A number of the young women bloggers I follow write a lot about self doubt. Do I write well enough? Am I a failure if I give my kids pizza for dinner from time to time? If they don’t grow up to be good people, it’s all on me. I need to make the world a better place – today! How can I be a good mother and an interesting marital partner? And then, after awhile, they ask – What happened to me? Where did I go?
Those last two were things I used to think about. I married the first time when I was twenty and had two young children by the time I was twenty-three. This was well before the internet where I might have found help for how overwhelmed I felt. It was even before there were many self-help books. My husband probably was as overwhelmed as I was, but he turned his insecurity into verbal abuse and because I’d never lived on my own, had never earned a salary or paid my own bills, or really been responsible for my own life, it was easy for me to buy into his views of my worthlessness.
I felt like I had been erased. Where was the secure, smart, motivated person I’d been? The young teen who had thought about choosing between being a ballerina and a brain surgeon. Okay, the ballerina thing was delusional, but medical school not out of reach.
It took eleven years for me to get out of that first marriage. My two children were only part of the reason I stayed so long. I had a college degree but had never had a real job. If I left, how would I support myself and my kids?
I look back on 41 years of a second marriage to a lovely man who still thinks I’m smart and talented and beautiful. But it took me a long time to believe him. And it took him being injured in a catastrophic automobile accident thirty years ago for me to understand that I could make it on my own. The scared child inside me got pushed aside by the need to take care of my husband and our four children. It wasn’t easy, but at the end of six long years of his recovery, I no longer doubted my ability to take care of myself and my children. It put a lot of things in perspective.
Maybe it’s the process of aging, but my worries today are about our country and the world, not so focused on self. My kids are adults and make their own decisions and the consequences are theirs. They are good, responsible, caring people. The kind of people I hoped I would raise. The occasional pizza I fed them didn’t seem to inflict lasting harm.