Finding Balance

In 2005, right before my daughter was born, Hurricane Katrina virtually wiped out the city of New Orleans, leaving countless families homeless.  I was really only vaguely aware of this catastrophe because as this was all taking place, I was being put on bed rest for high blood pressure, being told I had to have my labor induced, and wallowing in self pity over the loss of my envisioned natural childbirth experience.  I then did what many new moms do which was to “go off the map” or “radio silent,” as I often refer to it.  Nothing else existed in my world other than the day in and day out feedings, diaper changes, and interrupted snippets of sleep.  It really wasn’t until the one year anniversary of Katrina, when I had emerged from my new mommy haze, that I began to fully appreciate the magnitude of what had taken place.  I was lucky.

I was recently contacted by a new mom who was signing up for the upcoming new moms support group session.  In addition to coping with the everyday challenges of being a new mom complete with, figuring out how to care for a newborn, the unpredictability of ones days, and the sleepless nights, she is also dealing with the emotional trauma of her hometown in Japan having recently been severely damaged by the tsunami.  Fortunately, her family is all safe.  I said before that I was lucky because I was not simultaneously coping with any trauma other than that of becoming a new mom and all the emotions that accompany that experience.  This brought to mind the many times I have had to balance being a parent with whatever else I was dealing with emotionally.  As mothers and fathers, there are often times when we have to set aside our own emotions in order to be present for our children.  This is not an easy task.  When the blizzard of 2011 hit Chicago this winter, I was very aware of the fact that I was not dealing well with the combination of parenting and the fact that I was feeling emotionally claustrophobic by the reality that my car was parked in my garage behind 3 feet of immovable snow, thereby trapping us inside for an undetermined length of time.  I have also seen friends go through this as well.  A close friend of mine had to cope with a very public betrayal by her husband while also caring for her three children under the age of 6. Or my closest friend from childhood experiencing a life threatening trauma that forced her to disappear in the middle of the night, essentially abandoning the care of her 2 year old to her parents while she spent nearly a year recovering.  In the two scenarios involving my friends, they were both fortunate enough to have excellent family support available to help.  Not everyone is so lucky.  What emotions do these challenges bring up?  Guilt?  Guilt for the emotional energy we have taken away from our children.  The guilt over not being as present with them as we should be whether be it emotionally or physically.  I am also reminded though how strong we can be as women and mothers for coping with so much, all at once.  Just one of the many ways that we show our expertise at multitasking…

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