I’ve been taking Emilee on walks lately. To get out. To think. Maybe to escape. Stay-at-home motherhood is a prison sometimes, especially for those of us that are extroverts – those of us that derive our energy from other people. Imagine someone that is able to think most clearly when they are having conversation. Now imagine trapping that person all day with a child under 2. It can be maddening.
And natural. And necessary. Mothers build walls around our children the day they are conceived. The baby grows surrounded by the walls of the womb and when they emerge, mothers carefully surround our children with walls of protection – making sure that every need is cared for. . . . but what we fail to understand is that we are also building these walls around ourselves.
I am a reader – I always have been. And when I started having children I read every book and article known to mankind about raising children. And one of the things that I read was that babies suffer separation anxiety (that crying fit the baby has when Mommy leaves the room) mainly because they view themselves and the mother as one. Obviously, you’d suffer some anxiety if you saw part of yourself going away.
I believe that mothers encounter this as well. I’ve always had trouble being away from my babies, not because of guilt, but because I am just as much attached to them as they are to me. It is the way that motherhood has worked since the beginning of time. Many of us suffer from post-partum depression, from the changes in our body chemically and hormonally, but I wonder if a lot of us struggle with that temporary loss of identity – the walls that surround ourselves and our babies and cause us to forget about our Selves without those babies.
But, as I went on my walk today and thought about the walls that I am surrounded by, I wonder if it’s not limited to motherhood.
I recalled a conversation with a friend a couple of years ago about her difficulty with leaving her husband. She was very unhappy but she felt like she couldn’t hurt him. She was worried that I would be disappointed with her. I was not, but I thought about her today and wished that at the time I would have been able to explain more.
I wish I could have explained that when we join our hearts with someone, we naturally build walls around that relationship. We immerse ourselves in the joys of love. We set boundaries that will protect the relationship and insure its longevity. We build walls not to create a prison but to proudly display our new selves – something precious and wonderful.
And those walls are built around dreams, goals and aspirations for a certain direction and a certain future. They show us as we are at that time. They are walls. They are not silkscreens. They can move, certainly, but like any boundary, they need to stay strong, and mainly in one place.
And dreams change. Life does not always bring us want we want – or maybe we don’t end up going down the path we anticipated to achieve our dreams. And walls must be broken down and rebuilt.
One thing you learn as a mother is that as your child begins to gain independence – turning over, sitting, crawling, and walking – the walls around the both of you must be taken down, brick by brick. You must allow your child the ability to experience and feel and understand all on their own.
My kids freaked out when Emilee first put dirt in her mouth. I told them to leave her alone. She’s not going to like it. She’ll learn on her own that dirt doesn’t taste good.
It’s hard to break down walls. It means you have to let go. You have to allow yourself to be exposed and vulnerable. You have to trust that the other person will help you build a new wall – what if they don’t want to build a new wall? This is always the risk you take. Sometimes 2 people can’t renegotiate their walls, and it just never works. Or they stay in a place in their relationship where they’re both imprisoned – surrounded by old walls that neither of them wants to live in but unable to deal with the heartache it would take to tear down and rebuild.
I’m working on a song called “Old Scars and Walls and Wounds That Don’t Show”. . . .I think that is what separates many of us. If I could go back in time and talk to my friend I would tell her that there’s no way I could be disappointed in someone who’s struggling with re-negotiating a relationship. Whether you decide to stay or go – either way, you’re dealing with the same issue of rebuilding walls. And it’s just hard. Whether you’re a Mom trying to let your baby grow, and find yourself or whether you’re someone in an old relationship with old walls that are in desperate need of being torn down and rebuilt, it’s a process that wears on our most unprotected place – the heart.