Thursday, February 9, 2006

A Long and Lonesome Road

It seemed as though I'd gotten through a bad patch, and was about to come out the other side. Instead, I'm just discovering the unrelenting awfulness of single parenthood. My daughter (BL, from here on out; she deserves a better, unique acronym, but this is a modified version of a nickname I use for her, and will have to do) has had a nasty bout of something, and has resorted to listlessness, clinging, whining, and an adamant refusal to allow me to do any of the things that might help her feel better. Maybe this is typical of a sick three-year old? But it's played havoc with my various responsibilities (I'm teaching on the fly, as it were, and canceling office hours like nobody's business), including my new strategies for a sane and functional--if no longer anything approaching "happy"--life.

And now my mother-in-law, who has been helping watch BL this week when I have to teach, has decided that my daughter is "depressed." (I suspect this idea originated with one of my husband's sisters, who are noteworthy for their effective absence during his illness and for their intrusive and pedantic "advice," which is almost always delivered via the MIL). Maybe she is depressed. I am; and I'm pretty much central to her existence. She's also had 5 days of fever, a racking cough, and almost nothing to eat.

But I'm having a hard time coping with the sick child, the feeling I am failing to meet my professional responsibilities, my own sorrow, anger, and boredom at what my life looks like these days, and the "speculations" about BL's mental health, divorced as they are from much actual help in managing the day-to-day issues in our lives. I realize I'm being unfair, here; but today, I want to be unfair.

I want to rail at the hostile universe for making me the thing I most wanted to avoid: a single mother. I can handle the "practical" aspects; to be honest, my husband had been so ill for so long that I effectively "parented" by myself in terms of the logistics and the work. But I am having far more trouble adjusting to the loneliness of making every decision by myself, of having no one to turn to for reassurance that I am doing an okay job at this most important task, of losing the one person to whom my daughter and I meant the world. That emotional gulf is immense, and unfillable.

In the first days of widowhood, I worried about the mechanical aspects of being alone: paying the bills, getting the oil changed, finding someone to paint the house. I still worry about those things. But far more wretched is the alienation I feel from everything around me. Yes, I have fabulous and supportive friends. But I don't want "friends," who come and go from their own lives (lives that seem so much more desireable than mine, these days). I want someone in the trenches with me, for good and bad. I love my daughter, but I want someone there to console me at the times when I don't like her too much. I want someone to console me at the times, like today, when I don't like me too much.


At 12:35 PM , Blogger Badger said...

I have no good advice, and I know I can offer no comfort. But I can nod and agree that this is indeed a long and lonesome road.

My, how quickly the world swoops in to judge single mothers, eh?

At 12:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ARE doing a fantastic job of parenting during the most difficult possible time. Don't sweat your professional responsibilities too much. What's important is that you are a loving and wonderful parent. That is perfectly obvious.

At 1:39 PM , Anonymous mindspin said...

Like Badger, I can only nod in agreement with all you've said, though my children are considerably older.

At 3:10 PM , Blogger ABDmom said...

You are NOT being unfair. It's your ILs, who as you said do none of the day to day work but then swoop in with unhelpful "advice," who are being unfair.


At 4:32 PM , Anonymous ehj2 said...

I generally find that I write to other people as a way of writing to myself. As if other people remind me of parts of myself and in writing to them I am becoming more conscious of, and working with, that part of myself.

That said, I'm mostly writing to myself. Maybe reminding myself of something.

In Buddhism we study compassion, not so much to be more compassionate with others, but to be truly compassionate with ourselves.

Everything is a mess. And we are all suffering. When we can accept ourselves as a mess, and our suffering, and live with that just the way it is ... and be compassionate with ourselves just the way we are ... then something is freed in us.

When we are truly compassionate with ourselves, and don't judge ourselves for being human, but love ourselves for our deep humanity, then suddenly we have compassion for others, too.

You have so much compassion for us, for the world, your husband, your daughter, your students, the flowers along the side of the road, I already know you have almost infinite tender compassion for yourself. It couldn't be otherwise.

I'm writing because I admire you and you are a reminder of the compassion I want to have.

Your life may be a broken dream in this moment. But you are not.

You're awesome.


At 7:39 PM , Blogger Ancrene Wiseass said...

I want someone in the trenches with me, for good and bad. I love my daughter, but I want someone there to console me at the times when I don't like her too much. I want someone to console me at the times, like today, when I don't like me too much.

Oh, boy, do I ever understand the feeling behind this. Even though I'm not a widow, but a divorcee. Even though I have no children. And I can only imagine how magnified that feeling would be with a child in the picture.

And ABDMom is right: your in-laws are being unfair. You need help, and they should offer more than armchair psychology in response. But you knew that already.

Here's hoping you can find some of what you need--and if we can help somehow, please let us know.

At 8:09 PM , Blogger Yankee T said...

I chose single parenthood by adopting as a single person, but I can tell you that the pressure of making all the decisions on my own wore me down sometimes. I cannot imagine the weight of these issues when being a single parent was the opposite of your dream. I found people, through trial-and-error, who would be in the trenches with me, and I hope for you that you find that same peace.
You are on my mind and in my heart daily, Dorcasina. I wish I could help. Please email me if you think there is anything at all I can do. yankeetransplant at gmail dot com

At 8:45 AM , Blogger MusicalMom said...

My heart just goes out to you. I don't have anything much to say, but I wanted to let you know that although I don't know you, I do care about you. ((((HUGS))))

At 10:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm nothing more than a faceless Internet person, but I know that in times of sorrow even the smallest kind words help a little. So here are some of those smallest words: you're a great parent. A better parent, and a better relative, than your in-laws were to your husband; you've written so eloquently about the sorrow you and your husband felt at their inability to see him for the person he was. I am so sorry again for your loss and while my life intersects with yours only through your blog, know that someone out there thinks about you daily and wishes you well.

At 1:30 PM , Blogger VIctoria said...

Dorcasina, I only recently came to you via Dean Dad. Saying that I "enjoy" your blog would be ridiculous; you touch me deeply. I wish I could come and clean house, cook a meal, run an errand (or babysit while you do). As I cannot, please know that you are often in my thoughts. As Anonymous said, I'm just another faceless internet person, but...well, another long distance warm thought...

At 10:42 AM , Blogger Rev Dr Mom said...

I'm not widowed, I'm divorced, so I haven't had the same kind of deep grief to deal with that you have, but I so resonate with all you said about single parenting, and wanting someone there who cares for you. Hold on, and I hope that you will be able to come out on the other side soon.

At 5:22 PM , Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Of course your daughter is depressed, her father died. Of course you are depressed, your husband died after a long illness. This shouldn't be news to the in-laws, in fact -- I'd be worried about them if they AREN'T depressed. Depression is a natural reaction to the death of a loved one. If it turns into significant or long-term depression, then you should worry.

You know better than anybody that your daughter doesn't have the skills to express her grief, she's 3.

I hope you have the resources to get grief counseling for yourself. The counselor can also help you to cope with her reactions to her father's death.

This is new territory for both of you, there are resources out there to help both of you cope. Don't miss out on them because the rest of your life is hectic. One of the reasons your life seems more stressful is exactly because you have to deal with these things.

Good luck and God bless.

At 6:48 AM , Blogger snickollet said...

Dorcasina, I hope that BL is over her illness. As for the in-laws and advice and such, I feel a deep empathy. I won't say more than that as to say more would lead to a novel-length comment and you don't need that.

One thing that is very clear to me from reading your blog is that you are a wonderful parent to BL. I know that hearing that from me is small, if any, comfort, but for what it's worth . . .

I'm so grateful to have found your blog. You express things that I didn't even know I was feeling until I read them, and you write more eloquently about the things I know I'm feeling than I can. It is a great comfort to me to come here and experience that as a break from a world where my friends and family--try as they might--just don't have any clue what to do with what I'm feeling most of the time.

Thank you.

At 12:57 PM , Anonymous Newbie said...

Dorcasina - came across your blog through Bitch PhD, and started reading it before your husband died. I was so very sorry to read about his death. Your writing is eloquent in its grief, and so very, very, very honest. I feel privileged to able to read it.

But your blog also makes clear the centrality of your daughter's well-being to your life. I have an 8 yr old, and a 3 1/2 yr old. Three is hard. They talk about terrible twos, but in my experience 3 and 4 are equally difficult, but for different reasons. The 'No,no, no" stuff is unplesant and incredibly frustrating and annoying, but it will pass.

And don't be too concerned if your daughter is showing some signs of depression. Kids do get down at times, and losing a father is more than enough justification for finding life just a bit too overwhelming. My 8 yr old had a really hard time when we moved half-way round the world and her new school really sucked. Be there for your daughter - as you so clearly are - and she will eventually come right. Kids are also amazingly good at picking up on the feelings of others, so she is also likely to be responding to your grief, which is also a perfectly natual and normal process.

Ignore the MIL - don't you wish people would live by adage "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all!" Wish there was more I can do than try and reassure you that your daughter will be fine and that from the sounds of it she is acting just as one might expect for a 3 yr old.

sorry this is a bit disjointed - and hope I haven't come across as all preachy.

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