Being a mom is tough on the best of days. But when crisis hits a mom - from work to grief to health concerns - the stress of managing her own issues can make parenting even tougher. Join this Charlotte mother as she shares her tale of being mom and keeping a positive attitude while facing a personally challenging diagnosis.
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Part 8: Looking ahead to brighter days
One evening during chemo, I actually went out--hoping for a chance to feel a little "normal". I was part of a large group of women, most of whom I did not know. I had made a habit of not shaking hands to avoid getting sick, and apparently this offended one woman. She insisted, "I used hand sanitizer."
I kindly replied, "Oh, I don’t want to give you what I have." She turned, not knowing what to say.
A few minutes passed and she approached me again. She said, "You know, I put two and two together. You are wearing a head cover and you wouldn’t shake my hand. Now I get it." She continued, "My daughter got cancer when she was eight," and then she told me her story. In the end, we had a great talk about the difficulties of parenting through troubling times. We had a shared experience that at first glance we had missed. We agreed that we looked at other parents from a new lens, one of understanding that things might not always be as they seem.
Now I plan to apply this empathy into my every day interactions with other parents, my children, my family. When I see someone from the outside, I realize I do not know their struggle or their pain or set of experiences. They might hide it with a wig. They might be pushing through something difficult with one of their children but appear at the sporting event anyway. Each family hopefully can adapt to whatever comes their way and no two are the same. Children respond differently based on their own set of issues, the family dynamics and their ages.
Keeping communication lines open and showing love and understanding may be all that are required. Believing that there will be brighter days ahead and that we do not have to suffer in silence propels us. We can pay it forward and use our struggle as a spring board for helping others.
I am not a perfect parent by any means, but I work every day to be better. The cancer has made me appreciate each day - each moment. I am happy to just feel good and be present for my children. On my toughest days, my near-15 year old would say, "Mom, let me tuck you in. I like it." Maybe I have done something right. Feeling "normal" is the new feeling "great" and even though there are conflicts and issues with raising children, I am thankful for the time I have to do it!
Julia McGrath is a Virginia native and mother of three. She studied at UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia. After school, Julia taught for 6 years and then started her family. She is an avid exerciser and volunteer. She has also written a blog for MomsCharlotte about raising a child with ADHD.