Pride isn’t an Option in Parenthood

Motherhood breaks down a woman’s pride fairly quickly.  Parenting will do the rest.

Your body will strip your pride in pregnancy before you realise how powerful it really is.

I’m lucky enough to only seriously experience morning sickness with my last pregnancy.  Having two placentas means insane levels of HCG which will make you feel like your thyroid is out to get you.  Specifically, it was terrible nausea and frequent vomiting, a racing heartbeat, severe weakness and weight loss.

Being sick for no obvious reason is specifically humbling.  Vomiting out of your car window and continuing on your commute is a bit hard to do with your head held high, but I managed.  Dry heaving because someone took a bath in their perfume is uncomfortable enough, but it’s also insulting to the person who now knows they stink. In pregnancy, bladder control can be iffy and gas happens much more often with the relaxed muscles of pregnancy. Hormonal changes can mean your body is creating a whole new brand of funk. Breasts will swell, then sag.  That mom walk that feels confident starts to sway into a waddle because my center of gravity is constantly shifting. A grocery run with mild hunger becomes an indulgent pregnancy craving smorgasbord, complete with odd and indulgent smiles from strangers.

Giving birth and seeing the life created and growing in you is one of those powerful moments that really does make it all worth it in the end.

Strangers will claim ownership of your body.

I’ve had strangers guess the sex of the children in my belly.  I’ve had them question my sanity over carrying so many children (8 and 9 growing as I type). I’ve had strangers reach out to touch my belly. They’ll critique and judge your parenting at all ages and stages because even if they aren’t the community helping you raise your child, they’ll expect being in public makes you subject to their judgement and opinions.

*Side note on belly touching: If you are on a date and touch a belly without consent, you’re being rapey. Really, at 20 weeks, the highest part a baby reaches is mom’s belly button (still mom’s body).  Any time before this, you pat that area, and you’re touching my intestines.  Even if lunch was epic, my bowels don’t need the encouragement, and if you’re going to reach lower to actually touch my uterus, I would hope for dinner first.  Maybe flowers.  Jewelry is always encouraged. When they start kicking, I’m likely to encourage the touching and show you exactly where my belly is going alien outtakes on us both.

Your children will change your pride perception.

Littles are sweet, but they will embarrass you.  They’ll stink, and cry at the wrong times.  They’ll puke on clothes not meant to experience spit up.  They’ll make you into living zombies.  They are so cute and helpless that you’ll put up with it and continue to try to make them into humans others would want to be around.

They will find their voice and repeat favorite and inappropriate phrases.  I remember my little one saying “fuck you” to someone when my mom took him to church.  They each went through phases where they learned the fastest way to hurt mom was to tell me that they hated me.  They took the one fear they had, of rejection and not being acknowledged and turned it into a weapon against bedtime and desired activities.  I had to push past that pain and by the third child, it was hard not to laugh at such pint sized rebellion. (Even on his worst day, my youngest is not capable of doing what his autistic brothers did in search of self regulation.)

They’ll get older and rather than say they hate you, they’ll try to convince you that you really don’t love them.  They’ll need more reassurance that they are loved and valued.  You’ll learn in that first game of tic-tac-toe, that it’s really not fun to beat the pants off of the kid you just taught to play.

Being prideful means you aren’t being compassionate and that isn’t the most connected way to parent. In my home, I’m frequently wrong and sometimes I lose my shit.  I try to always apologize to my kids.  I acknowledge the ways I was wrong.  I ask for their feedback and make communication safe.  Sometimes they’ll call me out before I see what I’ve done. I don’t get to always be right because that would mean I’m wrong. Sometimes I have to listen to well meaning grandparents, even if that brings out the rebellious teenager in me.

With my teenagers it’s hard to remember that they aren’t grown men.  I have to be intentional with reminding myself that they are still the sweet and sensitive boys that look to me when things are scary and painful.  I have to ignore their size and their attitudes and the ways they remind me of their father.  I have to be the one to come to them, over and over and likely into adulthood.  I think of the times older friends and my parents will talk about not being called, forgetting that the phone works both ways.  My mom is great with checking on me several times a week and I hope hers is an example I never forget.

You can’t be prideful and parent at the same time.  At least I don’t think I could.  You learn with your kids and pride assumes you know all there is for them to teach you, forgetting that the lessons never end, even into adulthood.

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You Were Meant to Face What is Coming Because the Life We Live Was Created For Us: My High Risk Pregnancy Announcement

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Outside the Gamble House at 9 weeks and 6 days pregnancy. 

A little over a month ago I did another Facebook live video.  I was in the hospital on pain meds for the gallbladder that was later removed.  I don’t like being high, so I didn’t handle it well and the video was kinda all over the place, but authentic.  Not one of my best Facebook live encouragements, but one I wanted to flesh out here.  While not on drugs.  All of my live videos are public and I’m easily searchable.

This year has so far been a series of events that were foreshadowed by something else in my life at some point. Something complex and scary before me was similarly experienced in a previous experience that is now part of my history.  It’s about getting through on the strength earned before.

Taking it back a few years, I chose to be a surrogate mother after having my 3 children.  I did 6 IVF cycles.  This means weeks of intramuscular injections into the upper, outer quadrant of my rear end.  It was typically at least a shot if not two a day and I still have the scar tissue from it.  Any shot in that area is super painful because of all the shots I had before.

When I had pulmonary embolisms, I was given lovenox shots until my blood was thin enough to be sustained without the risk of blood clots on coumadin pills. I was already past the fear of injecting myself with medicine, and I was already accustomed to the schedule of medication because taking hormones on time is so important in IVF assisted pregnancies. It’s just as important when you want to not let your body create blood clots that can travel to your heart or brain and kill you.

My last pregnancy was twin girls born at 29 weeks.  I was hospitalized at 25 weeks because my body was trying to deliver them early.  I was technically in labor for a month.  I have had five easy labors before that which means I didn’t feel a thing until just before they were born.

Back to that hospital visit for my gallbladder . . . I started feeling pain and while doing standard tests to treat me at the hospital, I found out I was 3 weeks pregnant.  Too early to miss a period, feel body changes, or see anything by ultrasound. I knew the lovenox shots would start and they did within 24 hours of that positive test.  I have been here.  It was a stretch, but not one that was unfamiliar.

At the start of my 5th week of pregnancy, I had my gallbladder removed.  There was no way it could have waited for the pregnancy to end or the second trimester to begin.  It needed to be done. The pregnancy had already survived 2 CT Scans with Iodine.  We were already defying the odds and I hoped we’d get through general anesthesia and my surgery.

After surgery, refusing to take pain meds just 4 days after surgery (because I hate being drugged), and just before 6 weeks, I found out I am carrying twins. The baby split and they are growing in two sacs while sharing one placenta.  Identical twins with two older brothers on the autism spectrum.  I should be a gambling person.

At 8 weeks, I was feeling the strain of becoming parents with a man I had known 3 months.  This wasn’t planned but I’m good at working with what I have, accepting that it’s not the situation but my interpretation of it that gives me control and empowerment. All of my insecurities about being drawn to an abusive relationship because it’s what I’m accustomed to and my pride over being a single mom doing well on my own hit me in a defensive way.  We’re still figuring things out and making heroic efforts for each other, but part of me is content with being a single mom to these twins because that is the cowardly and easy road for me.  I was a wife, entirely dependent on a husband and I had to figure out everything on my own, and giving up that control is painfully hard.

At 9 weeks my doctor went over some of the complications that could potentially come in serious depth.  I have had embolisms, but it’s a genetic thing I was born with.  I have Factor Five Leiden.  It means my blood is great at clotting but not so great at stopping the formation of those clots.  My doctor was a bit puzzled because it’s usually seen in caucasian and europeans but I look black.  (My black genes can be traced back to slave ship America and there is history in my bloodline.) I laughed and told her it just means I’m special.  It’s been that kind of a pregnancy and luckily she seems to see this as a challenge but not one worth giving up on.  This chat has me sitting in the present as much as possible because it’s possible the pregnancy will be all I have. I’ve been a surrogate 3 times, so again this is familiar.

At 10 weeks, maternity clothes are a must.  I was sitting down and a stranger asked how far along I am.  Two prune size babies and I have an obviously pregnant belly.  I am in between jobs and going on interviews, hoping I just look like I’m sporting a stress belly. Since it’s a pretty large momma belly, I’m ready to announce it because it won’t matter what I write here when I show up for an interview as a party of 3.

I have been in similar positions on this road so far, and some areas are new.  I didn’t know that my liver would have to learn to function without a gallbladder and it would look like a breakup.  Painful and messy.  New lands in familiar places. I have had to give myself injections before to sustain a pregnancy and prevent blood clots, and I’m doing so again.  I will probably have siblings or parents visit in the hospital but when I get home I don’t know if I will be on my own, caring for my older kids, and figuring out life with two infants. And gosh,  I get to find a car big enough to carry me and my 5 minor children.

I’m looking at the future and I can see the road that lies in my past.  I can see where I am strong.  I can feel where I need to grow and how I need to ask for support.  The road I’m on was created for me.  No one could compare my journey to theirs because this life was created for me.  I grow as it forces me to and no one else can do it for me.  No one else can encourage me through it.  They have their own lives to figure out.

Be your own cheering section.  This road called life is a life you were called to.  It’s meant to help you grow and reach places others will marvel at.  It’s not what we’re given in life, but how we choose to grow from it that defines where we will one day land and the impact we’ll have on the lives of others.

Why Dad Has to Look Great, Even Through Divorce

I might give more clarity than is appreciated by my ex on my blog, but not to our kids.  They don’t read my blog.  They don’t always want to do the reading for homework and Mom just blathers on. I don’t lie to them but I defend their Dad to them all of the time.  They are free to express themselves in my home, so when they call him names, I’ll remind them that he loves them as much as I do.  When they justify their opinions, I remind them that we can all be a bit selfish or lazy, but that doesn’t mean we love anyone else any less. I remind them that having them do chores around the house prepares them for life alone and their Dad is doing the right thing by teaching them independence.  They help out when I need them to but I resented feeling like a slave to my parents, and will never ask my kids to do work I won’t help them with. I might not like their Dad as a person and my life is so much happier without him but I admit, my kids have a good Dad.

Why do I defend him? Because even in the ways Kid1 splays himself across my couch, he is in every way his father’s child.  I love my sons.  Every part of their personalities is special to me.  There are even ways where I see their Dad or grandfather coming out and those are special.  I know them and I know where they come from and they’re my kids.  I want them to feel safe talking about him to me, and they do. Because I defend him even when I don’t want to.

We get our first sense of identity from our Dads. It’s how we fit in his world that tells us we matter.

My relationship with my kids started in pregnancy.  I was talking to them before they had ears to hear me.  I had that bond or connection, and I still do.  The act of growing up means we are part of our mothers and spend a lifetime learning independence from her.  Even as an adult, I see the ways I follow what my mom did and the ways I try hard to distance myself from her.  I see it in my sense of style and the way I give my kids affection.

When a child is born, they still rely heavily on the parent they attach to, but the smell of mom can soothe a crying baby because that feels like home.  It’s instinct.  When they get older, they start to look to the other parent, (in my case my Dad as well as my children’s Dad) to see where they fit.

Mom is different from Dad. There’s a sense of safety when a child gives mom a melt down.  Mom understands and will make it better so they can safely fall apart.

With Dad, there’s a distance that holds a different sense of security and safety.  They will behave differently.  It’s not just me.  Most seasoned moms will tell you their kids are different people, depending on who is around.

When it came to angry tempers and who was more capable of losing their shit, it was always me.  The pressure of keeping a clean house, behaved kids and his needs met was overwhelming.  My needs were neglected and it looked like anger.  I was scary.  Without fail, I could tell my kids to behave or I would call their Dad, who was usually more patient, and they would behave.  They listened to his authority without him needing to raise his voice.

Our home feels different now.  I have certain rules, but I allow flexibility.  I will ask them to shower after dinner, but I’m flexible with showers as long as they happen before they leave for school in the morning.  I will ask them to go to bed, but in bed with devices is okay as long as they’re asleep before I am, and even if they aren’t, they won’t be punished for brains that won’t slow down. I don’t worry about what they wear to school as long as their bodies are comfortable and warm.  Much of this is very different from their Dad and most homes because as mom and head of my household, I can do it how I want to and giving my kids more control and authority over their bodies is important to me.

But I’m not Dad.

When my niece was younger, I asked her brothers to step in and be the man in her life.  I asked them to take her out and play basketball and spend time with her.  I let them know that if the men in her life don’t give her a sense of value, she’ll believe any boy that tells her he’s the only one that cares about her and that will groom her into his victim.

My Dad has always been part of my life.  To this day, I see my Dad fairly often and we talk.  I’ve become more open with him than he probably appreciates at times.  Growing up, I still had Daddy issues to reconcile.  It was mainly that he was present and my Dad, but he wasn’t the person I imagined him to be.  He failed the rules I set for him in my head.

My Step-Dad was patient beyond measure.  He gave me rides, bought me things I wanted, was kind and patient.  I was terrible to him.  I called him “Penis” and sometimes to his face.  I treated him like the name Step-Dad meant I was to step on him.  It was years of patience and I couldn’t see him as a decent man until 5 years into his marriage to my mom.  Now I’m so blessed to have him in our lives.  He’s been a terrific grandfather to my kids.  He spoils them.  He loves and cares for them, and he looks out for me.  Step-Dads are really special and mine is a great Dad.

I’m lucky to know my brother in law as a great Dad to my nephews.  They live separately from me, so I don’t know all that happens as they parent, but I’ve seen him guide my nephews in a way that they are respectful, responsible, and caring.  Of course, my sister had a great deal to do with that too (because my family is filled with badass warrior dragon slayer women), but I’m not writing about moms.   He has been present and involved in their lives.  He has given structure and discipline as well as encouragement.  He has put being their Dad above being a person in the ways where selflessness has been more common than selfishness.  That’s a great Dad.

There’s a holiday schedule for my kids.  Easter is coming and I get the Saturday before Easter and their Dad gets Easter Sunday.  We used to visit his family and I wanted the kids to keep that tradition and enjoy a quiet day with them where they don’t have to house hop and we can just enjoy each other privately.  For Christmas I get Christmas Eve.  My mom started having celebrations on Christmas Eve so we could spend Christmas Day with our spouse’s families.  Without a spouse I was planning a hike alone but a friend invited me to share their Christmas meal.  I sat at the table and watched a Dad hold a baby so his wife could eat her meal.  I watched him connect with his children and guide them with love.  He knew the needs of his children as well as his wife did.  I was so blessed that night by being able to watch a man be a great Dad to his children in supporting his wife.

I remember taking a picture of the mess Kid3 made in my hair when he wanted to brush and style it for me.  It was fun for him but it reminded me of all of my bad hair choices as a child.  I cringed.  I couldn’t go out like that.  The smile on his face made it a moment worth remembering through the selfie I snapped.  Yesterday a facebook post almost moved me to tears.  A friend posted a picture of her husband with their girls.  He was proudly wearing the polo shirt and tie his daughter picked out to go out and spend time with his daughters and a niece.  That is a great Dad.

It seems to be an anthem among single moms that there are no good Dads out there, but that’s not true.  There are many amazing Dads out there and it comes down to a choice to be that person.  Just like moms, it’s a moment to moment choice. Sometimes we shine with patience, love, care and understanding.  Sometimes we fail miserably and hurt the children we love with impatience, anger and selfishness.  The great ones never quit and learn with the kids coaching them to greatness.

When You Have No Control of Your Life, You Can Always Take Choice and Decide Your Reactions

I was talking to a dietician the other day about my eating habits.  The conversation then touched on my pregnancies.  When I was pregnant I always lost a lot of weight in the beginning and delivered at my pre-pregnancy weight, or just above it.  Pregnancy is a time when I eat healthy foods because not doing so means puke would be an improvement.  Then we talked about the pregnancies themselves.  People ask how many kids I have and I have 3, but I’ve give birth to seven.  The first three, mine, were easy enough.  My firstborn was early and underweight and had a hard time regulating his blood sugars.  The other two were easy and even boring.  The two after mine were surrogate boys born in 2008 and 2010.  Other than trying to go into labor a little early and needing bed rest, they were slightly more difficult because they gave me back labor.  The last one was a surrogate pregnancy with twin girls.  It was rough.  I was hospitalized at 25 weeks and spent a week in the Trendelenburg position – upside down at a 45 degree angle to try to keep them in.  They were born at 29 weeks by c-section.  I told her about pulmonary embolisms in 2014 and the gallbladder removal I just had and how the pain meds sucked, so I stopped taking them less than a week out of surgery (because I can’t handle feeling high). Through this I was smiling and happy and she was floored and encouraged by my outlook.

I didn’t realise I had an outlook.  I had life happen.  We all do.

There has been both good and bad in my life.  I can acknowledge both, but they do not make me who I am any more than I would allow them to. I am not what has happened to my body.  I can’t control that for the most part.  I am who I choose to be in spite of what comes my way. You don’t wear your strength, you embody it.

Control of self:

I’m sure I’ve shared the poop analogy before but I can’t remember everything I write, so I won’t expect you to.  I heard from an amazing teacher, Jorge in a leadership training  I LOVED in the summer of last year:

When you have raging diarrhea, you can’t control it.  You hope you can make it to the bathroom on time, but accidents happen.  You’ve seen poopy painting artistry in unkempt public restrooms.  We all have. And when you’re constipated, you can sit and try, but you can’t make it happen until your body is ready.  In this way, you can’t even control the shit in your body.  You can’t control shit in life.

Another example:

When you binge drink, you intentionally drink alcohol.  At a certain point your body takes your choice away and you black out or vomit.  You can’t even control your own inebriation if your body thinks you want it dead.  It will fight your silly dehydrated brain and you can’t control what it does.

Control of others:

When I was younger, (like most women) I had this idea that I could make a man change behaviors for me.  If he was a smoker, I could make him stop.  If he was stinky, I could affect his hygiene.  If he was grouchy I could make him be patient.  I only learned how not to trigger rage, or how to coax it out if I was in that mood.  I couldn’t control it.

I’ve learned that the only one that can make a person change is the person that chooses to make a change in their life. I can’t make a person gain or lose weight.  I tried with my family.  I can’t force feed a person, or withhold something, or make them exercise.  I don’t have that kind of power over anyone but myself.

You can exert control over your kids, parents do it all the time. Unless they internalise your ideals, there will be a backlash lived out in every unsupervised opportunity.  Their behaviors will say what your control won’t allow them to.  The first time a parent learns this lesson is during potty training. If poop is all they can control, they’ll make the most of that. When my sons started spending most of their waking hours at school, I knew policing their words would only incite rebellion and cursing for the sake of taboo as opposed to creatively expressing how they feel. It took a while to learn to cooperate with the teachers that are co-parenting and influencing my kids.  Teachers teach what the school board tells them to, but they nurture social skills and empathy.  They guide our children in ways parents can’t, but at the end of the day, our kids take what they are given and make a choice.

Control of our reactions:

We can control our reactions to what life gives us.

Being a victim to someone else’s greed or violence doesn’t mean you have to live there.  You are not what someone else wants you to be unless you choose to be that person.   You can control what you do with the life you are given and how you react and respond to what is given to you.

Yesterday I was attacked by text.  It still happens.  Kid2 threw me under the bus for a wardrobe choice he made. I could have attacked back.  I started to. I chose to end the conversation with “Have a nice day,” when it stopped being about the kids we share and other parts of my life that are my choices.  I reminded myself that my son lied because he knows I have thicker skin than he does, and I can take more than he can.  I tell them this.  I simply put my phone on “do not disturb” and continued finessing my way through creating pivot tables.

This week Kid3 asked to get his ear pierced.  I could have done it.  I knew his Dad would have been angry and I told him we’d have to ask.  Of course his Dad said no.  This same man freaked out over toddler boys playing in mom’s nail polish and heels and currently has a problem with our boys wanting their long hair (it’s great hair). Kid3 begged me to do it anyway and I reminded him that I could take his Dad’s yelling but he shouldn’t have to. Past situations have thickened my skin and made me the badass powerhouse I am, but that’s because of the lesson I chose to walk away with, and not the victimhood I once felt forced into.

It’s not what we are given, but how we choose to react to it.

I have burned myself with countless curling irons that I still can’t figure out how to use properly.  I’ve stopped trying, but I don’t whine and lament my burned forehead every time I look at someone’s curls or the curling iron I still haven’t parted with.  This isn’t the same as true trauma and posttraumatic stress, but living with it instead of seeking help to get through it are choices we make.  These are choices in your own hands that we are often so eager to surrender to others who won’t always have our best interests in mind.

Perspective shifting:

When you wake up in the morning, intentionally or not, you are in control of the kind of day you will have. If you wake up in a foul mood, every horrible thing that happens will be sought after and amplified by your perspective.  If you wake up in a great mood, all things that happen will have meaning and you’ll seek out serendipity.  Choose the perspective you want, and you’ll see things fall into place in the ways you anticipate, good or bad.  And always remember you made that choice.

How will you react to the next big wave that life tries to drown you with?

 

Entering the Pro Choice or Pro Life Debate

I’m pro choice.  I always have been.  I have had one of those in the trenches motherhoods that taught me not everyone is cut out to be a parent and it’s not a decision that should ever be forced on anyone.

When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a book on Christian abstinence, but also made sure I got birth control if I needed it at the doctor.  I had boyfriends, and I didn’t always practice abstinence.  I had tried every temporary form of birth control available before I finished high school. With the amount of time I spent peeing on a stick, it’s miraculous that none of those tests were positive until Kid1, 8 years after losing my virginity and after getting married.

I think back to the possible fathers in my expression of experimental irresponsibility and I’m grateful that I never had to face a pregnancy with the boys that were all ephemeral ideals of lust with hope for love. It was usually infatuation.  I liked the boys that liked me back, and it’s only in my late 30’s that I realize how much better it feels to be selective and picky.

When I imagine what life would have been as a teenaged mother . . . In a relationship that was built on teenage hormones . . . During a time when I was unable to take care of myself. . . A pregnancy created out of irresponsibility is what I escaped and  I’m so grateful I never had to choose when I was unable to make a decision from a place of empowerment. In my youth I was never put in a position to have to choose.  That only came once I was married.

I never had anyone force their decision for my fertility on me. The parts considered private have always been under my control. I couldn’t imagine the way I would feel about a pregnancy resulting from incest or rape.  Still, we have politicians trying to use “Beauty from Ashes” as a natural consequence disguised as a euphemism to help stomach the idea of being brutalized and further victimized by legislation enforced by men who will never experience the consequences of their control. Thank you George Faught.

It’s not just a financial decision.  It’s emotional.  It’s religious and ethical.  It becomes physical and affects families.  No one person’s ideals should force itself on people they will never meet.

I would want the women I love to be able to choose when or how she has a child.  I would want her to feel safe and protected in making choices for her body.  I say this but as for me and my body, I’m pro life.

When I was pregnant with Kid3, I felt extremely lonely.  My poor OB doctor stood uncomfortably as I sobbed and contemplated a late term abortion over several appointments.  Late at night I would sit on the floor next to my sleeping husband and cry.  My son would kick and remind me of how much he wanted to live, and so he did.  My reward has been his light and love and hope.  He has inspired me and encouraged me with his sweet smile and the way his tiny arms would wrap around me for a hug, patting my shoulder with his tiny hand.  I made the decision then, that any child trying to fight for life within me, would have every opportunity I could offer.

The test of your belief is how firmly you stand on your word as difficulties and finances assert their authority over you. When you say you believe in life, do you put your money where your mouth is? Do you pass judgement from the high tower of the distance you keep from your own life? If you found a young mother in need, would you try to support her with a kind word, or anything she might need?

A pregnancy for me would involve daily injections of blood thinners and be high risk.  I know this. My last pregnancy delivered prematurely.  I’m 39 this year.  The risk of birth defects jumps with that 50% fertility drop once a woman hits 40.  My youngest is 10 and I have long gotten rid of all baby gear and maternity clothes.  I would need a bigger car for my minor children.  All of this said, my personal stance is pro life.  A child trying to stick to my womb deserves every chance I could offer it, but the point is, it’s a choice I would make, no matter the cost.

A woman should have the option to do as she chooses with her body.

Love and Money as Addictions

I had a conversation once where a man compared love and money as addictions.  He seemed to love and hate both and wanted to know my perspective.

I actually see this a lot when dating.  It’s when I really tease out what is important to a person.  Having gotten through not having anything when my husband abandoned me, I’ve learned to appreciate simple things like sunsets.  I’ve also learned to take care of my own material wants.  I treat myself very well. When dating, I can sense when a person’s self valuation only relies on material things.  This doesn’t usually lead to a second date.

I am more than what I possess and without owning who I am, I would own nothing.

Money can be an addiction.  He said this.  I can see it, but I have a hard time feeling it. I can always explore the concept though. My Target and Sears wardrobe sensibilities can use the stretch and imagine more, right? I love my Mom style even if my niece thinks I dress like an old woman.  (Yes, it’s okay to laugh with me.) It really is a stretch though.  My wedding, rings and honeymoon were all under $500 and I was happy with it.  I don’t buy designer clothes, but I love those days when my sisters clean out their closets.  I’m just not that person.  I love beach days and museum trips.  Dreaming big has always been a budget to hire someone else to clean up after my family and maybe weekend trips here and there.  Otherwise, I’m happy to find serenity in my surroundings and wonder in a sunset. I don’t see myself as materialistic.

If I were to give into my every whim, I’m sure Pandora would see me more often and I’ve have several charm bracelets and so would Victoria’s Secret.  Fresh flowers would probably be a weekly thing instead of moments when I walk past a bouquet that sings to me.

I imagined a life of immense wealth.  I imagined the responsibility to my family and extended family.  I saw questioning every relationship for the motives behind it.  I didn’t want that.  There’s a cost to that life and I’m not sure I would want that responsibility.

Even before I had to figure out survival and starting a career, I decided I didn’t want to live to make money.  I wanted my work to be something that flowed but never controlled my choices.  But I get it.

There are more things to do and experience and it often requires cash.  It can mean status and opportunity.  No matter how hard you work or how carefully you save, you can always be content in having more.  Okay.  I lied.  I can’t imagine being that person that works hard all day every day without the space to enjoy a bit of respite in the warmth of the fading sun on bare skin.

Love is an intense emotion.  I’m a firm believer that we make a choice to love or not love, and the feelings follow.  We make a choice to let someone in and to find the ways we are similar and how we can relate to them.  We look at who they are and how their paths fit with the ones we’ve walked in life.

There’s a free fall.  There’s a moment when the emotion is too strong to fight and we fall freely, hoping that there is someone rising to meet us.  We love the feeling and can’t get enough.  We want to be surrounded by love and covered in it’s warmth, seduced by it’s smell.

It’s an addiction.  He said it.  I agree.  We will do what it takes to have the love we need.  We sacrifice our time and dreams and alter our goals.  We give and shift what we don’t have to make it work.  We make love into our god and when this deity removes her favor, we are lost in the abyss of all we expected, showing us how far from the earth we’ve floated and the crash that is coming can be delayed but is inevitable.

Is it really an addiction, or is it just part of living and being human.  Human touch is necessary for survival.  Horrible science experiments have been done on infants regarding touch.  Money is needed to secure food and shelter.  Is it an addiction if it’s a basic need? Then again, maybe I’m spoiled to have lived and loved, and been provided for and sheltered in ways I didn’t expect.

Then again, what is an addiction but something we need so much that we would choose it over our wellbeing, survival and lesser relationships?  I’ve done silly things for love.  I can own up to being addicted to it, but in growth I’m learning that I am not deserving but worthy of love that is stronger than I am.  And I’m damn strong.

At the end of the day, are your things taking care of you, or are you working hard to have more things that dissatisfy you?

What Financial Abuse Looks Like

When I was married, financial control didn’t look like abuse.  It looked like fairness.  It was only fair that all the money went into a joint account.  It was fair that we went over the bills together, even if he made all the decisions and set all the budgets.

I had to discuss major purchases and it was only fair because he was the primary breadwinner.  The majority of our money came from his paycheck, not my financial aid and scholarships, surrogacies, or benefits our kids with autism were entitled to.  He was the head of the household, so he made the decisions.

Avid readers can tell by now that I’m a bit rebellious.  Secret checking accounts and student loans happened.  I was still mom, so much of that went to groceries because the budget he gave me, but never shopped for himself was hard to stick to. It resulted in arguments with my shoulders rounded and my gaze at my feet.  It was a time for me to resort to being a sulking teenager, not a wife or equal.

I applied for credit cards with terrible credit and no job and when I got them, he would help me max them out.  When the bill came, we could never afford to pay the bill I created.  Credit was a bad idea because you have to pay it back with interest.  (At the same time, my individually improved credit has opened a few doors for me, starting with my car.)

It didn’t look like abuse at the time.  It looked like equity based on his rubric.  It looked like power and our actions against each other became cyclical and damaging to us both.

Personally, I was frustrated.  I had a book addiction, and often bought Amazon gift cards for my habit while grocery shopping because hiding the purchase amongst groceries sometimes worked.  I hated feeling like I needed permission to spend my allowance.  I would scour clearance aisles and freak out about how to hide it later. I wasn’t big on purses, shoes, or jewelry.  I bought things for the house and worried nervously about the fight I would cause by the new dishes, or trash can I brought home.

As I found other ways to hide my acts of rebellion, he found ways to investigate my actions and uncover my lies.  There was no trust and it looked like a power struggle where dominance wore the farce of fairness.

In 2014 I had pulmonary embolisms.  At the time I had a car that was a danger on the roads.  I could only drive it in a lower gear, the brakes were faulty and the seat belt didn’t always work.  I would drive it half a mile to the train station, but take the train to work at my part time job, and walk.  I was newly discovering a gluten free diet and avoiding sugar because my doctor scared me with pre-diabetes.  Walking seemed healthy.  I walked 5 miles and that night woke up with leg cramps only to find out the next day that my birth control pills tried to kill me and walking so much didn’t help. The greater question that I didn’t dare ask at the time was, why couldn’t I drive the safer car to work? Where was the equity when I was taking the train late at night alone, worried about my safety the whole way?

Having that relationship end, different articles and stories found their way to me.  It was through friends and online.  The concerns my sisters voiced for years finally landed in ways that I couldn’t deny.  Mine isn’t even an extreme case.

Some people are battered in their relationships but the abuse is more than physical.  If there is physical violence, there was certainly verbal, emotional and financial abuse before during and most definitely after it. The most invisible form of abuse is financial.  It’s about an abuser having control over their victim.  In that way I suppose you could say my rebellion was abusing my ex and calling it control. Money is used to isolate and control victims.  A victim can’t always move out or leave if they don’t have the means to.  It’s about not being able to do anything because you completely depend on someone else.

I was allowed and even encouraged to work, but I found a balance in staying home for my kids, and going to school for myself.  He often told me what kind of work I should do as a suggestion, but it felt like control. It felt like I had his permission to be a teacher, even if I hated being in the classroom.  Even if I did work, I knew I wouldn’t have control of my paycheck.  Now I enjoy work.  I’m much better at making money than keeping a clean house. (I’m okay with this.  You should make peace with it too.)

In my last relationship, I had a hard time asking for his financial advice or support.  I didn’t want to give him control or cooperate with what he felt was best.  He didn’t want to blindly throw money my way to help out because he didn’t trust me, even if we were living together. We didn’t trust each other. Money and control became a problem and rather than do what he asked, I stood my ground.  Other relational situations shifted the balance in what made a relationship worthy of growth and our relationship didn’t continue. He was intelligent, with a background in finance, and an ability to get and keep my attention.  He was and is special.  At the same time, I couldn’t in any way relax into a situation where I couldn’t control my finances.  Strength or weakness, it’s who I have become.

I have a purple purse charm I have kept on each of my purses for almost two years now. Allstate has ways to support women that are financially abused. I didn’t buy it for them, although my purchase supports them. It has become a symbol of hope and strength for me. It has become a reminder that I don’t need permission to buy my kids clothes. I get to make choices and create the life I want to live. I’m not a tree with deep roots. I’m free. My tassel sways with the freedom I feel in every step I take. Even if I’m not financially stable as a funempolyed single mom, I am free.  And I am in a much better financial situation than I was under someone else’s financial control.

I am not affiliated with Allstate or the Purple Purse Charm and I have no monetary investment in this (or any of my posts to date), but if you would like to support their work, or at least learn more about financial abuse as domestic violence, please click here.