slow. It was only thoughts of the future that kept me dragging myself out of bed most days on so little sleep. At first, it was just waiting for me to be old enough for people to start respecting me and taking me seriously. I creeped through my 19th year; my 20th year passed even more slowly. My 21st birthday was celebrated with my Mom, because I’d lost all my friends. For a short time, between my 21st and 22nd year, I believed I’d found the person I’d spend my life with, and the years prior faded away as having all been worth it during that time. …Until he disclosed that he didn’t want to be a family guy after it was disclosed to him that I was carrying his child. 0 for 2. 2 children conceived from 2 different guys that weren’t ready to be a father by the time I was 22. I could kiss any future, healthy prospective relationship goodbye; nor could I ever hope to be respected for anything other than being that single Mom with two kids from two different fathers.
My 22nd birthday was spent pregnant and alone, just like my 19th. My 23rd spent trying to get back on my feet after having lost everything due to childcare being more than I could make with a full-time job. My 24th was spent battling for my life. Single Mom, poor, living in the worst (cheapest) side of the city, not having any friends or any family that would even notice my absence for quite some time, made me a really easy target for predators. That was the year I began counting down the days. Every exhausted night before bed, I would put an x on the calendar marking the end of another day. I began celebrating the end of every week, the end of every month, the end of every year. It showed me forward movement. The passage of time.
Every birthday, I hated, because all it meant to me was just the beginning of a new year, where I’d have to fight through another 364 days to get to the end of it. I’d count down the years of my children being grown. 15 more years. 12 more years. 10 more years. All I could feel was time just looming ahead. So much time. Too much time. Every year I was crushed with the overwhelming anxiety that I would not be able to make it through another year. I’d barely made it through the last, how would I possibly make it through another? I felt terribly alone. Terribly lonely.
My heart had been made to love. I was a lover. A nurturer. A helper. I wanted a family. A full family. A true family. I wanted a partner to share my life with. I wanted the forever. I wanted marriage. I wanted the growing-old with someone. I needed deep connections. Needed someone I could call my best friend. I felt like a neglected flower – once so full of bloom and vibrancy, wilting and withering away to decay.
I waited for people my age to catch up to me. I watched them form partnerships, get married, and begin families of their own. I looked forward to cookouts, our kids getting together, family-oriented celebrations and parties, but still, I didn’t belong. My kids didn’t belong. I was never invited, nor would anyone else show when I threw cookouts of my own. My kids were much older than their kids. Those parents were married living married life. The last thing they wanted was a young single mother, a bachelorette, walking around to remind their men of the single life. I would try to make friends with my children’s friend’s parents, but my youth and my being unmarried maintained me as being the oddball out.
‘Mangoes & Monkey bread’ by Emily Joop (Buy it now)
Every future hope that would keep me waking to the present and keep me tackling each and every day would never come to pass, where I’d grasp on to another future hope, all relative to the passage of time, to my children getting older with me inevitably getting older alongside them. Me holding onto the optimistic view of it being a good thing I started my family young because I’d still be fairly young when they were grown, was crucial towards my continued hopes that one day … One day things would be different.
One day I’d be able to go on those road trips. One day I’d be able to experience that youth I missed out on. One day I’d be able to go bar-hopping, or go dancing, or be able to have a fancy date. One day I’d know what it’s like to go to a spa, or to a hairdresser, and I’d know what it’s like to spoil myself, pamper my body, get all dressed up and go out on the town. One day I’d be able to attract a decent man without him being turned off by me having children, and I’d be able to have friends and go out to eat and be a human being, a person, a woman, and not just a Mom. I’d be able to cherish romance and walk around naked again and spend an entire day luxuriating in physical pleasantries and allowing myself to feel love, both the giving and the receiving of it, uninhibited. I’d finally be able to live my dreams fully, and commit myself to them 100 percent, instead of so frequently having to put them on the backburner. I’d finally be able to have the life I was supposed to have, the life I was meant to have.
All these years I thought I was raising and grooming my children to get them to the point of being adults. I thought I was getting them through all the developmental milestones of being full grown. I thought I was training them to survive independently, self-sufficiently from me. As a mom, it was my number one job to support them, provide them safety and security, guide them through their growing years, teach them how to overcome those obstacles in life – first, to carry them, second, to be their step-ladder, and third, to be their spotter as they made their way over those hurdles all on their own. It was my sacrifice to them. 18 years of putting their needs, wants, dreams, desires, over my own while my life remained dormant. On pause. Waiting. Waiting for the time when I could start living again.
37 years old. I’m celebrating the passage of those 18 birthdays that I waited for for so long. I’m looking back. Shaking my head in wonder. Realizing that I’d gotten it all wrong all along. Like a wild feral cat that only lives for their own survival, their own comfort, their own needs and desires, I was captured in a crate just by the beating of my kids’ hearts, imprisoned within a home that always had to have heat, and food, and a place to sleep. No matter how much I mewled and scratched at the door to escape, they would distract my attention away by wanting to play with me or forcing me to curl up with them. They never left me unsupervised, and would always call me back if I strayed too far.
They forced me to take care of myself. Made me get up when all I wanted to do was sleep. Made me eat when all I wanted to do was starve. Made me fight to live for everyday I felt like dying, and even saved my life when I actually was dying. They urged me to swim when I was drowning and made me weather every storm. First, they taught me to climb mountains, and then they made me move them. They showed me that no obstacle is too high and that dead-end roads are only an illusion -there’s no end of the road, only a road not yet built. They showed me that the only thing truly impossible in my life was the ability to give up. They were scrupulous and rigid. Demanding and inflexible. They’d conditioned me by rewarding me with happiness when I was on my best behaviors, and simply ignoring me when I was not. Not once did they give up hope. Not once did they lose faith. No matter how much I resisted.
With patience and unrelenting vigor, they kept at it, day after day, week after week, year after year, for 18 years. And then on this birthday, they gave me my most-desired gift. They opened the door and they offered me my freedom. “You deserve it, Mom. Go have fun. It’s your special day. Do whatever you want.” I stood at the door, looking out, listening for that call of the wild that had been so strong and enticing for so many years; it sounded so differently than it did before. Cold. Dark. Mournful. Lonely. Miserable.
That’s when I knew. All along, my children had been grooming me for 18 years. Taming me. Domesticating me. I never would have survived out there in the wild. My heart too big. I was never cut out to be a hunter or to prey on other things. Nor was I ever capable of running with a pack. I wasn’t a follower, but neither did I have what it took to lead. I would have been the hunted of the hunter, the preyed upon of the predator, the hider of the seeker. Instead, my children provided me safety and security, warmth and belonging, nurture and affection, and a forever family, giving me my best chance to become my best self. All while letting me believe that I was raising them and providing them the tools they needed to survive without me, it was they all along providing me the skills I needed to survive without them.
You can visit Almondie’s website at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.com or follow her blog at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.blogspot.com
If your on Quora, you’ll find her profile here https://www.quora.com/profile/Almondie-Shampine
And you’ll find her books for sale on Amazon HERE (Available in both paperback and e-book).
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