I became a mother at around twenty to eleven on a cold Wednesday morning in May. It was almost thirteen years ago now, roughly six weeks before my seventeenth birthday. A tiny, beautiful, perfect little boy was handed to me and as his big blue eyes stared up to meet mine I was all at once certain he was the single best thing I had ever done and utterly terrified that I was responsible for him. Funnily enough, those same two thoughts seem to have narrated my internal dialogue over the last thirteen years.
I remember very clearly always having to defend my decision to keep my baby. Being asked why I hadn’t allowed my sister to adopt him. She had a house and a job and a boyfriend who would have helped her raise him. I could never make anyone understand that I would rather die than give him away. I knew I would never sleep again if I did not know where he was sleeping and if he was loved and happy. I remember always trying so much harder with everything when it came to him, my kid would not be an arsehole just because I was a teenager. People were watching, waiting for me to screw him up. Waiting for me to give up and leave him with my mom and run off and be the irresponsible teenager who got pregnant in the first place.
I have never come close.
Just over two years later and we added a baby girl to the mix and then the judgement got worse. I mean it’s bad enough to have one baby as a teenager now I had two. Just how stupid can one girl be? Yet still I fought to ensure my children were happy, and well- adjusted and had good manners. Most days I won that fight. Some days the fight beat me. I was existing, not living for those early years. I had an abusive alcoholic/drug addict boyfriend who abused me physically, emotionally and financially. Keeping food to feed your children is hard when you realise even though you left rent money with your boyfriend, rent hasn’t been paid and you are being threatened with eviction. I was nineteen. I can remember one Saturday afternoon where I had just fed the kids two minute noodles for lunch, not having eaten myself for a good three days, sitting on the edge of my bed in our tiny one bedroomed flat, crying my eyes out and wondering what the hell I was doing. No one is supposed to know how to figure that out at nineteen.
I was always told that my children would prevent me ever having the chance at a proper marriage as no decent man would marry me with my baggage. Add to that what having two babies before twenty does to your body and I was hardly catch of the year. I still today struggle with feeling good enough.
Now today, ten years later, I wish I could tell me then that things would be ok. I look back and shake my head at some of the terrible decisions I made. I want to weep for the way I allowed so many people to treat me. I was too generous with my time, kinder emotions and sadly often my body as well. I have spent the better part of almost thirty years chasing the need to feel loved and accepted. The honest truth is; I am exhausted.
As I approach my thirtieth birthday, it is not with a sense of trepidation but rather a feeling of determination to for the first time claim my place in the world. I will no longer kill myself trying to fit in or be a great friend with people who make so little time for me. A particular ‘friend’ is a good example. I make a supreme effort to attend each function she invites me to, always take a gift, no matter how tight money is. Yet she, when she deems it important enough to attend something I have planned (twice in seven years) she can’t even get a card. I am not about material things but there is some truth to the sentiment that it is the thought that counts.
I have come to realise that one of the most important things you can do as a parent is led by example. I feel I am failing them by allowing people to walk all over me. Yes be kind. Yes be generous. Do not however place this above your own happiness or well-being.
I guess the whole point of this is that I was talking to D a few nights back and expressed my exhaustion over having spent every day of the last thirteen years fighting. Fighting to be loved, fighting to be accepted, fighting to keep my children from being damaged by my lack of maturity and bad choices, fighting to prove ‘them’ wrong, fighting to make a living, fighting to be a friend, fighting to be worthy of a relationship, fighting my own inner voices, fighting my family, fighting loss, fighting the system and fighting myself when it felt too much.
Right now I have two full-time jobs, a broad base of free-lance work, a husband, four children, five dogs, a cat, a house, two cars, a nanny, a gardener, a sick mother and live-in sibling and somewhere myself who need something from me every day. If I had to go by textbook definition, I have maybe three friends who are genuinely there for me through this. This makes me sad. Truly. I do my very best to be there for people when they need me and my wedding made clear to me more than ever (another post for another day) just how few friends I have. This is the fight I am giving up. I would rather give my time and energy to people who will reciprocate from this point on.
I have accepted that my life will never be as charmed as some, things do not come easily to me. That is ok. That said I read a quote that said to go where you are celebrated and not where you are tolerated so as I head toward my thirties this is my aim. To recognise the relationships that are celebratory and nurture them and to walk away from those built on tolerance.
Bring on thirty, I am ready for it!