I want to be a mom, but I am not good at boundaries. Ask anyone who knows me. I push the limits one thing at a time, if it’s not getting way too close to a Sea Lion in San Francisco with my younger sister telling me I have to stop, then it’s me secretly binge drinking at my Aunt’s wedding when I was under 21 and vomiting all over the stairs of my mom’s front porch. I can be a handful. I guess what I am saying is that sometimes moms have to tell us when to stop.
I have been thinking lately, that I don’t even know how to tell myself to stop. How will I know how to tell a child to stop? How will I assert a boundary or set a limit with another human who I care about, without crushing there spirit completely. Geez, being a parent sounds hard. Right now I just have to focus on caring for myself, because once I have gotten a little better at that I might feel remotely qualified to have a little human of my own to care for.
I am a person who as a very intense emotional side to her. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and in general I like to think that I am a very lovable handful. However, I think that this handful must have at time, been a lot for both my mother and younger sister to handle.
Once, when I decided to move across the county to attend the college of my choice I acted like a complete brat on the entire trip, because I was internally freaking out that I was leaving the only family I had ever known to be alone. The thing was, I had chosen that path, which is why when I hysterically begged my mother not to leave me in the parking lot of Vanguard University, I mean I pleaded with her even,she told me that she loved me and I could do it, and that she had to go. She explained to me that while she would like to take me back with her, she hadn’t purchased a return ticket, and well, I had no other option but to follow through on the choice I had made. At the time here were my thoughts: They are going to be so glad when they finally get rid of me. I have been so terrible on this entire trip that my mom will be glad that she doesn’t have to deal with my bullshit anymore, and my sister will get so much more attention now that I don’t need it all.
Because I think this is a great story, please allow me to tell you some of the brief highlights of this trip with my mom sister and Aunt that spanned about 9 days and started in Las Vegas, went through the Grand Canyon, the coast and central valley of California, to San Francisco, and finally back down to Costa Mesa, my final destination. On this trip
- Bought jewelry behind my mother’s back. Even though she wanted me to be responsible with money I had to have that white turquoise.
- I gambled at slot machines in Vegas even after she expressly told me not to.
- I threw a fake temper tantrum in the middle of a Casino and pretended to rip apart a doll from Circus Circus.
- Scared my entire family when I rebelled against my mother’s decree that I could not have a $10 sundae from Ghirardelli Square even though that’s all my Aunt had been raving about all weekend. I bought said sundae after disappearing for 30 minutes or so to wait in the line, and this was before we had cell phones, so it wasn’t like they could just text me to see where I was. When I finally found them I asked them if they wanted any of my overpriced sundae. I had taken two bites, which was enough for me. It was very rich and I felt sick.
- I got car sick, and demanded we change the trip from up the California Coast to one through the central valley, even though it as pretty impossible to get off PCH at a certain point
- I threw up in the streets of San Francisco. (I wonder if the aforementioned sundae was involved)
I had about one meltdown per day, that resulted in my mom or sister telling me to calm down or that I needed to just breathe and chill out. My favorite incidence of a meltdown occurred in a Motel 8 towards the end of my trip. I am not sure what happened, but I do know it was getting closer to my families departure date, and things were getting hairier by the minute emotionally. All I remember is hysterically crying in the lobby of the Super 8 motel, and the manager asking my sister if there was anything he should do or anyone who she should call. I like to remember her telling him, that it was okay, her sister was just a nut job, and the police didn’t need to be involved. I remember my mom walking me back to the hotel room and telling me to get in the shower. I also like to remember this happening with all my clothes on, although the memory is not as vivid as it could be, so I am possibly making that up for dramatic effect.
Almost 15 years later I imagine the agony that my mother had to go through watching her hysterical daughter cry and beg her to stay. I imagine the horror of getting a phone call from that same daughter a week later, and hearing her hysterically tell her that I missed her and I wanted to come home. I remember her telling me after that phone call that she didn’t want to talk to me on the phone when I was like that anymore, because it was too hard for her, and while I am not sure if I understood at the time, I now realize she needed to set that boundary not only for me, but for herself, and her sanity.
It’s been almost 15 years, and I would like to think that over that time I have made a lot of progress setting boundaries for myself and allowing others to set them for me, but in all honestly I think I am still very much a work in progress in this area. When people tell me they need space or don’t give me their attention I go into full anxiety mode and imagine the worst. I let myself cry like a little baby yesterday in my office at work, because I was disappointed in a mistake I had made. But then I think of a time a few weeks ago where I felt myself going into a full meltdown and I went to the bathroom and told myself that I needed to read my mantras two times before I let myself cry, and in the process I avoided crying. I have wanted to scream and yell at my partner and tell him I’m in emotional pain and severe anxiety, but I have stopped myself realizing that it wasn’t a productive use of either his time or my own, and that perhaps the timing was not right and I needed to wait for a time that was more appropriate to express my needs.
Mothers have to set boundaries for us, even when they don’t want to. I know there is that old adage that where someone tells someone else, this is going to hurt my more than it hurts you. Mothers must feel like that a lot, because they have to look at their children and say I know you are hurting and scared and confused, but I want you to grow up a little bit and figure this one out on your own, because even though I might wish that I could, I cannot always be there for you in this life.
So I guess in the process of wanting to become a mom, I have had to start trying to be my own mother. I have had to look myself (anxiety, depression, compulsion) and all straight in the mirror, and say I know you want to scream and cry and lash out emotionally, but you are an adult, and you get to decide whether or not this is a good use of your time and energy. And sometimes I fail at setting the boundaries for myself, and I let myself cry and scream. But the times when I make the right/healthy choice for myself, I know this is going to come in super handy when I am a mother, and like mine, I think when the time is right, I will make a really great one.