By Mandy Waysman
“That is shocking,” I hear my daughter say at the breakfast table. She’s referring to her Dumbo pillow not having a mouth. I didn’t realize that she was a pearl-clutching socialite prior to this breakfast. Seven years she has hidden this, but it’s not an unpleasant affectation.
She goes on to explain that elephants eat with their mouths and not their noses. I am a little relieved that she has this knowledge, and yet I still feel superior to her. This kid doesn’t know words mean things. A stuffed animal not having a mouth is not “shocking.” It’s a design choice. I did eventually realize that as her parent it’s a reflection on me, but for the moment I took my superiority with a side of coffee. Judging by her reaction to the Dumbo pillow, it was going to be a long day.
Once my kids were safely in school for the day and I drove to work, I did start to examine word choices of mine and realize that I was not at all perfect when it came to choosing words that reflected my feelings. For example, I have depression and anxiety. In working through that, I have been speaking in code for years. I’ve thrown out a “That’s why mommy drinks” while describing a particularly bad night with the children. If I was being real with my feelings, I could have admitted I didn’t drink, but I cried alone in the shower trying to figure out how to tap into whatever strength I had left to be a role model.
I chose “boozy mom” talk because I needed a connection to a coping mechanism that would tell my friends that I really struggled that night, but I didn’t want to alert them to a true mental problem. It’s more acceptable in my mind to be a “boozy mom” who’s plugging through life than it is to be a depressed and sad mother. To be fair, when I imagined my life as a “boozy mom,” I am sure I invested in one of those clever bras that hold wine and a lot of times yelled, “Watch this!” Though blood was spilled—no broken bones.
“Boozy motherhood” was good to me in my imagination. Depressed and anxious motherhood was not as good to me. (Unless I worked to code my words and make sure that people weren’t worried about me.)
That small change in code from mental illness to boozy can change a whole story. For example, I tried to help my oldest daughter meditate to alleviate her worry by breathing in the bright light of calm happiness and breathing out the gross feelings that are keeping her up. I got to a part where she asked how she could avoid breathing back in the bad feelings, and my rapid-fire response that you turn your head slightly is much funnier as a “boozy mom.” If l admit that I was able to give that answer in a second because it’s something I worried about when I tried to meditate away my anxiety or depression for years, it could lose its entertainment value.
If I lose my entertainment value, I don’t know what value I add to anyone’s life.
I need to find the honesty to speak outright about feelings and say, “Things are hard right now, but I understand that they will improve.” I need to find even more honesty to communicate when things are hard and I don’t see where they improve anymore.
That morning, my daughter challenged me to be more honest about feelings. I accept that challenge and will go forward in a more honest way. A recent study said that one in five children have a mental illness. There is no time for me to waste in being an example on speaking truth and using language honestly. And I will to learn add value and entertainment more honestly, too.
About the Author
Mandy Waysman has a passion for napping. She enjoys long walks on the beach, screaming at the top of her lungs for her daughters to wait up and politely yet firmly requesting that they stop hitting each other. She likes eating food other people cook. She has written for Working Mothers magazine, parents.com, todaysparent.com, sheknows.com, and scarymommy.com. She appeared on the talk show “Me Time with Frangela” (with comedians Angela V Shelton and Frances Callier) on a couple of segments related to articles written for Parents.com and Cafemom.com. Last but not least she appeared in a few anthologies. The most recent being “You do You” a book of empowerment for women lead by NYT best-selling author Jen Mann. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ohmandelynn Twitter: https://twitter.com/OhMandelynn