As mothers we are faced with tough decisions every day. From the first moment we realize we are pregnant, we are forced to make unequivocal and sometimes controversial decisions about the mothers we are going to be, the lives we are going to lead, and the choices we will make for our children.
On a regular basis we are faced with decisions. Some decisions are instinctual -- we know immediately what we will do, how we will react. Some decisions we've already plotted out in our heads. We have an idea of the decision we would make. Others we can't imagine, can't fathom having to be presented with making a decision...and we have no idea of the decisions we'd make if we were faced with having to make them. Some decisions we THINK we know what we'd do, but when faced with the reality we do quite the opposite.
Most of the decisions we must make as mothers are tough decisions. There are the easier-tough decisions: deciding to breastfeed or bottle feed, deciding to have an epidural during labor, deciding to circumcise a newborn boy, deciding to allow plastic toys. Many of these -- like I said -- are decisions we consider from day one, and once we've made up our minds we take a strong stance on. Others of these are more fluid; at first we start off feeling one way, but as experiences and life happens, as we grow and change on the path of parenthood we find we may alter our decisions.
Then there are the harder decisions in mothering. Decision like deciding whether or not you want to put your small child in daycare. Deciding to give up your expensive degree to stay at home with your babies. Deciding to move away from family and friends in order to advance in your career to provide a better life for your child. Deciding to not help a child to enable them to learn on their own. These decisions often take significant thought, consideration, and soul searching.
And then there are the awful decisions we have to make. The MUCH harder decisions. The decisions we all hope to never be presented with, and yet at some point we are all faced with some degree of this level of decision making in our lifetimes as parents. These are the decisions we can't imagine, can't fathom making. Deciding to institutionalize a mentally ill child. Deciding to call the police on a child in an unsafe situation. Deciding to stay with our spouse despite unhappiness, anger or betrayal. Deciding to divorce for all those reasons or more. Deciding to stop treatment in order that our child might enjoy the rest of their life. Deciding not to treat our self in order to give our child better memories, even if it means shortening our time with them. Deciding which kind of a coffin to place our child in.
Deciding to let a child go.
Faced with very difficult circumstances in my life I had to make an extremely tough decision for my children. One of those awful decisions. And at this time of year, every year for the next thirteen years, I will be asked by mothers the same question that I would ask were I not in this situation myself.
How could you do it?
How could you willingly let your two small children go for the summer? How could you stand to be away from them for three whole months out of every year? How could you know that you will miss their development, their cries, their triumphs, their needs for 1/4 of their life?
How could you???
I do it because I have to.
I do it because I love them. I do it because it's the right thing to do.
They need it.
Some of the decisions we make as mothers are selfless, decisions we've made strictly for the health and well-being of our child. It is our inherent instinct to put our child before us in every instance in our lives. But it would be dishonest to say that all the decisions we make as mothers are for the betterment of our children. The reality is that some of these decisions we make are strictly for ourselves. We make those decisions for our own happiness, our own needs, to help make us better parents. Some decisions we make blur the line between being for our children and being for us.
Each day I live with the reality of the decisions I've made throughout my experience in motherhood. I decided early on to breastfeed my children as long as they wanted to be. Both weaned themselves by the age of two, before I was ready for them to. I decided to cloth diaper and co-sleep. The cloth diapering went by the wayside with my second child. I decided disposable was best with him after experience with my first and needing to find an easier way to get through my days. The co-sleeping kept on...and he still crawls into bed with me on a regular basis. My decision to let him do that is for him, but also for me. It's easier to let him cuddle up next to me if he needs it.
The reality of the decision -- the very difficult, heart-wrenching decision I made to move across the country and have the custody agreement I have -- is that it was an equal part selfless and selfish decision.
I moved across the country to find a life that would be both better for me and better for my children.
I moved us across the country to start a life with someone amazing, loving. Someone that makes us feel safe and cared for. I found a career in which I alone am able to provide for my children. I feed them, I clothe them. These things add up to what I needed in order to be a good, present mother. Some of these are things I knew that they needed in order to have a good childhood.
I now face the fact that part of my payment for that decision is I have to let my babies go for three months of the year. I have to. They need it. They deserve to have that time with their father. They need that time with him, that connection to him.
No matter how painful it is. No matter how deep the heartache.
I am having a hard time functioning. I can't imagine it being easier. As the countdown until they leave commences I find myself crying quietly where they can't see. I climb into bed with them at night when they are sleeping to smell their soft smells, and whisper into their ears how much I love them. I'm spending long amounts of time combing their hair and talking with them about their plans. Watching movies and cuddling up with them. Taking copious amounts of pictures of them, annoying them to the point where most of the pictures are of them sticking their tongues out at me.
I'm also spending time holding them and reminding them how much I love them, how lucky they are to be going on a great adventure, and how much their whole family loves them. Telling them how I will, of course miss them fiercely, but how happy I am for them to get this special daddy time.
My most recent, conscious decision is that they should never, ever feel bad for going to be with their daddy. They should not see how horrible this is for me, how hard it is to let them go. They should not have to witness the intense pain I feel, the gaping hole in my heart and in my sides. They should never see how often I cry for them, and they should never know how I question it all each and every day, question how I will get through this all.
How do I do it? How COULD I do it?
I don't frankly know how I'll do it. But, I have to do it. For them. Because more than anything in the world I love them and they need to go, and I have to give them the unadulterated joy of going.
They will be leaving in three days. Three days and I say good bye to them for the next 70 days.
Three days before I start counting backwards from 70.
It's how I could do it. It's how I will do it.
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