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CHAVA LEITNER/Adventures of a Jewish Mom
A More Peaceful Relationship With Myself—A More Peaceful Relationship With My Children
So I came to a realization a few weeks ago. This realization had been something repeatedly said to me in bits and pieces by my husband and my sister, but for some reason, it refused to sink in until recently. It’s hard when you’re the person who was “great with kids” and you’re suddenly under immense pressure, you’re not in the best situation, and not the best headspace, to remain “great with (your own) kids”.
I’ve been under a lot of stresses, as of late, and now, only finally that I am able to see the solution to my troubles and the antidote for the constant knot in my stomach, am I really seeing my relationship with my own children clearly.
Since Nala was two months old, our small family has been in a state of limbo. We’ve had some crazy stressful financial falls and have gone from renting our own two-bedroom home to suddenly needing to move in with my parents. We told ourselves it would only be a little while, but it evolved into much longer than we had hoped. Though we recently moved from my parents’ home in Pittsburgh to Dovid’s family’s home in the suburbs of New York, and are finally seeing an end in sight to this jumbled chapter of our lives, we still remain vaguely veiled in this limbo state.
Everything I’ve ever wanted for my children; the way I’ve wanted to raise them, to speak to them, to encourage them, to teach them, to guide them, and to protect them- I’ve been mildly avoiding. Not because these ideas didn’t mean enough to me, but because for the majority of my little girls’ lives I’ve forced myself to focus solely on what their primary needs were- not just their desires. My circumstances had me choose between necessity and extra-curricular, so of course, I chose necessity first.
And that’s how I’ve been feeling for a little over a year now. No matter what fun adventure we were on or exciting place I was visiting, or fun activity we were doing, anxiety was always ready and waiting in the back of my brain- knocking gently but confidently with a half-cocked evil smile and sparkling eyes. A little person constantly telling me that I’m not good enough to be their mother. Not good enough to be able to support them. Not good enough to have the means to support them physically- so how was I ever to support them mentally?!
So that’s how it has gone. To me, it was a short amount of time, but to them, it was their whole lives. They were happy to be living with their grandparents and getting all the extra cuddles and love surrounded by their extended family, but what I saw was only my own failures.
It has been a long journey; re-learning how to strategically and wisely deal with money, learning to save wisely, sticking to our regular monthly bill paying, learning to love ourselves, trust ourselves, and appreciate what we do have at the moment (instead of binge spending and becoming full of regret). But every step of the way, every milestone we hit with paying off debt, I focused on our immediate weekly needs and our way of working ourselves into a healthy financial state. My husband and I sat and had weekly financial meetings to chart ourselves toward our financial goals, and only recently have I realized the toll that has taken on my girls.
Kids are resilient, I don’t doubt that. They find the goodness in their situation, always. They find love wherever they are for everyone around them. That’s what I love so much about them. And me, I’ve always been very perceptive- I could anticipate a child’s true needs from a mile away. It must have been that I just didn’t have the excess emotional energy to notice it on my own.
Now here I am. I have challenged myself these last few weeks to be a mother to them that gives them second chances. To have the patience to arrive places (possibly) late (again), because Noa wants to put on her shoes herself, then realize she can’t and then ask for my help. To use a quiet voice, no matter the circumstance. Yes, I have failed and shrieked a handful of times*, but I have noticed such a change in their attitudes- even their personalities.
This fall I came to the conclusion (with the help of my wonderful husband) that I needed to let go the desire to control all finances with insanity. Since letting go and gaining a sense of trust and calm, a calm steady flow of financial opportunities have opened for us. But my panic and anxiety are so strongly engraved in me, I still have had trouble fully trusting in other aspects of my life.
But as I choose a healthy flow of love for my children, and thus because the ship of our lives is starting to see calmer waters, Noa has been more inclined to follow directions the first time. She has become infinitely braver and has progressed physically, hitting large motor milestones she had previously struggled with. She has been more focused on her activities at hand, and so she has had the opportunity to learn many new letters, numbers, shapes, and more. She has been all around calmer, like she’s cradled in my energy, and has begun cuddling me again (something she hasn’t been able to do without an outside stimulus before).
Nala has felt safer when I leave for work and often will be happy to cuddle for hours at a time (she’s always been really cuddly, but now she’ll fall asleep on me- something she hasn’t done since a few months old). She stopped her newfound habit of doing exactly what I’d asked her not to do and genuinely is happy to do what I say. We are able to go out and about as a family more often than ever before because I don’t panic over spending $20 at a family outing for an activity, because I know there’s always more money flowing in.
We’ve been on one heck of a ride, and so I guess it’s true what they say- you can’t enjoy a roller coaster until you step down from your fear, observe your surroundings head-on, and let go, put your hands up, and relax. It is only then that you’ll notice the smile on your face from a ride that previously paralyzed you with fear.
As I write I feel infinitely lighter with the admittance of my struggle, and I can only hope if you’ll take one thing from my musings, it’s that you do deserve and can have all you can dream of if you’re willing to struggle hard, but also to truly let go. You don’t have to consistently be perfect, but you do need to forgive yourself, let go, and move on when you do.
*maybe just a few minutes ago writing this article while they are supposed to be napping, not teasing and hurting each other
is a young blogger, Mama, traveler, fitness coach, and happy wife. She grew up as a reform Jew and stumbled across Chabad when she was about 10. She became religious when she was twelve and has been crazy about G-d and Judaism ever since (especially Chassidut)! Chava loves taking pictures and being in nature, eating clean things and clearing her mind through exercise.