* Column of the Week:
My parents have been married for 48 years.
My three eldest siblings (who like to showcase their seniority by narrowly controlling my life decisions in that “I’m pretending not to be in your business”, Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood kind of way) are going on 20, 18 and 18 years respectively. My older sister, who is closest in age to me and therefor inflicted the most psychological scarring overall, is going on her 4’th year of marriage but has a friendship with her husband like none I’ve ever seen.
After being raised Catholic for most of my life (overly fanatical Irish nuns and unstoppable layers of guilt included), marriage was always the most important thing in my existence. As the daughter of a former wedding planner, I grew up doing my homework in the rehearsal halls of countless ceremonies, salivating at the crinoline and ivory-coated imaginings of my own future union. By middle school, I had even plotted out my entire wedding with more vision than David Tutera, Martha Stewart and Kris Kardashian combined (involving a favorite lake of mine, barefoot attire and a concluding jump in the water before rock and Rum commence).
Yet despite my lifelong, deeply rooted connection to the meaning of marital vows and the significant lack of divorce within my lineage, life has always had other plans. And even though I wed at a very young age to a person I admittedly barely knew, I truly believed that my passion for the inviolability of nuptials could overcome anything. Sadly, this was not the case. As I move forward into the year of 2012, I suddenly find myself a single mother, a single woman, and without a single clue how to navigate my virtual world of journalism without the traditional domestic perspective.
Since I’ve been writing about my existence (and the highs and lows of my consequential relationships) since the age of 13, it seems natural to divulge all of the sordid details about why this was a right decision for our children, and why no amount of Catholic culpability, familial history or passion for matrimony could have otherwise made this a successful relationship. Yet even though this is my first column back on Makeover Momma after a brief hiatus (and a hot steaming bowl of “dish” is duly owed), I have one singular statement to make: no comment.
My children’s father and I used to take pride in the fact the we eloped in a fast, un-fashionable manner, with a substantial lack of candles, cake and basically anything my prepubescent self had imagined in my youth. And even though the conjugal life we created was never meant to be, the family that resulted from our vows will always and forever be the most beautiful, perfect, reverie-fulfilling success of my entire life. Did my childhood fantasies (and strange addiction to bridal TV) pan out in the long run? No, it most certainly did not. Yet now I find myself the proud mother of 2 unique, independent, loving, giving, generous beings that give me more completion than my heart could ever imagine or Jerry McGuire could ever describe.
As mothers, it often seems impossible to stand up for ourselves and what we deserve. Despite our best intentions (and various re-runs of Oprah monologues), we consistently settle for second… and sometimes even last. We put our health, our interests, our opinions, our wants and our needs in the back of our minds, and tell ourselves that settling is simply the way that we can serve the role of motherhood best. Do I do this with my kids most days of the week (when daily bathing, meals involving more than coffee and string cheese, or conversational content not surrounding The Goodnight Show become a distant memory?) Yes, of course I do. My girls deserve every single part of my being, even if that means I haven’t found the time to put on a bra for half a decade.
Yet for now, I vote for not settling for second best. If being a good mother who puts my children first is what makes me happy, than so be it. But if realizing that I’d rather “fail” at something I cared about (or that I may not have proven many naysayers wrong from my past) leads me to a life of health, happiness and wholeness… than call me a failure.
I would rather fall flat on my face and make mistakes along the way, than give my girls an example of a woman who doesn’t deem herself worthy enough of being a complete person. So call me a letdown. Deem me a disappointment. Or give me a well earned “ I told you so”. But when push comes to shove, I know my little ones will go forward in this world with more love, kindness and devotion than some children find in a lifetime.
In sickness and in health, for rich or for poor (probably more of the latter) and till death do we part.
And that my dear mommas, is what I call a success.
* Speak Up: What is the one you thing you vow not to settle over in 2012?
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