Happy 20th Mother's Day
By Donna Bruschi
Today marks my 20th Mother's Day! I can't believe it! Actually, I can believe it. Its been a very full and wonderful 20 years of mothering.
What I really can't believe, is how much I don't like Mother's Day.
Part of it is embedded in my mom's experience. I don't remember a Mother's Day where she didn't end up in tears. Maybe she was unrealistic or naive? She was an only child and we were three!
Another part is that for me EVERY day is Mother's Day. I have spent a lot of time with my children and I still do a lot for them. They are first in my decisions of what to do. I breastfed for years with them. I opted to try for a homebirth for them. I stayed out of work and I went into debt to be home with them.
Most of it has to do with being with a man who criticized and made fun of me and my mothering.
Of all 20 Mother's Day's, not one came with a card from my kid's Father. No card. No breakfast in bed. No flowers. No appreciation. My Mother and Mother-in-Law showed their love on Mother's Day and I am grateful for them.
I am finally free of him.
In hindsight, I don't know what took so long. I compare myself to others who have left the father of their children, others who are starting over in new loving relationships and still others who have only known respect and encouragement from their partners.
Sometimes I cry when I think about what happened or wonder what I could have done differently.
What if I left when my kids were preschoolers? What if I paid the divorce lawyer with my credit card and did take my ex to court for a contested divorce? What if I understood how Family Court works and how much power I did have at that time? But I didn't. I was married "til death do us part." Divorce was unimaginable and with that belief came abuse.
That's where I get stuck.
How would I have known? I work with lots of families in transition now. They use Google and Facebook to find things. That works really well if you know the search terms. I didn't know the search terms. i didn't even know I had a problem. I thought what I was going through was NORMAL. And, abuse is the NORM, for one in four women in our society. But it's not healthy. And, with help, one can choose to not live that way.
What I needed was for someone to see the red flags and volunteer the information that I was in over my head.
For me, that someone was a therapist who listened to what was happening in my life and helped me understand the power and control dynamic and grow stronger. It was a counselor at Family of New Paltz who said, "You know, you can't stay in that relationship and there are people who can help you leave. We can make a plan."
That move changed my life.
It hasn't been easy. I wondered if I was doing the right thing because the less attached you are to your abuser, the harder they fight to keep you close. This is why you need a team of helpers. I had help from Family of New Paltz Domestic Violence counselors, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, New Paltz Police Dept., Maria Duncan, MSW, my kids, my parents, my siblings, my employees, and my friends. My team gave me a vision, encouragement, protection, money, physical help and love. I am truly grateful for all the support.
The biggest difference between who I am now and who I was 20 years ago is that now, I ask for help. Usually. Old habits die hard.
If you are in a relationship that hurts, know that while it is common, it is not healthy. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). You should know that it's not your fault and you deserve to feel safe in your home.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas, from my heart to yours!