Raw brutal honesty on being a ‘44yr old childless-step-mother-artist’
I recently did a weekend long public speaking class and discovered the power of sharing our stories, and showing our true self. So... I give you this: You all know me as a joyous, vibrant artistic being. Once in a while I see those posts going around on Facebook saying ‘you have to watch the happy ones, they carry a lot of hurt, and you need to look after them’. I’d always look at these and go, yeah, nah, I’m OK though. Understand here though, my smile is not a facade. I chose to live joyously and share my smile and love with ease with you all, and to seize the most out of this wondrous life we only have one shot at. But, these last 12 days, have been the most intense of my life. Today I realise what it is to actually feel your body ripping apart, and having no control over it. Words coming out of my mouth, I have no control over. Ache and longing tearing through my body, I have no control over, and paint flowing from my brush, I have control over. Mark (my husband) went away to give be some space to paint as I was getting really ratty – over 3 months without painting, I thought, so much to get out. I stepped into my studio…I looked around all the things that had been arriving from EBay, things I’d been collecting for my latest huge art project. For some reason it had been all these christening gowns, there was baby dresses everywhere! I looked at them and just curled up in a corner against the wall and cried. The sobs shook my body…the longing for that Big Mother Love. That intensity of love you only feel for your own child – me, I felt like I had been deprived of that. I was angry at Mark for depriving me of this, as he’d already had his children when we met, I was 34 and he, 49. No worries about the age difference then, all deeply philosophical that it just wasn’t meant to be, that if I was meant to have children I would have had. Only a few friends know about this, the thing that erupts up in me. Once in awhile, I just cry for a few hours. Wallow, and then bounce out of it. When I was turning 40, for 3 days, I cried. But then the bubbly bouncy Sonia pops up again, no one knowing. But this time it is different. It’s been 12 days now. 12 days where everyday my body is wracked with grief. I thought the painting was getting it out…but Mark is now back and all I can do I cry and scream and hurt him for hurting me. But it isn’t him who has hurt me. I made this decision, and the decisions that lead me to this point. I have to own this decision. I’d miscarried and had to abort a child (details you do not need to know, but these events shaped where I am) But at 34, when I chose not to have my own children by choosing Mark, what did I know? How do you know? How do you know at any point the magnitude of the decisions you make? We simply don’t…. I am blessed, I have plenty of children in my life I love. I call them ‘my chosen ones’. I tell myself, and others, that this makes it ok. But I’m hiding. I ache. I long. My body is shutting down and I am consistently feeling less and less. I have no one to really talk to about this. Most of my friends have babies and a few who don’t, I’ve never heard them talk about this thing I feel (but maybe all of us are shut down?) I talk to some, and they try to be sympathetic and share a similar story, (as we all do) but none are the same situation. They all have children. ‘”Ahhhh, but I didn’t really want children” they say, or “ohhhh, but I’ve lost one too, I know how it feels” or “I have a step child as well”… I just want to scream at everyone and say, but You. Still. Do. Have. A. Child!!! I do have two wonderful step-sons… I love them both so much and they are so much a part of me. And I try. I try to be open with them and we all have a great relationship with their mum – we chat easily and she shares them with me with love and respect (which I admire so much as I know it can’t be easy) but these silly societal pressures like Mother’s Day….There’s no ‘Step Mothers Day’ – there’s not even enough words for step mothers…my mum is married to a new man, he is not my step father, he is my mums husband, as they got married when I was in my 20s, so it’s different. I have been my boys step-mum for 10 years. They were 4 and 9. They accepted me in with love from day one. We shared custody 50/50. I made their lunches, I made their beds, wiped up their wee and I picked lice outta their heads (Even as much as I tried to pull the ‘but he’s yours!’ on that day…) I’ve taught them to ski and a love of cooking and soooo many things that I know they wouldn’t be if I hadn’t been in their world….. But when we bump into people, even really close friends, and they ask “how are Mark’s kids?” Really? Really?!!! If we had adopted, you’d ask “how are your kids?” So I shut down a bit. Every time you mums post gorgeous photos of cute letters your kids wrote at school “I love my mum, she’s the best” or what ever kind of cute things they say, when the kids have a mum, they aren’t going to write a second card saying “I love you, my step-mum” so I shut down a little more. And when on Mothers Day I sometimes don’t get a card and Mark say, “but I didn’t get one on Fathers Day either”, I want to scream at him and say, but it’s so no the same!!! So I shut down some more. (I’m totally not grumpy at the boys for this, they are just kids, and they don’t know my ache… it’s just another stupid hallmark day). But then friends carry on having babies…and then into my 40s friends are still having babies…and having their first in their 40s….and all I want to do is be happy for them. I really do. And I really am. But I ache. So, I shut down some more. And then they post photos of the baby’s smiles, and the first steps and the first, oh what ever, I really don’t care because, oh, I have shut down some more. So, I soldier on and think I’m ok and them I’ll erupt and cry and then they’ll dry up, and I’ll bounce around and be the happy Sonia you all know and love. But I have shut down some more. Now you ask, but why don’t you just have a child? Really? Really?!!! For me to do that means leaving the man I love more than anything in the world. He is my best friend, my husband, my lover, the calm in the midst of my storm…the most phenomenal being…we can talk forever and be calm in each others stillness; we adventure together and spend endless hours chasing the northern lights and bubbling around in vintage cars; he's shared his kids and his dreams with me and loves me more than I can grasp....And it would mean leaving my step-sons, whom I love to bits… I simply...CAN NOT DO THAT.
But I still long.... I have my dear, dear Eva…who has always been like a daughter to me (I met her when she as 10. Her mum, a best friend of my husbands) she was always one of ‘my chosen ones” ….and then she lost her mum, and we lost our dear friend. Her and I, we love each other to bits. But, I tread the line carefully, not wanting to try to fill the gap her momma left, respecting that, but wanting her to know how much she means to me…and we fill a beautifully longing for each other… for what each of us has lost…but we loved each other this much before….I am so blessed to have her in my life. She is my deep creative soul child. But there are no appropriate words in this ridiculous English language that capture what we are to each other. She’s not my daughter. She’s not my niece. I can’t adopt her as she’s 20 and she has a father. But I love her so so very much…and I will be there for her, for life. Why is there not a friggin' word for this!!!!???!
So why am I sharing this with you all? It’s not for sympathy… I just want people to understand the complexities of life, how few words we have for things that REALLY matter in this world. How judgmental society is. How the simple words you chose to use can hurt people beyond belief, without you realising it. And oh my god, I am a cliché – that happy person who carries so much grief.
I want my art to talk….but I need to share these words. I want to be raw. And I want to FEEL so badly again. I want to love openly, honestly and with wild abandon. I don’t want another woman to deprive herself of that raw joyous mother love that I will never get to experience. I want them to read this, before it is to late, and make an informed decision. I want to be open and raw and honest with my ‘chosen ones’ and love them fully. And I really, REALLY want some new words for step-mums ….. And I want YOU, to think about the words you use…. And to think about what it means to bring up anothers children that are not your own….when you do not have your own….and love us for that, as it’s the hardest role around. Real step-mothers are NOT the evil ones of fairy tails ….We love with all our hearts, but our hearts ache with a loss that you will never understand.
This artwork is still in progress....but it is the artwork that erupted out of me this week: "Für diejenigen, die verloren haben" or in English "For those whom have lost" Thank you for taking the time to read this. You are part of my world and I am better for you being in it.
And to family and friends whom I haven't shared any of this with, it is not for lack of love or trust in you...it is purely a timing thing. I only hurt a small fraction of the time, the rest of my days the joyous me, is the real me. With love and brutal honesty, Sonia