Friday, June 19, 2015

My Skin

My skin is soft
It is warm and silky
It is familiar and comfortable
It has speckles, freckles, spots
That are unique to me.
It has kept me together for years now
It has embraced eight babies
without a single mark
It has healed over every wound
It is supple and smooth
It is the only skin I have ever known
I am impressed and amazed
at the things my skin can do.

My skin is white
It has no olive, no red, no brown
It turns red in the sun
and, if I am lucky,
it holds some gold for a few weeks
But always, always
it returns to this pale white color.

I always loved golden skin,
tan skin, brown skin, creamy coffee-color skin.
As a teenager I marveled at the rainbow colors of skin.
I felt enchanted by the darkness it could reach
I wondered how the sun felt when it wasn't burning you
I wanted another skin.
It intrigued me, but always, always I came back to
my white skin.

I have learned to love this white skin
I have learned to smile at the tan girls
(at the wrinkles and cancer they will have)
And I protect this white skin.
I am comfortable in this skin of mine
It has served me well.
And I have learned not to wish it away
I love this skin.

My white skin.  I didn't know...
It is a key to a secret club above suspicion
It is a password to the gate of opportunity
It is a blessing I never could see
This pale, white skin
This skin that I have always had
That keeps me warm, that feels so soft
This skin has kept me safe
from prejudice, from hate, from fear.
This skin has let me in to places
only reserved for those like me.
My skin that I love.
My skin that protects me
in ways I never saw before.

My white skin
It is a pass, a weapon, a defense
I have escaped suspicion, hate,
discrimination, and fear
I have walked in ways that many can't
I have done this all unknowingly
I didn't know.
I didn't know.
I DIDN'T KNOW!

My skin.
Is it wrong to say I love my skin?
My white skin?
That I love what it has done for me?
That I am grateful for my opportunities?
Can I love my white skin...
and still love your brown skin?
Can I love what it has given me...
even as I loathe what it has given you?
Or must I hate this skin?
This beautiful, white skin?
My white skin.
My skin that holds all that I am.
MY skin.

em


Image result for skin

Saturday, February 15, 2014

On Post-Partum Depression


The bathroom stall wall is cold against my forehead.  I focus on that feeling, of cold, solid against my warm flesh.  I focus on what is real.  The ground beneath my feet.  The purse, heavy on my left shoulder.  I breathe in, “I am strong.”

 I breathe out, “You can do this.”

 I breathe in, “stop crying now.” 

I breathe out, “You are in control.”

I breathe in, and as I focus on my breath, I blindly grab a tissue from the plastic holder and blot away the tears as I breathe out.

I am standing in a bathroom stall at a restaurant just south of Dallas, Texas and I am crying.  How in the world did I get to this point?

I think through my day.  We woke up at the hotel and ate breakfast.  My boys were well-behaved, my husband happy.  All was fine then.  We went to my daughter’s swim meet.  It was hot, the air full of chlorine, and there were many people making lots of noise.  I was fine then.  We went to IKEA, and it was very, very crowded.  Every time I stopped walking, someone would be on my heels, or a stroller would stop just short of mowing me down.  My son was hanging on one side of me the entire time.  My other son was pulling my arm forward the entire time.  I was not fine then.

And then it was time to eat.  And we walked in to this restaurant.  The noise of people happily chatting became a loud, raucous sound in my head that made it hard to hear individual voices.  The haze started to slide down my vision like a screen being pulled down.  The menu was so full, there were way too many options.  And the waitress asked what I wanted to drink, and though I could barely hear her, I knew the routine.

“Water,” I whisper as I avoid eye contact.  She doesn’t hear me and my husband has to repeat my order because I cannot look up at her, I cannot look at anyone.  I stare at my phone like I have some online conversation I am too wrapped up in to focus on my family, but I don’t.  I am just trying to look normal.  I am just trying to keep the tears away, but I can’t.  And as they start to flood down my cheeks, I stand up and quickly make a beeline for the safety of the bathroom.  I am fairly certain I knocked into a woman in a sari on my way here.  I couldn’ t see through the haze, and  there were so many people I couldn’t look at. 

And here I am, head pressed against the cold metal of a bathroom stall.  A tissue is blotting the tears as quickly as they come, pitifully trying to make them disappear.  I try to get a grip, and that is when I realize what is happening.  It is back.  It is back.  Oh, dear God, it is back.  And I stifle a sob, and I breathe, and I breathe.  It is back.

It is back.  And although the words flow through my mind and I realize with perfect clarity why I am standing in this stall crying for nothing, I dare not speak the words out loud.  It is back, and it is worse than before.  I breathe in, and I breathe out.  And I open the door.  And I wash my hands.  And I walk back to the table- eyes averted down.  I sit down.  I lie to my son when he asks if I am okay.  He is smarter than he needs to be and after I reply, “I am fine,” he replies, “no, you’re not. “

And I tell him that I love him and I watch as he and his brother play a game on the table of the restaurant.  And when the waitress comes to take our order, I whisper the daily special, the sides I want, and when she asks for a clarification, I look down at the table and my husband replies for me.  I was not prepared to say another word.  I am not okay.  It is back.

We get back to the car, and I am so grateful to be in the quiet, peaceful, nobody I don’t know, nobody crowding me, I don’t have to say a word or pretend that I’m okay.  I tell my boys mommy is tired, and I am actually exhausted from what has happened to me.  I fall asleep on the way home.  I wake up, and the fog that rolled down like a movie screen is just a light mist now, and I can pretend to be okay.

Night falls, and the children go to sleep.  I tell my husband, through the mist of “It” and the shame of what I must say, “It is back.”

“Fix it,” he retorts.

And I stare at him in shock.  I just told him what I can bear to tell nobody else, and this is the reply I receive.  “I can’t just fix it,” I implore, “I am broken.  Not like a broken ankle, but broken in a way that can’t be quickly mended.  Just don’t worry about it.”

And my husband, who believes anything can be fixed with a pill, leaves the room.  And I am finally alone with “it” – again.

And it is time to face what I am dealing with.

The first time I faced it was three months ago.  I had delivered surrogate twins via an emergency c-section and was home, trying to physically and emotionally recover from the trauma of nine months of carrying twins and emergency surgery.  I received an email from their parents accusing me of “exploiting” them.  I cried.  I cried.  And I never stopped.  My body tried to heal for six weeks, but the physical and emotional pain was just too great.  “It” came as a dense, weighted fog, obsidian anguish rolling through my soul.  It covered every thought with darkness and sent a veil of bleakness over my mind’s eye.  I sat in my semi-dark house all day long alone, not wanting to talk to anyone, silent.  I watched mindless TV shows so I wouldn’t have to think about the pain, the grief, the sorrow.  The funny thing was, I had nothing to grieve over.  I had nothing to feel sad about.  I was just anguishing for nothing.  And that’s when I knew something was wrong.

My doctor told me it would subside with time.  Stay active.  Exercise.  Keep your routine.  Don’t take on any extra work.  You are strong.  Just give it time.

I did all of those things, and it finally stopped.  I was relieved.

And then last weekend happened.  It has returned.  This time, it didn’t roll in like thick fog.  This time, it crept in like an evil twilight mist.  Thin and gray, it slithered right into my soul unseen, and then, like the mist that rolls in off the ocean, became thick fog without warning.

I sit on the side of my bed.  Broken.  Afraid.  Overwhelmed.  Indecisive.  These are the words that I use to describe myself now. 

Utterly ridiculous though it seems, it has completely irradicated the person that I used to be.

I am 1220 words into this essay, and I still haven’t been able to bring myself to speak “it’s” name because I am so ashamed.  Because it is so misunderstood by anyone who doesn’t know it.  Because even I scorned the women who had it.  Because it is so hard for somebody strong, determined, decisive, and proud to admit to such a weakness.    

Sometimes I weep over the grocery list because I just don’t know, because I just can’t.

Sometimes I spend thirty minutes in my closet trying to decide what to wear because I can’t figure out what to wear. 

Sometimes I stand in the kitchen staring at the counter because I can’t figure out what I should cook my family for dinner.

Often, I don’t go to social gatherings because it is too hard to be around people.

Often, I cry over nothing. 

Often, I spend my day with a floating, quivering, invisible haze over my eyes like a dirty shower curtain I can’t quite see through. 

Every day, getting out of bed in the morning is as difficult as it used to be to take a college level exam because I have to psych myself up to swing my legs over the side of the bed and face the day.

Every day, I feel anguish and loss for nothing.

Every day, I come home exhausted because just making it through the day without crying or hiding or running away has taken every bit of energy I had.

Every day, I know I am broken.

Every day, I know nobody I know will understand. 

Every day, I am the unseen face of post partum depression.

em

#momsmatter

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nice Mommy

"This hurts me more than it hurts you," mother says.
"That's not even possible!" angry child yells.
And stomps off to her room.
I remember being that child, and I remember hearing those words. 
I didn't believe them then.  I don't think any child in the history of the world has ever believed those words.  I grew up, forgave my mother for the lie, and became a mother myself.
For fourteen years, I mostly forgot about those words. 
And then it happened.
My daughter- my sweet, precious, beautiful baby girl who I adore more than life itself- turned into a teenager. 
And there came a point where I had to give a consequence- a big one.
I went through the motions, did what had to be done, told her that I could, in fact, make her life worse than it already is, and I had.
And a little piece of my heart broke when I saw the pain in her face.
I had just taken something important away from my baby girl.
And for all her back talk, and all her attitude, and all her teenager-ness, she still wanted to be tucked in at night.
And after I kissed her head, she asked if she could please go.
And I had to say no.
And as I walked out of her room, I could barely remember her disrespect, could barely remember her disregard for others, all I could think of was my baby asking please.
And it hurt. 
And in that moment, those words, those terrible words, echoed through the bowels of my memory, and I thought, "this hurts me more than it hurts you."
The irony of that statement hit.
Finally, I know what my mother meant.
Finally, I realized the truth of these words.
To take something away from the child you love more than life itself is devastating. 
It hurt me to the point of tears. 
But my goal is not to save myself heartache, my goal is to raise a strong, capable, kind, and educated human being.
And to reach this goal, nice mommy has to walk away and let mean mommy straighten things out.
I have undergone a mommy rite-of-passage, and I am not sure if I am glad for it or not.
I only pray that my daughter will be stronger for it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Music in my Soul

 

I learned to play the piano when I was a little girl.  I took lessons from a woman who lived by a small lake with paddle boats.  I loved going to her house.  Her piano was in the back, beyond the living room, and in a corner of her kitchen.  I don't really remember anything about her house, but I remember the piano.  It was very old, it was black, upright, and it had real ivory keys.  They weren't bright and shiny like the keys on my piano at home; they were chipped and a bit broken, but I loved to touch them.  I loved to feel the weight of them beneath my fingertips and I loved to hear the sound her piano made.  It was so rich, so deep, so beautiful.  I remember her voice as she counted the beat.  I remember her pencil tapping the piano when her voice wasn't enough.  I remember the metronome she took out when she was desperate to teach me to keep time.  I still have all the books, with the dates, the stickers when I accomplished my goals for the week, and the memories of the songs I learned to play piano on. 
I never became great at playing the piano.  I never seemed to be able to keep time properly, and I never seemed to understand that the volume should increas and decrease- not just get loud and echo on the pedal the entire time.  I chalk these defects up to the love I feel for the music.  I am so excited to hear the notes that I can't stop to count.  I am so wrapped up in the beauty of the echo that I don't realize I am the only one who hears it growing and changing in my head.  I love the music.
 
As a young mom, I moved to a ward where there were few piano players, and even me with my limited skill became a comodity.  All of a sudden, I had to relearn how to play the piano. 
I practiced.  I played during the week on a piano my mom bought from a neighbor.  I played in the Primary- and learned all of the children's songs.  I played in the Relief Society- and learned many of the Hymns.  Sometimes, I even played in Sacrament meeting.  Through my grown up years of playing for church, my music repertoire evolved into a collection of church music, with very few exceptions.  Playing for church allowed me an escape that all young mothers crave, and it allowed me to worship God through music.  The scripture "a song is a prayer unto me" became meaningful to me.  I worshiped God every time I played.  I brought His Spirit into the meetings I played for, and it brought happiness to my heart to be able to develop a talent and bless others.

Three years ago this month, all of that ended.  It is a long, sad story that ended with me being damaged and broken.  I could not attend church. I could not even pull into the parking lot without feeling sick to my stomach.  I lost so much of my faith and hope and trust in the Church that I did not even know where to turn.
Eventually, I sat down at the piano to play.  I looked at my music- all hymns, songs we had performed for Relief Society, songs I had played for the children's program, songs I had loved and played in the church I had loved.  I cried.  I tried to play something unrelated to the church.  I could not.  I could no longer play the piano.  Every time I sat down to play, I wept.  I did not understand why I could not play, but I could not.  I would shake.  I would cry.  I would scream in frustration. 
I couldn't believe that my music was gone.

As the years have passed, I have learned to play other music, but not very much.  I play occasionally.  On Sundays, when I am missing church, when I want to pray but I don't have the words, when I am missing my babies, when my heart is aching and I need release, I sit down to play.  Sometimes I can play for 30 minutes, sometimes less.  Sometimes I start to play and I stumble, and in frustration I give up because I can't play a song that used to come so easily.  I have fought to bring music back into my home. I want my children to be able to sing with me as I play the way they did when they were small.  I have been trying to salvage this talent I once possessed.  It is hard.  Music has been a casualty in the loss of my faith and I still wonder why.

Today, I decide to play for a few minutes while everyone was busy.  I walk into my new piano room, pull the French doors shut behind me, pull out the bench, and sit down at the piano that used to be my mother's.  I lift the lid and run my fingers over the keys- shiny and smooth, the piano of my childhood.  I look at the books, and oddly, I open the Hymn book.  I open it up to "Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love," and I play.  Tentatively, hesitantly, and quietly, but I play.  The sound echoes off of the walls and the wooden floors.  It is loud, even without the pedal, and my heart swells with the full, rich sound.  I play a few songs, and my fingers feel loose, so I keep playing.
I play in peace for 45 minutes.  When I finish, I realize that I have not felt one moment of sorrow.  I conclude with a piece entitled, "This is the Christ," a song that I used to play in Relief Society, but I don't feel sorrow or grief.  I remember our chorister increasing and decreasing the volume, and I remember the sound of the ladies singing, but I do not feel pain.  I feel love, I feel joy in praising God, and for the first time in years, I feel the music in my soul reach to the heavens.   

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On becoming a working mom


Of Dreams and Reality

As a little girl I dreamed big dreams.  I dreamed of being a lawyer and a child psychologist.  I dreamed of travelling the world as a sign language interpreter.  I dreamed of going away to college and studying abroad.  At the end of all of these adventures, I would meet a man and fall in love.  We would marry, and I would have beautiful children to raise in a beautiful home.  I dreamed such beautiful dreams that I never made a plan to turn them into a reality.  I was so busy dreaming and living a “fun” teenager existence to worry about such trivial matters.

When I was eighteen, I awoke from my beautiful dream with a harsh reality.  I was going to be a mother.  I had a high school diploma, one semester of college under my belt, an ex-boyfriend who adored me and wanted to marry me, and a basket of dreams.

I reached into that dream basket and pulled out the dream labeled “motherhood.”  I set the rest of the dreams up on a high shelf, not knowing if I would ever return to claim them, but not able to leave them within sight for fear my heart would break.

I spent the next few years young, poor, married, and raising my daughter.  When my husband told me that we might go bankrupt, I sent my eighteen month old to a sitter and got a job as a secretary.   He went over the road driving a truck, and I lived in a trailer with a hole in the floor and opossums living underneath us, but every month I paid down those bills.  I bought milk with pennies in a Ziploc bag, but I always fed my child, and every month I paid down those bills.  A year later, my son was born and we moved into a small house with real floors and real walls.  I quit work to be a stay-at-home mom, and I finally felt like I was living the life a good Mormon woman should live.  I stayed home with my children for a year.  We lived a step up from poverty, but I stayed at that little house with those babies and we built forts and we colored pictures and we created games and make-believe worlds where my children rode horses and discovered new lands.  It was a type of paradise, but always there was a nagging feeling in my mind. 

Always, there was this feeling that I was not me.  One day, I looked in the mirror and saw what I had become.  I wore baggy pants, tshirts, and clogs every day.  I wore glasses, no make up, my hair in a ponytail.  I read voraciously, but I did not learn anything new.  I was a housewife, a mother, a Primary teacher, and a good Mormon woman.  All of these are beautiful things, but I knew that this was not what I was meant to be.  I looked at myself, and I realized that this is what I was telling my daughter she should be.  I was 21 years old, I had been married for three years and had two children.  I was poor, bored, uneducated, unhappily married, ignorant to the world, and all I had that brought me any joy was my children. 

I thought of what I wanted my daughter to be.  I thought of my mother’s words of wisdom, “you are living the life you choose.”  I knew in that moment that I did not want this life for my daughter.  I did not want to be this person.  I did not want to live this life.  I grabbed my dream basket off of the shelf, and I made a bold choice.  I applied for college that day.  I applied for financial aid.  I made a choice to become the person I wanted to be- the person I wanted my children to look up to.

I am grateful that I lived by a university that offered the program I wanted to take and cheap family housing.  I am grateful that I was able to receive enough financial aid to pay for my tuition, my education expenses, my children’s day care, and my fuel so that my husband would allow me to go to school. 

It was easy for me to decide what I wanted to be.  I didn’t have to worry about choosing a career that children would fit into one day.  I had to worry about choosing a career that would fit my life, where I spent most of the week as a single parent.  I had always loved English and I had always been a teacher at heart, so I decided to become an English teacher because it is the “perfect mom job.” 

Going to school as a mother has huge disadvantages.  There were no fun parties, no study groups, no late night library excursions, no clubs, no sororities, or any other activities pertaining to “normal” college life.  I never got to study abroad, and when the trips were announced, my heart would always sink.  I never went to a single football game or choir performance- my children were too young to sit through that. 

Contrary to popular belief, going to school as a mother does have advantages.  I excelled in all of my classes. Every professor I ever had knew me by name.  I sat in the front of all of my classes, asked questions, and listened to every word the professors said.  I went back to class four days after my son was born, and received a standing ovation from the professor and the other students.  I was different, and everyone could tell.   I worked hard.  I took so many hours that I had to receive special permission from the Dean.  I worked straight through the summer, and I never stopped.   I achieved consistently high grades and graduated summa cum laude.  Why?  Every moment I spent in school was time away from my children.  It was my money (that I will be paying back forever), but more than that, it was my sweat and my tears, and the tears of my children when I was away.  It was the hours I spent on the porch in the summer watching my children play while I read “The Tempest” or “Macbeth” and the neighbors looked at me strangely as I held one end of a jump rope as I continued to read.  It was the nights my children fell asleep on the couch watching a show because I was writing a paper. 

In the end, I graduated from college with my husband and all three of my children in the audience.  I had the announcer include my maiden name when he called me. “Emily Grace Miller Chidester,” he said, and my heart nearly burst.  It was my dream to graduate as “me,” and I did.  My daughter and my sons heard my name as I walked across the stage and received my diploma.  It was as if I had been given back myself, and it was liberating. 

I became a teacher two weeks later, and I have been teaching ever since.  I not only became a teacher, but I became the mother that I want my children to have.  I became a woman who does not accept the reality I am given.  I became a woman who holds onto her dreams and never loses sight of them.

This is the reality that I leave for my children.  We do not have dreams; we have plans.

Sabbath Day


Sunday morning dawns bright,
clear and radiant
It is early, but this day is here,
and I must embrace the end
of my week as a mom
I must begin the last day
of joy
We will eat a large breakfast,
and smile and laugh
We will sit through a service
at the church my children choose
we will sing hymns and pretend that
the world is wonderful
We will go to the standard Sunday meal
at Grandma's ranch,
but I will hurry us home
to clean,
to fold laundry,
to play a game,
watch a show,
walk the dog
anything that gives me time
to touch,
to kiss,
to ruffle the hair,
to laugh with,
to share with
the children I will lose
I have enjoyed this week
this glorious week of motherhood
Sunday twilight falls quickly,
dark and empty
It is early, but night has arrived
and I must let go
of my time as a mom
the Sabbath Day ends
I let my children fly away
sit in my empty nest
and wait

em

Monday, January 28, 2013

50% Mom

When I found out that I was going to be a mother, I changed the course of my life.  I quit thinking about what was best for me, and began thinking about what would be best for my child.  I went from being 100% self-centered to being 100% child-centered.  I spent the next 14 years of my life putting my children first.  I spent my days revolving around the universe I built with them- I was the sun that warmed, fed, clothed, nurtured, bathed, entertained, scolded, hugged, loved, and cuddled their small, growing celestial bodies.  Oftentimes it was frustrating.  Often times I felt alone with the weight of our little universe on my small shoulders.  But every day I found joy.  Every day I found at least a moment of pure bliss with my wee growing children.  It sometimes was found in a giggle, a hug, a pat on my cheek, or a stolen moment of my three loves reading to each other on the couch. 
The point is that every moment, every day, every year was spent on growing my children.  Their projects were my projects, their successes my success, their bedtimes my bedtime, their waking hours were my waking hours.  And it worked.  For 14 years, we lived in our beautiful universe.  We lived through storms and hurricanes and breezy, summer days.  For 14 years, I was a full-time, 100% mom- and it was everything I was meant to do. 
After five years of divorce and their father asking at various points along the way, my children decided they wanted to live with their dad 50% of the time.   No matter how it broke my heart, I knew there was no holding them in orbit around me forever.  It was I who had allowed their father to leave our universe, and I could not ask them to stay with me alone any longer.  I let them go.  Now, I get to have them every other week.  Every other weekend.  Every other holiday.  Every other riding lesson, and every other Wednesday night dinner at Grandma's house.  I thought that- with time- it would get easier.  I thought that the grief would lessen and I would adjust as time went by.  I thought as we worked the kinks in our schedule out, everything would be okay.
My children say they like it.  They say they are adjusting well.  They like the day and time we switch.  They want things to be fair.  Oh, the double-edged sword of teaching my children justice!  My children are happy- so they say, and who am I to know if this is best for them?  I want them to be happy.   I want them to know we are all here- holding them in orbit between us.  They are always held up in the gravity of our love, they just rotate around us now, instead of us around them.  They absorb my love and my strength as they circle around me, and then they fling out further than I ever wanted them to and grow from the strength and the love of their father.  Their world is bigger than my world now.  They have grown and continue to grow with such a galaxy to explore, and I cannot deny them that.
But I am not okay.  The grief does not lessen, instead it grows. 
I have my children for one week.  On Sunday, their father brings them home at 7:00 pm.  Jason and I are anxious.  We have made a late dinner because they are always hungry when they arrive.  The house is clean, our arms are open, and the children come banging in- scriptures, backpacks, helmets and all.  They pile it up and we start talking about the week.  My butterflies begin to fade as they settle in and I hear about the week.  They show me their tests, their papers, and share the details of a church lesson, an event from school, or a list of all the things we have to do this week.  Within an hour, I am overwhelmed with chores, and lists, and schedules.  My mind is frantic with all the work there is to do, but my heart is full, my arms are full, and I can smell the warm and sweaty smell of my babies as I snuggle into them and say, "oh, how I am glad you are home with me."
I run myself ragged through the week.  I feel guilty if I try to take a moment to myself.  If I want to read a book, or write a blog entry, or hide out for a moment of peace, I instantly berate myself, "how could you want to be away from them?  How can you waste one single, precious second of your time with them?  You have only half the time now, you cannot waste it!"  There is no rest.  I run until I literally can run no more, and then I collapse into a dreamless sleep and begin again with swim at 5:30 am.  Exhausted, but contented, I live my week 100%.  When a child wants to go to a friend's house, I have to overcome the desire to say, "No!  I only have you two more days," and let them go without an ounce of sadness in my voice. 
On Saturday before they leave, I wash all the clothes.  The laundry must be done and folded and put away before they go, or I will have to look at it, and fold it, and put it away in their empty rooms.  Rooms are cleaned, beds are made, and all their rubble is picked up and put away.  It hurts too much to find that errant shoe on Tuesday night.  I unplug the nightlight, or I find myself looking into the room where my son should be each night.  Their doors are never closed, or I would find myself peering in, half hoping that a child is accidentally behind.  And so our last day ends in chaos, with mom stressed out about everything being done.  We try to play one last game, or watch one last show, anything to keep me from looking at the clock- but I always do.
On Sunday before they leave, I begin counting down.  I look at the clock, "5 more hours."  I look at the clock.  "Only 2 more hours."  And I start to get shaky, and nervous, and my stomach begins to churn.  I can hardly sit through dinner, but we will eat this last meal of the week together before I send them off. We load them up in the car- scriptures, backpacks, boots and helmets.  We drive them over and I squeeze them each one more time before I send them off.  "I'll see you Wednesday," I feebly say as I kiss their little heads and send up a silent prayer that they will be at church on Wednesday night. 
The week rolls by- quietly, peacefully, painfully.  I work late every night.  I clean the house, or go to my mom's, or write in one of my blogs (obviously, the kids are not here tonight).  I get so much accomplished, but the emptiness is never quelled.  I cannot seem to fill it. 
This week, I cannot be a mom  I try to shut off the worry, the concerns about homework, the desire to hug and kiss and say I love you to each child every morning and every night.  I turn it off, or I go crazy.  I turn it off, or I annoy them with persistent messages and frustrate their dad with a gazillion texts and emails about everything they should be doing.  I am a 0% mom this week.  I think to myself, "this is not what I was born to do."  I think to myself, "this is the price I pay for divorce.  This is the price I pay for my children to have the life they want," and that is enough to shut off the selfish voice in my head.  It is a busy week- full of all the things the childless woman does to keep from remembering she is childless.  Is it bad for me to say that this is worse?  Because I have children, but I am not with them?  They are out there playing, eating, learning, smiling, laughing, and I am not there to witness it- is this a failure beyond the inability to conceive?
The worst- the very, absolute worst feeling about all of this comes on Sunday night before they get home. This is the part, the secret, hidden, evil part that I don't want to write, but it is a part of this cycle, and I must.  Before they get back home, even as I anxiously prepare, a little, evil part of me is overwhelmed and frightened to become 100% mom again.

And so the cycle goes.  I bounce between 0 and 100- and average out at 50.  I feel such feelings that I never thought were possible in motherhood.  I ache for that feeling of safety and routine that comes with the motherhood of my early mothering years.  I remember each time I wished for a break from my babies- and I cringe.  I yearn for my children to be home with me every night.  All the time I took for granted, all the minutes I wasted or wished away, I want them back.  All those moments I will never have- they are already lost- lost before they even are. 
I think sometimes I am a failure, but I know sometimes, when I see my kids in action, that I have succeeded somewhere along the way.
Joy and Pain.  Full and empty.  100% go.  100% stop. 
This is my life- the life of a 50% mom.