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The Tapestry with Dr. Deb Herodes - When Love Isn’t Enough

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/2/24 | 2/2/24


At a certain time, in a long-ago world, a little girl grew up believing any relationship, with a partner or child, could be solved and preserved with love.  And so, she believed no matter the issues in the world, love would abide, and her prospective family would be safe from all the complications that would surely come.  Listening to the music of her time, she would hear the words of hope for a near perfect adult relationship with a spouse and the children that would come because of this love. The wedding would be planned, the children would be born, the forever home would be purchased, and the dog would add some family feeling, but the years would drag on seeking that perfect love that was supposed to come with the creation of her family.  No matter the size of her heart, no matter the work of her hands, the disappointment of being unfulfilled grew and grew.  The loving husband had become disenchanted with the girl he had married, as her baby-weight and patience had gone their ways with the pregnancies and child-rearing ignorance of her own hygiene.  The children, who she had rocked and cooed to sleep, during their infanthood, were constantly fighting with each other, making incredible messes, talking back to her and seemingly disenchanted with the “mama, mama” adoration of their early years. A quick look in the mirror made her see what she had become, despite her monumental attempts to keep up with all she believed important.  Her eyes were tired.  Her hair was in serious need of a cut or at least a style that wasn’t a ponytail, and her brain needed more than kids schedules and sizes and doctors’ appointments, while trying to keep up the perfectly clean home with perfectly nutritional meals.  The smiles she feigned each night for her family were starting to fade because no matter how she tried, nothing turned out like she thought it would. 

Part of the problem here is she believed forever she was able to keep up with everything and everyone in her family, and worse, she was supposed to be able to juggle it all, with a smile on her face.    Exhaustion, insomnia, a need to use her summa cum laude brain was knocking at her soul, but she keeps plodding forward believing all will be fine if she just keeps on keeping on.  But then the break comes; the marriage is failing, the children are misbehaving at home and at school, their grades are falling and the friends her kids had chosen to make were most certainly going to bring her flesh and blood down the wrong road.  The unmaking and undoing of all she had given her heart and soul to had slipped from her hands and something had to change.

It is difficult to make a change in your own life when everyone in your life has depended on you for everything, but you must take a break from all these responsibilities to recognize how to save yourself from these daily doldrums and disappointments. Certainly, to disengage with everyone and everything is impossible, but finding peace with what is crumbling around you is doable.  When one begins to realize that no matter how hard she tries to keep up with the laundry and the bills and the lunches and the bath schedules and the continual birthday celebrations of kids’ friends, and the boy and or girl scout meetings, and the sports schedules, and the music schedules and the dentistry of the kids, and the homework, and the heartbreaks of young lives, and the illnesses of her offspring, and the disappearance of her husband at the dinner table, it is impossible and, then the healing of an exhausted brain must begin.

It needs to begin with a chat with the family, as they have a right to know that you are going to start putting yourself into the needs of the clan.  You have given them every moral lesson you can think of.  You have supported them in every endeavor, and they need to learn that you are important too.  Although they love you, and I am sure they do, this doesn’t stop the use of your energy to make their lives easier.  They are never too young to teach them to value those who do the most for them.  Giving them responsibilities around the house and letting them know that responsibilities for their actions at school were now their own, is a good start.  There comes a time when letting go is the best thing you can do for them and for you.  Will they disappoint you? Yes.  Will they cause you turmoil? Yes.  But they do anyway, so perhaps it is time to lead by example and show them how to respect themselves, through respecting yourself.

If you begin to use that “baby-saturated’ brain of yours, outside the kitchen and nursery and teenage cave, and secure a job outside of the home, your self-respect will grow, but make no mistake, you will still be busy.  Juggling a job, the kids and the home is mind-numbing, but you will have time in your daily life for a coffee break and even some work kudos will come your way for a job well done.

Figuring out child-care, transportation here and there, housekeeping and quality family time is going to be a challenge, but don’t you feel guilty for one second that you are doing what you must do to save your own sanity, because let’s face it, without you, your children will be on their own. Trust your children to make good decisions, but do not hesitate to intervene when you see what they are doing is totally wrong.  Learn to let them defend themselves, within reason, and do NOT come to their rescue when what they have done is wrong.  Defending bad behavior by inserting your adult power teaches them nothing about living in the world.

Making schedules and housework that needs to be shared need to be part of your day-to-day life.  Homework time must be established.  As much as you love your kids, set boundaries and let them know that their lack of help in the family unit and their decline in their school obligations and expectations will result in consequences.  Get in the habit of saying, “no,” to them and saying “no” at work, if any of these requests will upset time you need for your self-preservation i.e. a bubble bath, a walk, a book.  As women, we tend to let all these things slide in lieu of children’s needs.  Guess what?  They can wait, while you self-energize!

When you finally reach the empty nest stage in your life, and your grown children are not sharing your domicile with you anymore, the helplessness of not being right there for them is overpowering.  They make mistakes, they do dangerous things and sometimes they totally deflate you, leaving you with sorrow and desperation.  Watching from your dining room window for grandchildren, running from their cars in search of your arms, begins your new cycle of hope.  You may see them from time to time, but their parents are busy with schedules and family time of their own, and so “Cat’s Cradle” begins to play in your head, even though nearly every second of your life had been for your children.

Somewhere in time, a grown woman looks at graying locks in her looking glass and realizes her life is passing her by.  Tracing the tracks of her tears or the lines on her face, reminds her of her young days and her belief that love would solve every problem.  On her dresser sit the photos of her children’s families and a gold watch from her place of retirement.  Now is not the time to give up!  She needs to start once again and discover the woman who still lives inside her aging body. Learning tough lessons is all part of life as it is, as it was, as it will be, so do not be afraid to step out into a world without hand-holding a child or carrying an infant.  She needs to find the purpose she was born to pursue; to look at her life as her life!  It belongs to no one else anymore and so she is able for the first time to make decisions, without considering anyone else. Everything is perspective, so she makes perspective one of new beginnings for the girl she never had a chance to recognize.  She needs to remember, however, as she reinvents her life, that no matter how good she is, how much she does or how much she loves, it is never enough. 



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