Thoughts on motherhood, and why the new normal sucks

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and it’s interesting to experience that now that I’m really at peace with my mom. I no longer feel angst about my relationship with her. Most things are good about it now. There are also some things that I can see that she’s just not ready to work on in herself and I’m learning to accept that. Overall I see her as much more human, flawed like all of us. I value having a relationship with her, but I still do better having some physical space between us.

As for my own role as a mother, my kids have all gotten a lot more open about telling me that they appreciate me in recent years, and that feels really good. After a several years long stage where my oldest had issues with me, we are on stronger ground. He credits that both to the work I’ve done on myself in the past couple years, and in realizing that my health issues (and now my husband’s as well) make him realize that you can’t always count on your parents being around forever.

The funny thing to me is how my kids see me vs. how I see myself. I am working at erasing the unkind tapes in my head that lead me to be mean to myself. But one of the most persistent and hardest to get rid of is the tape that tells me I’m lazy and not working hard enough.

Honestly, my MS makes everything harder, like I’m trudging through quicksand. But yet when my youngest two kids tell me what they appreciate about me, it’s always that they think I work so hard to make sure they’re happy and healthy. They seem to think I work really hard in general. And in truth, the only day I haven’t done at least some paid writing work in the past five weeks was the night when my husband was in the ER.

It’s almost ironic that the thing I’m so hard on myself about is one of the things they most admire about me. They don’t see me as lazy at all–in fact, they think that I’m not lazy enough. They’re always telling me I should rest more.

It is true that it’s really hard for me to take true leisure time for myself. But I need to start doing it.

That goes back to why the new normal sucks. My husband was always Superman, running circles around me, getting tons of stuff done. Now he faces the same limitations that I do, though the cause is obviously different.

He too gets tired after just a short outing, just like I do. I’m used to ignoring my limitations and paying for it later. For obvious reasons that’s not something he can do. And none of this is complaining about him. It’s more that it’s a season when we’re being forced to slow down. That’s a tough change of habits.

We are trying to find a new used car for him, which I feel really good about. But he’s not really able to spend all day out shopping, so this is going to take a while. That’s not great since we only have until the end of June (when his inspection expires and we know it wouldn’t pass to renew)…but between now and then, he’s also going to start chemo, so I don’t imagine his energy will be any better.

The new normal sucks in so many ways. I’m constantly worried about him. I am realizing just how much he helped me before and trying to take on more of that is tiring me out more.

Even something dumb and petty that makes me feel like an asshole is realizing that it may be six months or more before we can make love again. We can’t even do that for our 25th wedding anniversary next week. Compared to cancer, I know that caring about that is so not on the radar. But because that was always a way I felt close and connected to him, knowing that it will be that long without it makes me feel lonelier.

But again, it makes me feel like the world’s biggest scumbag to even care about that. I know he wants to be healthy and normal again too. I just worry: what if that part of my life is permanently taken away? It seemed so sudden. And I feel worse because I feel like all my feelings seem wrong and inappropriate. I know how I’m supposed to feel (not even thinking about sex) and I’m disappointed in myself for being selfish.

So there are a lot of adjustments to make. So far I don’t really like the new normal. I’m sure he would say the same. I don’t like that he’s now as tired as I am, other than that he can understand it now. With both of us easily exhausted, I pick up what I can, but sometimes I just can’t and stuff doesn’t get done.

I think about the kids and the impact this could be having on them. From what I’ve read before, having a parent with MS is hard enough for them. But now they also have their other parent with cancer. It has to be really hard on them. I really can’t imagine how they must feel.

For the time being, they’re really stepping up to help out, especially my oldest and youngest. (My middle child’s way of coping seems largely avoidance and denial.)

At the same time, I’m grateful that I raised them to have some idea of how to take care of themselves. I can’t imagine how they would be doing if I had raised them to be more dependent.

Did I already say the new normal sucks? Because it really does. I just hope we find a new normal that feels better again.

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