When you leave an abusive relationship, you are driven by fear. At some point you know that if you stay, you’ll die, one way or another. And if you have kids, that they are at great risk too. You may not be able to say that it’s the right choice, because your thoughts are not clear, your mind is dealing with many contradictions; guilt and shame are your best friends for years.
You’ll find on your way back to life, many voices that will make you doubt your decisions to get out of a domestic abuse situation. It will be friends and professionnals. And it will be tough to listen to those people, who seem to know better than you what you went though and what you ought to do to start again. You will listen at first and you will feel less and less powerful, more and more under stress, pressure. All your energy seems gone to a land where you can’t catch it again.
Obviously, the person committing abbuse will do everything to win your back; your kids will be used for bartering —so easy! Many people think that it’s just about leaving domestic abuse, when in fact it’s so much more. It’s about finding yourself again, in a battle that looks like it will never ever end. And, also, it’s about keeping your kids safe and well.
Kids are the priority
Often people tell you—now that you’re out and ready to start a new life away from your abuser—that you have to take care of yourself. On paper, this looks great for sure, but in reality, if you have kids, you will want to protect them first. How can you think about yourself, when for years you have been nothing, and when you have been told you were good for nothing. First things first. Getting out of domestic abuse will cost you: 1. insomnia, 2. a great deal of money to find the best lawyer, 3. countless thoughts about whether you should give him/her another chance…again.
It lasted four years for me, between the time I left to the time the divorce was validated. It was all about our child. As much as I wanted him to have a relationship with his dad, I wanted the law of my country to guarantee the best protection for him too. I knew my ex-husband would do anything to mess it up. And he did.
Domestic abuse doesn’t stop one morning bacause you decide it’s over. It’s always there, not visible, but in the words said, unsaid, in the behaviour, in the way the abuser is changing roles, again and again and again. So you are not able to tell what’s true, what’s not. You’re confused and back under his power once more.
It’s tough when you want your life back but you feel dragged down every time you make a step forward.
Stand your ground
At some stage you will need to get past voices around you and find your own. It’s a step-by-step process, full of ups and downs. I remember feeling free one day and back to darkness the next. But as months went by, I could see more days with freedom and fewer without. When people used to tell me things, I let them talk. By the end of the divorce, I had been through enough to understand a bit more about my ex-husband. He only wanted me to be the bad guy of the story.
But in front of the judge he did not stand any chance. The evidence was against him. People did not know my story. But I knew it by heart. I knew what I lived was not about love but only possession. And that his goal now was not to lose face in front of his family and community. Nothing more.
Know what’s best
I got help. I worked a lot. I wrote many lines. I poured out on to paper all the things I could not get my head around. And there were many. For me, it’s not about will power at first, it’s about understanding what abuse is, how we got there, why and how we can get out of it. It’s an enlightening road, cause when you start walking in your real shoes, you start seeing the whole picture.
I think that we all know what’s best for us, whatever other people think. My son did not see his dad for six years. Today, he is seeing his dad once a month in a supervised center. Many are still telling me that he is his dad and he won’t do anything to harm him, or that maybe he could see him out of this place. For me it’s a NO WAY. I know what’s best for him and me.
At the end of the story, you know you are part of it too. And you start taking care of yourself! Maybe,for the first time in your life!
Do you have any preconceived ideas (we all have some at some stage) about domestic abuse? How is the Law protecting kids and parents in your country?
This is an original post to World Moms Network from our contributor in France, Marie V. The featured image used in this post is attributed to Safe Horizon.
International Women’s Day is a great time for women to lift up other women and the author of this post does just that. Our World Mom Contributor in California, USA, Ewa (Polish Mom Photographer), reviews a fantastic book, RELEASED TODAY, about mom advocacy , and written by fellow World Mom in Missouri, USA, Cindy Levin.
I’ve been a part of World Moms Network since the beginning. Never too involved but always with a post or two, sharing whatever wisdom I thought I had. As a new mom I had a lot going on. Sound familiar? I was rediscovering myself, this time as a mom. World Moms Blog (as it was known then) was quite the community for a person like me. An expat, new mom, new experiences, new lessons learned (or not).
I was just starting my life anew, at 28. In a new country, a continent apart from my home and family, I was starting my own. A little lost. A little scared. Full of hopes.
Looking at the history of my posts here on World Moms Network, I go back in time. I see how far I’ve come, and how much one’s life can change.
World Moms’ Evolution
After a break, WMN came back to life, and we, the “old team” of contributors, were asked to start collaborating again. I said yes. After a few months of being back on the team I still didn’t know where to start. What would I write about? The Mom Photographer who used to write here doesn’t exist anymore. There were blog posts about postpartum depression and feeling like a nobody (as a new mom I seriously thought that). I wrote blog posts about passionately throwing myself into opening a business. I even wrote about DIY projects.
Today, I’m a full-time single mom of two, a business owner, a VAWA petitioner and a non-profit private school founder. I feel there’s a book within me but every time I sit down to write there is silence. For now, I will read about other Mom Heroes and learn from masters to conquer the always expanding challenges of being a mom.
When an email from my friend and fellow World Mom, Cynthia Levin, came in, ding! I don’t remember the last time I hit the “reply” button so fast.
“My book is coming up and I would love if one of you could help out. Here is the title: From Changing Diapers to Changing The World… I was like: “YES! I’m taking it!”
I finally found something to contribute. Cynthia’s book sounded like a step-by-step guide that I feel like I need, or some sort of funny memoir.
Well, it’s both.
So, here I am following Cynthia on her journey to become a world leader. Because, let’s face it, she is a freaking hero! And here I am writing a review for her book. What an honor. What feels even better is to know that even world activists start small.
So, Cynthia, my answer to your question is, “Yeah! I would love to join a movement of powerful moms who want to change the world”.
After almost 3 years of my own battle for VAWA rights, Cynthia’s book feels like something I wish I had when I started. This book represents what I needed the most: a voice of protection and assurance.
The book is like getting under warm and safe wings, with the voice of a mother empowering other mothers to take their steps in the world of advocacy, even if it was something you previously never thought of, because well, let’s face it, “You’re just a mom”.
A Must Read
So, if as a mom, you have these thoughts of fear and hopelessness, From Changing Diapers to Changing The World is a must-read. It’s a great example of the big-things-start-small mindset. Do what you can with the things you have. Fail and start over – almost like running a business. And so many of us know the glory of bringing our kids to work.
That’s what’s great about Cynthia’s book. She brings back the normalcy of being a woman while being a mom and still pursuing things that are important. Don’t overestimate the power of Mom. She knows how to pick the battle and she will show up when it counts.
You might think, “How can I change the world? All I change are diapers” or, “I’m just a housewife. What can I do?” Well, I say just read Cynthia’s book. It will give you a roadmap for expressing your voice in ways that could make a difference even while carrying a bag full of diapers.
Not Your Ordinary “Motherhood Survival Map”
Cynthia’s story about overcoming the postpartum hopelessness and fear of the future by taking baby steps toward advocacy is inspiring. This book connects mothers from everywhere. It is not your ordinary “motherhood survival map”. This is a map to a hidden treasure of a “mother on a mission”. Regardless of your marital, economic or political status, advocacy could be coffee with a friend or advocacy could be volunteering in your kid’s classroom to do an art project and send it to your senator. I love that Cynthia’s message behind it all is to become passionate about something instead of getting angry. Be outspoken with passion, not anger. I love that!
The Role of Motherhood Can Feel Heavy
It’s overpowering and often lonely. I remember my first day in the hospital after a long natural labor ended with an emergency c-section. It involved a slow walk into the bathroom in my hospital room. I looked into the mirror hanging over the sink and I saw a different person. This book is about this transformation. Transformation from a woman to a mother.
That period in life where we transition from woman to mother can send our entire self-identity and self-assurance for a spin like a blender. That’s a fact. For some of us, it’s a painful transformation. For others, it is like finding a calling.
When we become moms, we become new. After tapping into the ancestral consciousness of motherhood our entire being changes. It’s almost like the “I am” no longer exists. From that moment it all becomes “we are”. We are mothers, protectors, nurturers, leaders, healers.
We can feel helpless and tired at first.
Cynthia’s book delivers what she promises:
“I spent too many years aimlessly wondering what to do and how to do it. I want to help you skip right past those questions and frustrations. I’m sharing my story and the lessons I’ve learned along the way to clear the path for you and make your journey easier and a bit more comfortable.”-Cynthia Changyit Levin
Motherhood can be tough. Especially first-time motherhood. It can be a little depressing if you don’t have a support system or some sort of outlet. The outlet can be art or meditation or yoga. The outlet can be a quiet childless walk. And for some people, the outlet can be activism.
After you have your children, you can find yourself anew. Yes, you will have a second hip from now; your favorite saying becomes “It is what it is”; the smell of stinky diapers follows you around like a magic cloud – but that should not stop you from feeling like you can still change the world, mama.
Because whatever you want to be passionate about, you can start taking baby steps towards it right now, from the comfort of your home.
I remember when I felt like my existence was limited to two words: “unemployed housewife”. What kind of change can I be if I feel like my whole existence is to sit with my boobs out and change diapers day and night? How can you feel like a hero? How can you not feel depleted of basic human aspiration? I’ve been there and done that. How could I claim “this Mom-power, contribute to society, become a Mom-activist when so much of my day is consumed by diapers?”
Well, you can, and Cynthia’s story will leave you nothing but inspired.
Today, on International Women’s Day, with all the craziness of the world happening right now, with people asking, “How can I help” and “How can I contribute?” Cynthia’s book is heaven-sent.
From Changing Diapers To Changing The World by Cynthia Changyit Levin is available for order on Amazon.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Ewa Samples in California.
Writing and Deleting
In Dutch, writers have a mantra, a piece of advice provided by one of our well-known authors about deleting words rather than protecting them:
Schrijven Is Schrappen-Godfried Bomans
The translation is, “writing is deleting.” It means, instead of holding fast to everything you write, writers must apply the common practice of revising and deleting. We should keep only a fraction of our original words, sentences and ideas, to make the story work. Whenever I do this, I always wonder which gems my favourite authors might have left out of their best sellers.
A well-known British author had an even more extreme piece of advice when it came to revising and omitting:
Murder Your Darlings-Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
He gave this advice in his 1916 book, On the Art of Writing. Many writers, like Oscar Wilde and William Faulkner, to name a few, have crafted by this advice. To Murder your Darlings means that sometimes you have to remove some of your favourite parts in order to improve the overall story; even if the act includes cutting out the initial idea you started the story with.
Today, I’m taking the advice even one step further by censoring my own writing. I had several great topics ready to share here on World Moms Network. Some of the topics I had even turned into posts already; hoping to provoke thought and discussion among our global mom-community. One post was about how I dealt with being confronted with a secret habit of my teenage son. Another topic confronted the injustice I felt when educating my teenage daughter about how to deal with male harassment. I also wrote about breaking harmful multi-generational cycles—and the family bonds that go with them—to protect our own children.
But censorship won.
Protecting My Real Darlings
When writing as a mother, I try to make sure I have my kids’ approval when writing about them. I admit it hasn’t always been the full consent it should have been simply because they were not always old enough to decide. It was only when I witnessed my kids’ obvious discomfort when a stranger recognized them from my blog and approached us, that I realized they hadn’t known what exactly they had consented to. I hadn’t even realized the consequences myself until that day! Later that day, we talked about it, and made a new set of rules I needed to adhere to when writing about motherhood. One of it was not publishing any full face pictures or names, so they could remain fairly anonymous.
Today they’re teenagers and those rules don’t even remotely cut it anymore. Even if I would manage to write about them in a fully anonymous, untraceable way, the story would still be theirs to tell; not mine. They value their privacy more than ever, so I value it value it too.
So today, I’m killing my word darlings to protect my teenage darlings.
Instead of a juicy post that I know would garner comments and discussion but which features a story line based on one of my kids, I’ve recited Godfried Bomans mantra and followed Sir Quiller-Couch’s advice and killed those darling posts, leaving me to write about the process of a writer AS WELL AS a mother.
How do you combine writing as a mother with protecting your children’s privacy? Do you often feel the need to censor your own writing for their sake?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by our contributor in The Netherlands, Katinka. The image used in this post is attributed to Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash
Alas! I’d just had yet another row with my 14-year-old, and the closing banter, as always was, “You don’t know a thing! I hate you Mom!”. Feeling drained out, wretched, and eager to make things normal, all at the same time, I heard the loud thud of the door closing. She has shut her bedroom door as usual. I have the key with me, but I never try to open it. Wishing that she would come to me and apologise, I too, went to my room trying to take a nap. I put on the Brian Weiss regression on YouTube, yearning to relax.
I was now a teenager.
My individuality was slowly developing, but I was not there yet! I didn’t want to be under the shelter of mom and dad. Aged sixteen and completing my Pre-Degree (equivalent to 12th grade), I thought I knew everything better than my mom. It was the time of our farewell. Having decided to wear a Ghagra choli (Indian traditional wear) for the event, I found a good design from a magazine, and mom got it stitched for me. Unfortunately, the cloth was insufficient, and the dress did not look as beautiful as I imagined. The tailor consoled me saying that she could get it altered if I brought some more of the same cloth. I was disappointed, but mom reassured me that we would get it changed.
A day or two passed.
I didn’t see any sign of my mom getting the cloth for alteration. Concerned and having decided that mom was not going to do it for me, I kicked up a massive fuss and fought with her. That evening when mom was away at work, I went to the textile shop all by myself in an auto-rickshaw. I still remember, it was a maroon coloured Ghagra choli and I wanted some more of the same coloured cloth. The lady in the shop showed me so many variations of maroon colour and asked which maroon shade I wanted. Sadly, I realised that I hadn’t brought the dress with me to buy the exact maroon shade I needed. Never mind, I was a teenager, I knew everything, and I had the same maroon in my mind! So, I didn’t wait for anything, just bought the maroon material and came back home.
When I reached home, mom had returned from work, and she was waiting to question me.
Furious, I told her that I had bought the cloth all alone since I knew she wouldn’t do it for me. Then mom asked me if she could see the fabric and the dress to confirm that the colour was the same. Proudly, I took out the cloth I bought and the dress. God, the colours didn’t match!!! What should I do now?!! I felt miserable.
But what happened next was even more painful.
My mom took out a cover and handed it to me., I was almost in tears when I opened it because it had the same coloured cloth I needed for my dress. She had gone to buy it on her way back from work. Did I ever think that this would happen? How could I? I was so naïve, and my mom was so thoughtful! Wanting to hug my mom and say sorry, I wanted to stop fighting with her after this incident. But did it happen?
In my mind, I might have apologised a million times, but my ego never allowed me to tell mom that I was wrong and I did not know a thing!
I completed college, found a job, got married and had kids.
Travelling along the same roads as her, I got to know her better. I met with her struggles and faced her challenges. Then, someday, somewhere, without me or her knowing, I realised that her love towards me was the purest I ever received! No wonder, for my relationship with her was nine months ahead of everyone else!
The YouTube video stopped playing.
I was awake! I heard the creaky noise of the door opening. It was my daughter going to the kitchen to get something to eat. She didn’t bother to see what I was doing. Did it hurt? No, I am a mom, and moms never give up on kids. I blessed her in my mind and wished that she would grow up to be a brave and graceful woman and a mom who never gives up on her kids!
Do you recollect your childhood experiences and reapply your parents' parenting approaches in your family? Or do you think your kids need a totally different approach?
This is an original guest post written for World Moms Network by Rohini Pillai in Oman.
Rohini Pillai was born and raised in Kerala, God’s own country, the southern state of India. She considers her trust in God and her family as the biggest strengths of her life. She loves to be around people, and if not, you will most likely find her around her sweet brown and white Shitzu, Polo.
Life in the Weeds
When I was a new mother and both of my kids were “littles” (under the age of 5), I spent a lot of time chasing them around, picking up after them and carting them to copious kiddie activities. My mother-in-law liked to refer to that phase of parenting as being “deep in the weeds.” What I understood her analogy to mean was that life with pre-elementary-school-aged kids is like working in a garden perpetually choked by weeds, no matter how much you want to enjoy the flowers, there are always weeds slowing things down.
A friend interprets this same idiom as a golf reference: when you hit a ball into the rough (weeds) and it takes a lot longer to get back onto the fairway and into the good part of the game.
And yet another friend believes this idiom refers to fishing and how always casting out into the weeds, where you have to struggle to free your hook and make a catch,
Regardless of whether you interpret this saying in reference to gardening, fishing or playing golf, being in the weeds is a tough place to find yourself and it slows you down. The phrase has stuck with us through the years and my husband and I use it still when describing the life stages of friends and family.
They don’t go away, they just get taller
At the other end of the spectrum, once my youngest entered kindergarten and I suddenly had loads of productive time on my hands, my mother-in-law congratulated me for getting “out of the weeds.” And I thought that was the extent of it, that the next phases of parenthood might bring their own ups and downs, highs and lows but that the toughest part was behind me…boy was I WRONG!
Now that my kids are teenagers, they need me in different ways. The demands have gone from being physical to intellectual. My pockets of productive time still exist but the times and ways they need me now are much more intense. They no longer need me to sort their LEGO, or chaperone their bubble baths; now they need me to help tend their academic orchards, nurture their emotional gardens and pull weeds out of their social flower beds.
Before, tears were over spilled juice or a skinned knee; now they’re over spilled gossip and broken hearts.
Your garden doesn’t have to be perfect
The saying also goes: “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” but sometimes when you get to the other side, you realize how good you had it where you were.
When my kids were younger and needed more of my constant attention, I envied parents with older kids, who could let them bike to friend’s houses on their own, set up their own social calendars and manage their school work. I couldn’t wait for the day my kids would be independent enough not to need me for such tasks.
But now my kids manage their entire lives online, out of parental view and input. Sometimes I don’t even know the names of all of the kids in their classes. They take the train to social engagements and address their own academic hardships with their teachers on Teams.
I witness my younger siblings raising their own littles, being thick in their own weeds and I ENVY them. I miss being needed in simple and manageable ways. Being required to do things I was capable of doing and the sense of accomplishment I got from tedious but rewarding tasks like making homemade Valentine’s cards.
What I’ve learned: Don’t fight the weeds, struggle makes us stronger. No matter what stage your kids are in, the most important task as a parent is to nurture the garden, regardless of the growing season.
The Glue that Binds
If you ask about the glue that keeps our blended family together, I could reply with classics like ‘unconditional love’, ‘reciprocal respect’ or ‘bonding through fun’. All those are indeed values we hold high in our family of two plus two plus two.
But the special superglue which makes us a family are definitely our family rituals and routines.
In our family, each Thursday is Ice Cream Day. Not just because we all like ice cream, but because on Thursday we celebrate being a family of six again.
Both my kids and my husband’s daughters return from their time with their other parents on Thursday. In the early days of being a blended family, Thursdays would sometimes be filled with tears, silence or just general awkwardness, so we looked for ways to ease the transition. Hence, Ice Cream Day came into being!
Many years later, we feel they don’t really ‘need’ Ice Cream Day anymore, but it still feels appropriate to celebrate being a family on a weekly basis. Besides, who wouldn’t cherish a fixed day to indulge in ice cream!
The Importance of Rituals
Personally, I feel rituals like Ice Cream Day help our kids experience our family home, and by extension, the world, as a predictable, safe place. It gives them something to hold on to.
Especially during the ongoing, turbulent times. Ice Cream Day and other rituals continued to give them a sense of security and comfort. A few months ago, one of our girls casually remarked—halfway through her Thursday Cornetto—that ‘Coronavirus cancelled a lot of things, but not Ice Cream Day!’
Other rituals we have as a family, are less thought through in advance, but became an important aspect of our family identity almost by accident.
When we hear the theme song from Frozen in the kid’s playlist, we need to yell ‘Kasteel!’ at the exact moment in the song when Elsa would build her ice castle in the movie. Just imagine the bewildered looks from bystanders when they hear the six of us in our car yelling ‘Kasteel!’ from the top of our lungs through the open windows, seemingly out of nowhere. We giggle, discuss who’s the winner – the one who was not too early and not too late – and proceed with waiting for our cue to loudly sing ‘Mosterd! Mosterd!’ when Master of Puppets is on. In our family, this song is about mustard. And occasionally about ketchup.
Building Family Security
Our family rituals are a bit like inside jokes. They have a special meaning to us as a family exclusively, and some of them even express our family values in a fun way.
On top of that, they provide the kids with a sense of identity as a member of our family. Especially in a blended family as ours, these casual instances of ‘belonging’ seem truly valuable.
By holding on to our rituals, I also aspire to instill some loving, fun memories in the kids. While slowly but loudly repeating the same mantra of six goodnight phrases when going down the stairs after tucking them in, I secretly hope they will pass this ceremony on to their own kids, one day.
‘Slaapwel. Zoete dromen. Welterusten. Hou van je. Tot morgen. Dikke kus.’
‘Sleep tight. Sweet dreams. Nighty night. Love you. See you tomorrow. Big kiss.’
Each their favorite good night phrase.
Each their daily reminder of security, identity and loving care.
All bundled up in one twenty-second-ritual.
I’m sure you all have some rituals in your families, maybe even without realizing their value. I would love to hear about them, big and small!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by our contributor from BelgiumKatinka Wouters from Belgium. The image used in this post is credited to Kenta Kikuchi from the open shared site, unsplash.com.