When reading this, you first have to understand I’m not a particularly emotional person. I can probably count on one hand the times I have cried in the last decade. Despite my aversion to emotions, today in the company of veterinarian, I had a total meltdown. 4 years of the stress of motherhood, keeping it together and keeping my life on course came to a head and I turned into a sobbing mess of inadequacy, guilt and fear of failure.
These three painful feelings, most mothers probably know and recognize. We are all constantly keeping them at bay by either driving them deep down and trying to Pollyanna our way through each increasing difficult day of parenting, or instead by being the mother who opening second guesses her worth and day in and day out wrestles with the anxiety of having these feelings bubbling over at surface level. If you have read any of my posts you can probably already tell that I am the first mother – the one shoving her feels while skipping through life. And that is why, today in the company of my golden retriever and the vet, I bawled my eyes out.
Before you decide you don’t want to hear a Marley & Me sad ending, let me start by saying, my golden retriever Cloe is alive. She is 12 years old, she probably will die sooner than I can bear to admit, but today in the vet wasn’t that day. It wasn’t about coming to terms with the fact that I will soon be losing my faithful companion but about the time I have already lost with her. Today was about me coming to terms with the past 4 years of Cloe’s life, the 4 years in which my kids have been alive.
The Casualty of My Motherhood
For those of you who don’t know, I am the mother of two smart, active, beautiful and unbelievably exhausting children. Raising kids is hard. It’s hard in a way that you can never understand until you’ve gone through it. It’s a daily challenge and quite frankly one of the most difficult things I have ever done and hopefully my greatest accomplishment. The monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, and by minute challenges are excruciating and leave even the most cool and collected at their wits end. As a result, there are causalities along the way. Sometimes those causalities are friendships, jobs, a sense of self, and sometimes even marriages. In my case, in the quiet and calm space sitting at the vets alone with my 12 year old golden retriever, I realized – she has been the casualty of my motherhood.
As I write this I am acutely aware that what you probably want more than an apology that you can’t read, is more attention and more belly rubs. But since it is midnight and you are loudly snoring in your bed, and quite frankly I’m completely OD’ed on touch for the day (more like year) this will have to suffice until the sun comes up.
What some humans reading this won’t understand is that dogs are a huge part of our journey through motherhood because you are there for the whole thing. There isn’t one second that I’m in the house with the kids and you aren’t right there. Outside of the handful of appointments a year, you are always at home and, and for better or worse, seeing everything.
In the moments of pure frustration where I lose my cool and yell at my kids, I know you are watching me. I see you lying on the couch watching me suffer through trying to get their shoes on and out of the door at a certain time. I know you want to step in and eat their dinners for them while I am trying to unsuccessfully negotiate a few more bites. But, despite seeing everything, you never judge, never offer advice I don’t want to hear, or even try to remind me that I should be grateful every second of every day because the joys of motherhood (something I deprived you of at a vet appointment long ago).
- I’m sorry for how many endless times you haven’t been able to sleep because of whining and fighting and crying that is taking place all round you.
- I’m sorry for how many time you have been jolted awake by a stray ball or teddy bear smacking you in the face.
- I’m sorry for the times the kids lord their food over you and build a barricade to keep you away from the table.
- I’m sorry that we used to find it fascinating that you bark at animals on TV and now we find it completely obnoxious.
- I’m sorry that when we go on walks I put you on a leash. Really the kids they really should be the ones of the leash and you should be walking off leash by my side because you are more in control of yourself than they are.
- I’m sorry for all the times I’ve yelled at you for barking when the babies were sleeping. It wasn’t really you that was upsetting me, it was everything except you. But you were there and telling you to shut up and lose my temper towards you was everything I wanted say and do towards my long day of mothering.
- I’m sorry that I rarely take you to the beach anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to it’s just that, taking you to the beach is just one more thing I can’t put on my plate that day without everything shattering down on the floor.
- I’m sorry I don’t want to spend an obscene amount of money on the weight loss dog food your vet wants you to eat. I know you will still try to steal bagels and quesadillas so I find dieting at your age pointless.
- I’m sorry we don’t find the time to pet you as much anymore.
- I’m sorry I don’t show you how much I love you.
Nothing about you has changed but with the introduction of kids everything in my world changes and sometimes you became a casualty. Once we had Summer, and then even more so when we had Cal, your world shifted. It wasn’t all at once but slowly over time, the routine we gave you for 8 years diminished until you are left with a life that is a thin resemblance to what you once had. We could keep perspective and say #goldenretrieverproblems and it would be accurate because in the big picture you really do have a great life. But it’s not about where you started it’s about where the journey has taken us. At first you thought kids were great because you realized you wouldn’t spend business hours at home alone any more. We kept our long walks for miles while we packed the kids up in the double Bob and walked and walked until everyone stopped crying. But then, as the kids became more mobile those long walks became shorter and shorter until now. Now that we are finally in a place where we can pick up and go for long walks again, you’re life has changed and you are too immobile. I’ve lost the chance to make up for these past 4 years.
In my case, I fear I’m going to take to the grave guilt over the past 4 years taking advantage of your unwavering companionship. I know that people say mothers we put themselves last, but in my case, I am afraid my sweet golden that I might have been putting you last. Because at the end of a typically long day, when I’m exhausted but unwilling to go to bed because I want an hour to be alone, I become selfish like the toddlers I spent the day with, and don’t share that time with you.
Whether I realize it or not, second to my kids, you know the most about who I am as a mother because I was your mother first. Having you home with us makes motherhood little less lonely for me. I don’t know if I could have survived two kids under the age of two without you and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
I love you my sweet dog and will spend every day for the rest of your life trying to remember to show you the depth of my love and gratitude.