You and me, we are different. In so many ways, we are different. That in itself is not unique to our situation. From Starbucks orders to philosophies on life and everything in-between, finding a fellow female who checks off all the same boxes that you do would be an impossible task. Even so, there is something about our contrasting physical abilities that seems to set apart my mom life from yours. Early on in my injury that rift between your motherhood and mine felt as wide as an ocean. But as time progressed, I realized that rift–and our differences–is actually minor and insignificant. I think that as human beings, and as mothers, we are more alike than you may realize.
I’m not going to lie. Over the course of this injury, I have been angry with you. I remember laying in recovery, aching to be home with my children, and hating you for complaining about not being able to pee, shower or eat alone. For ten weeks at rehab I rolled my eyes at your frustrations on social media and was irritated when you chose to sit out on an activity that your unbroken and able-body was capable of. It made me furious that you didn’t seem to know how lucky you were. It’s funny how quickly I was able to forget the difficulties that lay deep in the trenches of motherhood.
Anger became intertwined with jealousy. Instead of feeling irritated at the activities you passed on, I felt envious of everything you did that I could not. Even the simplest things such as how you stepped over the toys blocking your path or the way you hoisted your toddler onto your hip could send me reeling from resentment and my own inadequacies. I’ve learned from this; I’ve grown from this. I still feel pangs of jealousy but I am no longer angry with you. I never should have been and I’m sorry.
But I don’t believe I’m the only mother to ever feel that wave of envy. Just as I don’t believe I’m the only mother to ever feel grief, anger, frustration or pain. You’ve felt it, right? I think the most important thing that you and I can learn from one another is that it is okay for our different experiences to result in mirroring emotions.
Often I hear you relate to something I say and then follow it up with “but I’m not comparing my situation to yours”. Yes, you are. And you should! It’s as though you think your comparison is a bet laid on the table. I will raise you my disability to which you will have to fold. I promise you that is not my goal. My goal is to hear you. My goal is to be there with you in your battle on the days where it feels too big to fight alone.
It’s possible that during those 10 weeks in rehab I would have told you that things will all be fine simply because you don’t have a spinal cord injury. I would never dream of saying that now. The lessons I’ve learned about motherhood since my accident have evolved from enjoy-every-moment-and-always-be-present-and-thankful-because-you-never-know-what-may-happen-tomorrow to some realizations that have surprised even me. I wanted to share just a few with you.
I’m not going to tell you to savour every single moment with your children. Some moments are hard as hell and are better left on the cutting room floor of your memory. But savour the good. When you find yourself in that space where you think to yourself this is why I became a mom, hold onto it because that’s what gets you through the next round of I’m-not-lying-he-is.
I won’t say that you should spend every minute with your children while they are little because the time is so fleeting. You are not solely on this planet to be a mother and discovering one day that you lost yourself to motherhood may just lead to a lot of regret. I will tell you that your children will be ok if you are not always with them. Being away from my children for 10 weeks was brutal. However now, a night out or a one-week-child-free-getaway comes with much less guilt. And when you take time for yourself, you can be more present with your little ones. It becomes easier to seek out those moments to savour.
And finally, I will never tell you that you should participate in an activity with your children if it’s not your thing, just because you are able. We all have different ideas of how we want to tackle mom life. But if being active with your kids is your jam, then don’t take it for granted. Enjoy every race, every hike and every jump into a pool. Enjoy and be thankful for the things you do together that make you happy.
Yes, you and me, we are different. But my experiences don’t render yours null and void. We are both making choices and forging paths that are unlike anyone else’s and yet we do it with the same common goal of getting these little humans to adulthood. The physical way we parent is obviously going to be different. But mothers have been doing it their own way since forever. From breast vs. bottle to working moms vs. stay-at-home moms to public school vs. homeschool, everyone is doing it differently (wheelchair vs. standing is just a little less common).
Even so, I am right there with you. I’m searching for shoes, tackling laundry, reminding them to pack their bags and doing my best to get them to school on time. And that barely scratches the surface. Let’s give ourselves permission to compare our experiences and the emotions that they have brought out in us. It isn’t about saying that your life is harder than mine, but instead finding common ground and supporting one another as we navigate motherhood and everything else that comes with being a woman in the 21st century.