Don’t be afraid to lose a “good mom” title
I have started this blog because I felt it was so relieving to write down thoughts, feelings, worries, doubts and lessons I learn every day as a parent. Writing it, and especially knowing that someone is reading it and is rediscovering herself in the extracts of my soul is so empowering and purifying. And I know that there are so many amazing moms out there, who can share the pearls of their motherly hearts with us. There is nothing more comforting, reassuring and eye-opening than the testimonies of moms who managed, who succeeded, who overcame, who changed!
So, let me present you the first story of a truly Amazing mom!
Here is the story of an amazing mom – Lana Jelenjev. I met Lana through Facebook and what made me stop at her profile was a beautiful poem. Her words were deep and authentic.
“I just want our old life back.
Back before cancer became another entity in our lives.
Another “it” to make plans for.
Another “it” to arrange our lives around.
Another “it” to take consideration”.
Lana comes from Philippines. Her Dutch journey started right after she met her life partner and married him. She is a caring mother of two kids, and a wife who still believes in romance. She is fighting breast cancer with graceful determination and humility. And something keeps telling me – she is gonna win!
Life after cancer
I fall into the category of having “life before cancer” and “life after cancer”. The shift in perspective is almost instantaneous. I often tell myself that each of us has a burden to carry. Mine happen to have a name – “cancer”. What makes it different in my life now and in our family’s life as well is that I hear the ticking of the clock louder. Some of the changes that I have adapted are physical. Reading the book “Anti Cancer” gave me some valuable information on how to physically address some changes in food consumption, for instance. We are not the “dieting” kind so it is more of a gradual change in food intake. For the sake of the children, we do eat home cooked meals and have restrictions on sweets and chips and sodas. But there are also some additional changes that we have started or particularly I started because I am the main cook in the family.
Life took a different turn and while I value having a career or building my business, I also realized that it could wait. I had to reframe my priorities. I learned to value my “terrain” and it included filtering through what I could or couldn’t say “yes” to – like events, going out or meeting with people, taking commitments. Looking after my terrain also involved filtering through people and connecting only with those who contributed positively to my wellbeing. At the end of the day the things that you worry about is not the illness – it’s mostly the relationships that you have, people that surround you, your interaction with them. In essence, I learned to value myself more.
Three simple things
We are so drained chasing happiness. But that’s not how life is. I had to reconsider my relationship with time. My definition of accomplishment has also changed. Now, when I’m sick and my body is so week, I said to myself that it was enough to do three simple things to know that my day heen complete. These three things might be: putting the dishes in dishwasher, making laundry and cooking breakfast for my kids. That’s what I can manage now and I’m not going to feel guilty I couldn’t do more. I have to be gracious with myself.
My illness influenced the relationships with my kids. Not only my life, but their lives changed too and they had to learn to cope with it. We didn’t go anywhere during summer vacation, so we just had a different summer. It was very easy for them to understand what was going on. I was very open with them about everything
I am cherishing the moments that we have together. We have always been a tightly knit family, doing things together. Nowadays when I am in my down period after chemo and I cannot be with my kids because of how I am feeling, I try not to feel guilty of missing out on the moment. My family gives me strength and courage. I want to be present longer. I want to grow old and gray with my wonderful husband. And to see my children grow up as adults. Seeing grandchildren is definitely a bonus. My mom never got to see her grandkids. I know if she was alive right now she would adore them!
Eye opening moments
There are quite a lot of eye opening moments in my parental experience. One of them is learning to recognize that your child is not an extension of yourself. This means also redefining the language that we use with them. A simple but very profound experience is not asking my daughter to brush her hair. One might say: “Why not?” When I started losing my hair because of the chemo, I decided to have my hair shaved. The time when I first took off my beanie in public it felt so liberating. I felt that I was seen no matter if I had hair or not. I even blogged about that incident and how I felt even though some people were looking at me. Then I realized I kept on asking my daughter to brush her hair, and why? Because people would think that she was not taking good care of her grooming and there I was feeling liberated for my lack of hair and not caring what others thought! It is so refreshing to have moments like that where I can pause and re-evalaute my language with my children.
A message for “struggling to be good” moms
My message to other mothers, who struggle with illness or themselves would be – don’t be afraid to lose the “good moms” title. Trying to be perfect puts the pressure on what we should and shouldn’t be. When in fact by being enough and acknowledging we are enough we can give more of ourselves as parents. It’s still a struggle for me to affirm everyday and to remember: “I am enough” and with all the struggles “those too shall pass”.
“Why not me”?
I may die tomorrow, but it’s not only my reality. It’s everybody’s reality. I never had a question: why me? Everybody dies. We just don’t know how, where and when. The question: “why me” is quite arrogant. Why not me?! What is there in me so special to be exempt from something? This helped me acknowledging that illness was my reality at the moment and it made things a lot easier. And it’s not strength, but rather a strategy of survival.
Back to myself
One of my favorite quotes from my favorite author Leo Buscaglia is about love and it says: “Love is the process of me leading you gently back to yourself”. And I think that whatever we do, we actually are going back to ourselves. Often along the way we get lost and forget who we really are, what our purpose is. I’m still wondering and still asking God: “What do I have to learn from the experience I am going through, what do I have to overcome and what I have to become?”
P.S. If after reading this interview you felt that you wanted to glance into Lana’s soul, here is the link to her poem “I just want our old life back” http://linkis.com/dayone.me/dtWHc)
Photos by Alex Chalkley Photography