What does a mother do when she can't take care of herself in
the way she's accustomed to? What does a mother do when the demands of life and
parenting are breaking her spirit and she can't seem to find her way out of the
It's been nearly a year since my ex-husband came into my house,
looked in my eyes and said, "You know you are not OK, right? You're not
yourself. You're depressed, and you should see someone." His words scared me. I
wondered what it was he saw, what it was that required me to see a doctor. "Let
me take our son full-time while you take care of yourself." That was a big day
for me; my inner darkness had at last been called out into the light. I needed
I was raised by my grandmother. She worked every day to care
for her family. She never once took a vacation or uttered a complaint. She awoke
at 4 a.m. to head to work and returned just before dark. I remember my grandma
would fall asleep nearly as soon as she sat down, and I'd spend much of the
night waking her to insist she go to bed. While she was so devoted to her
children, she ignored her own needs. She was a bit of a hoarder, and in
retrospect, I'm sure she was depressed.
It has been emotionally challenging to be away from my son. But each day I ask myself, "How can I be a good mother if I can't take care of myself?"
When my son was born with Down syndrome, I swore to myself I
would not be like my grandmother: I would not sacrifice myself for the sake of
my child, and I would not ignore my own well-being. I told myself I would love both
my son and myself. But motherhood is as much an inner reality as it is an outer
one. Even though I may have made time to rest and to do things I enjoy, my mind
never stopped worrying about the needs of my son.
Subconsciously I had decided
that I must create a situation that would meet my son's every need for the rest
of his life. I know it sounds insane, but parents of children with special
needs understand the longing to secure their children's safety. In an ironic
twist, the enormity of this responsibility weighed so heavily that it truly
crushed my spirit. It became impossible to get off the sofa, to move my body and to take care of myself.
As I stated earlier, it's been over a year since my son's father
offered to take him full-time so I could recover. We moved into this slowly by
starting a one-week on, one-week off schedule. During that time I looked for
work, hoping to get out of the house and off the sofa. When I landed a job that
I love (which required working late hours), I asked my son's father whether he
was still willing to care for our son full-time. He agreed.
Most days, it has been emotionally challenging to be away
from my son. But each day I ask myself, "How can I be a good mother if I can't
take care of myself? How can I be a good mother if I can't love myself enough
to ask for help and accept it when offered?"
It's been very difficult, but I've
allowed myself to release the idea that I am solely responsible for our son,
and I'm permitting his father to do what he loves doing, which is to be a
dedicated parent. I'm glad that I made sure I was having a child with someone who wanted to be a
dad under any circumstance. We both said yes to this particular child and all
that his life would demand and offer. Now I'm working on giving myself what I
need so I can be the mother my son needs.