By Heather O.
Yesterday my DH told me some tragic news. A good friend of his just suffered the loss of his 4 year old daughter. The young child had some severe health issues, and this week, finally lost her battle with cancer.
My husband was quite overwrought. A normally emotional stable guy, he was in tears when he told me the news. I could tell that his friend and the situation remained on his mind throughout the day, and as we were getting ready for bed, he asked the ridiculously obvious question, “Would you be sad if our son died?”
I softly told him that yes, of course I would be sad if our son died, and I gave DH a hug. But after we had gone to bed, I lay awake for a while, thinking about what DH had said. Would I be sad? I’m not sure sad is the word. Devastated is a better one. And of course, in the aforementioned tradition of my vivid imagination, I started to go where no mother should go, especially in the middle of the night. I started to imagine what it would be like if my son died. Then I had a realization. Besides being completely emotional devastated, what would I actually do? I mean, DH has a job to go back to, something to focus on, a career to build, people to network, blah blah blah. My days (and still, sometimes nights) revolve around my son. I have a few things in place to maintain some sense of my former identity before I became a mother, but as a SAHM, they are certainly not as substantial as my husband’s career. With the death of my son, my only son, my entire identity that I have built over the last 3 years would be gone. Completely. I would have to revamp myself entirely. I could do it–like I said, I’ve maintained some things that are just about me, but it would be tough. Very, very tough.
So I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, this seemingly obvious revelation I had in the middle of the night. I suppose we are always shaping and changing and revamping who we are, but mothers’ identities are inescapably tied to their children’s activities. Maybe that’s why we want so much for them, or get them involved with so many different things. Because we are so connected to them, their successes become our successes, their failures, our failures. Of course that’s not inherently true. Our children are their own free agents, and I certainly don’t feel like my own mother shared in my triumphs and failures, although she must have felt them on a much deeper level than I ever realized. (And of course, blaming Mom for all my shortcomings and character flaws is awfully appealing at times, but let’s save that for another time, shall we?). But I know that when my son is successful, I take some credit for it, and feel proud. And I feel his failures perhaps even more acutely. On some level, they reflect on my own mothering skills, some kind of failing on my part.
I don’t think that my husband, who is a loving, involved, fun father, feels this same connection, this same definition of his identity. Strange that our identities can revolve around so many different things when you are supposedly sharing a life.
So, is this identity meld a good thing or a bad thing? Is it a scary interdependent relationship, or one that is necessary to raise normal, healthy, well-adjusted children? Again, this question, like so many other questions of parenthood, seems to have no definitive answer. And of course, like so many other questions of life, I’m ruminating on it right before I go to bed, which means that my vivid imagination will be working in my sleep, and I’ll be blogging tomorrow about the bizarre dream I had about how my son turned into Superhero, only to discover that his cape was gone, and that I somehow ended up eating it for breakfast. I’m sure there’s something really Freudian about that somehow, but I’m too tired to go there.
Our hearts go out to our friends who have lost their little girl. Our thoughts and prayers are with them tonight.