It was a regular sort of day in New Jersey, just another hot summer day in August. I was not feeling happy and joyful, but then I never really did. My children were away with their father, and being the sort of mother that I am, I tend to have a bit of codependency with my children, in that I am usually only happy or inspired when they are present. Most people think this is a sign of good motherhood. It’s not. It’s codependency.
I was on the phone with a friend, who suggested I get away for a few days. Things had been hitting the fan, and I needed to regroup. I was desperate for a change of some sort. I needed to get away from the madness that is New Jersey. It was long overdue. I was bored in New Jersey. Boredom for me, is quite dangerous. Add loneliness to the mix and it can be quite volatile. I needed to get out, and fast. But I had nowhere to go before I met her through facebook.
I met her through a group on Facebook and it was nice to talk to her, and chat about life and art and philosophy. I really was tired of being the lone artist in a pool of drunks and drug addicts. That seems to be all there is in New Jersey, save a few folks that I knew who are a bit on the creative side. I really only spent any sort of time with folks who are creative in some way. I really could give two fucks what you do when I’m not around. Just be creative, damnit. I mean, can you try to just not be one of those annoying people who only think of vanity and loud music created on a laptop? Please?
I was starving for more creative people. I really was. We’d been texting and communicating for quite some time, and I figured fuck it. I’m just going to pack a few things, get in my car, and meet this person who makes me look forward to checking my phone and sends me pictures that make me smile. She made me smile.
I got to Ohio and I absolutely fell in love. I fell in love with her and with this beautiful state, that has the wonderful combination of cities and rural counties. I love that. There’s suburbs far from me, and cities nearby. No annoying traffic jams. No more people staring at the large amounts of black clothing I wear. No more of that. Just peace. Just her, and some peace and quiet.
My children told me they wanted to spend a year with their dad when I moved here. “We want to get to know our daddy the way we never really have had a chance to,” they said.
This broke my heart, but at the same time, I had to let them go. With tears in my eyes, I acquiesced to their wishes, and decided, fuck it. I’ll just stay here. So I left New Jersey and do not plan on moving back. But depression was rampant within me. I felt as though perhaps I am no longer a mother, because I choose to have my children Friday through Monday.
Motherhood these days is seen as all self sacrificing. It is the idea that if you are not all self sacrificing, if you are not the martyr, then you are not a “real” mother. You are not a good mother if you are not killing yourself in the name of your children, not killing your dreams and career in the name of your children. Mothers who work full time are stigmatized. Mothers who allow their kids father to be a real figure in their children’s lives are seen as neglectful or uncaring.
But since when is it uncaring for me to take out time to focus on my art and my career as an artist? Since when is it neglectful to choose to pave a way where you are able to make a living doing the things you love? I should give a bit of a back story, though. From the moment my daughters were born, I quit my job. I was (and still am, sort of) a June Cleaver mom. I stayed home and baked cookies and went to PTA meetings and made meals for my family. I went to mom groups. Even when we moved to NJ, my girls went to Girl Scouts and 4-H club meetings. We went to the zoo, and did all sorts of things. I truly and in every way lived just for my children. When my eldest was born, their dad worked long arduous hours and so more often than not I was alone. I took care of two children without much support at all. I did it. When we lived in NJ their dad was far off in Minnesota. I didn’t have children with the thought that I would ever be a single mother, but this is the life that was handed to me. I tried making lemonade out of the lemons handed to me. Moving to New Jersey was so tough for me. And so, this new chapter in my life means I am no able to focus on my career as an artist while still being a mother to my daughters.
For the Friday through Monday morning moms- I see you. I hear you. You aren’t a bad mother. You birthed children from your body and you care for them whilst taking care of yourself and your needs. That is an awesome thing. It is a good thing, and I am here holding space for you, acknowledging you. You exist and you are heard and loved.
I have to admit. I am blessed to be able to say I am friends with my ex husband. This was not always the case, but then there comes a time when one must put the needs of their children ahead of their own desire to squash the person like a bug. So we get along for the sake of our daughters.
I do not have to justify my actions to anyone, nor do I care to. I do not have to make myself the martyr anymore. I can be a mother and focus on my career, and doing so does not lessen who I am as a mother. Being a martyr does not show my children that they can be all they can be. It does not teach them lessons on working towards the things you love, and this is the lesson many fail to learn.
If my children are to know or understand or learn anything about the life I have lived, I hope to teach them that a woman of color, a Latina woman, is able and capable of doing anything she sets her mind to WHILE STILL BEING A MOTHER.
I miss them. I miss seeing them every morning. I miss having them every single day, but I have them Friday through Sunday nights (and sometimes Monday morning). They still see me reach for my coffee before I say hello. They still wake me up around 8:00 am asking for what adventure we’ll go on. They still come to me, I still parent them, and they are still mine. No one is taking that away from me. No one can take away the bond I share with my children, or the way we bake cookies together and laugh together, how we watch netflix and eat snacks until 10pm together, or how fond they are of my asshole kitten. I am and always will be their mother.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to crochet a couple of hats for my kids. You know, the ones on pinterest with the bunny ears? It’s getting cold out. They’re gonna need a hat. And maybe some cookies.