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"Then, I wallowed in my loneliness, it was like my badge, it was my wounding.
Two weeks ago, I put my two youngest on a plane to visit our family on the other side of the country. In the month leading up to it, I had all sorts of anxiety about separation from them, but there was also an excitement, a freedom, a world that I hadn’t really spent time contemplating the reality of: life beyond kids. I mean I’ve thought about it, dreaded it and really don’t want this magical time of their childhood to end, it is, and has been an incredible journey.
I have 100 percent custody of the girls and always have. I have never had a break from parenting for 16 years and to be honest, I think I need a break. I love my kids like crazy, but sometimes in parenting we get so caught up in their worlds and just getting through life that we lose sight of our horizons, our dreams and who we are.
When I woke up the first morning my first thoughts were of my girls and there was a disappointment that they weren’t in their rooms, instead safely and comfortably having fun with their cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. I’m so happy for them that they are having this experience, but I’m now sitting at home, basically alone for the first time in my adult life wondering how I will spend my days or if I will even speak to another human being during the course of the day.
Just to clarify, my 16 year old is here, but I barely see her anyway.
What this trip has done is to highlight how very much I isolate myself from other people. It’s not because people don’t like me, because I think they do in general, but because I don’t make room in my life for relationships – of any sort. The only relationships that I nurture are those with my children and now, when they are not here and they embrace their own lives, I see the vacuum of humanity that I’ve created by not putting effort into relationships with both men and women, friends and family.
What underlies this story is a massive feeling of loneliness and an inability to find the balance between connection with others and connection with self. I am the sort of person that likes my own autonomy and I like to control when and for how long people can come into my space but I also like company!
For couples it’s called “Empty Nest” syndrome, but for single parents there’s not just the absence of children, but the awareness that you are all alone in the world. I imagine that people in aged care facilities feel this aching loneliness, alone with your own thoughts. I’m having trouble articulating this feeling into words…it’s like an emptiness that their absence leaves within you.
Interestingly, it is a familiar feeling, it is the feeling that I had before children. The difference is now I’m a different person. Then, I wallowed in my loneliness, it was like my badge, it was my wounding. Now, I’m embracing the feeling of loneliness and being okay with that. I’ve been able to dance and hula hoop around my house naked, sing loudly without a chorus of “oh, Mum”, eating when I'm hungry without having to provide for other people and I’ve been going out significantly more than I usually do.
I’ve been going out with friends and I’ve been on a heap of dates with men from an online dating site, not really with the intention of meeting someone specific, but to make new friends and “practice” dating without expectations. They’ve all been nice people and I’ve probably only made one friendship out of it, but it’s been an interesting process. Having children is not an excuse for not having a social life, but more often than not, I use them as a way to get out of social events or dating and I often feel guilty for leaving them for long periods in the evening (mostly because all of the good events are 30+ minutes drive away!). Initially, I was looking for something to fill the void that the kids have left, but a relationship for the sake of it doesn't feel empowering, it doesn't value who I am and it's a band-aid solution to a loneliness that I alone can fix.
They come home this week and I am so excited I can’t wait to hold them in my arms and not look into their empty rooms and wonder how they are. I know that they have had an amazing time with our family and friends from our old life, but I have missed them. I love being a mum but this time of respite from being a mum and just being Alyssa has been an interesting journey, into self, into who I am and what I want and of holding on and letting go.
I’ve had some lightbulb moments: that I’m not willing to settle for a relationship for the sake of having one, I’m worth more than that!
Human connection, no matter with who, matters, I need to put more effort into relationships and make an effort to go to places that I want to, stop using the kids as an excuse.
And finally, I love my kids and I can’t have them all to myself, they are loved by so many people, I need to share them, so I let go.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2016
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