I’m Not Cut Out For This

“I’m not cut out for this”. These were the words that came out of my mom’s mouth anytime there was shrieking, shrill noises, or loud thumps that come with the territory of having kids. 

It didn’t matter if they were squeals of delight that come from the joyful abandon of my brother and I tickling each other, chasing each other through the house, or a flat out argument.

My mom couldn’t stand any unexpected loud noises, ruckus, or conflict. They startled her, scared her, and she felt ill-equipped to handle anything that disrupted the peace of the household. 

Now I understand why my mom napped every single day with ear plugs and a pillow folder in half over her head to shut out the noise.

I didn’t learn until I was in college that what she was really shutting out were the screams of horror of children and animals being tortured, the ongoing rape of her and her 4 year old sister, 18 months younger than her, and the voices in her own head that developed as a result of being abandoned by her birth parents and placed into a foster care family that happened to be part of a satanic cult.

How could I go through my entire childhood and not recognize any of the signs of the trauma my mom endured on so many levels, or get glimpses into her having Dissociative Identity Disorder, better known as Multiple Personality Disorder? 

She certainly had bouts of depression, and I also learned later that she was a closet drinker during my toddler years, polishing off 4 beers a night after I went to bed to numb the pain and quiet the voices.

But the mom I knew was ultra-loving, peaceful, and cheerful. Everyone always said “You have the NICEST mom.” I did! She was super sweet, and as my ex-husband used to joke, soon after he met her, “You could take a shit, and she would be like, “that is the most pleasant piece of poop I have ever seen’”, and she would mean it!

When we saw a dead animal on the side of the road, we said a prayer. When my brother or I uttered the word “stupid” she gently reminded us that we don’t ever call people names or put another person down.

My mom had a deep faith, and was a devout Catholic. She was in her glory singing in the choir up on the altar at St. Mary’s Church on Greenwich Avenue.

I sat in the front row every Sunday and adored watching her sing her heart out. She was most at peace and at home singing in church and I could feel her Divine connection when she was on that altar.

My mom was on the Parish Council, attended women’s retreats, and marched in Washington DC for the Right to Life.

She had a profound love and appreciation for all living beings and her second favorite place was in the garden. She would be out in the yard for hours, barefoot in the dirt, one with nature and with God.

My mom was sweet and kind, and she was an introvert more than extrovert, despite her congenial personality.

She was a single mom working as a writer and editor for a publishing company, working hard to make ends meet on a 50K salary and some modest child support from my step-dad living in one of the most expensive towns in the country. My birth father abandoned us when she told him she was pregnant, so there was never any help from him.

My mom bought her clothes at the local thrift shop out of necessity so she could afford to outfit me in clothes from Rogers on the Avenue, and the Spiegel Catalogue, and then Benetton and Esprit in my teen years, and she never once acted like it was a sacrifice. “My needs are simple” she would say.

I remember how my mom kept envelopes in her “favorite Chinese chest” where she would carefully dole out the budgeted modest amounts to those labeled “rent” (we never owned a house), “groceries”, “gas”, etc.

Despite the fact that we lived in a 4-room apartment doubling as her bedroom until I was a sophomore in high school and we had one of the top 10 jalapi cars in our town of 60,000 people, my mom still donated to her favorite charities without fail – Covenant House and Mercy for Animals.I distinctly remember reading the newsletters from Covenant House in NYC about the runaway teens and homeless. I guess that explains my affinity for homeless people today. And she never missed her weekly envelope for the church collection that my brother and I would take turns putting in the basket.

My mom taught me unconditional love, kindness, compassion, empathy and service. She also instilled in me the practice of daily prayer, meditation, and journaling. I even have the same picture of Paramahansa Yogananda, from the Self-Realization Fellowship, in my room today that she had in her room growing up. 

I always thought I was different from my mom because she used to joke around about how I was the “most social critter” on the planet, always playing outside with neighborhood kids, inviting friends over, and going for sleepovers. I was even given the nickname, “Julie McCoy” when I was on student council in high school because I loved planning the dances and events.  She was a self-proclaimed hermit.

I loved shopping and could shop till I dropped. She could care less if she ever stepped foot in a department store again. She was always amazed at how I knew exactly what I wanted, whereas she didn’t really have a defined sense of style. 

She loved gardening. I planted one set of flowers when my husband and I bought our first house in 2001, and I haven’t planted or watered or weeded a thing since.

Yet now, I see how much we are more alike than not alike. We are both highly sensitive people (HSP), extremely intuitive, can’t bear the suffering of others, and have a profound love and respect for all beings.

I loved my Catholic upbringing, and thankfully, don’t carry the baggage of guilt that can come along with that education. Now that I have immersed myself into the very dark world of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, I can hear my mom’s voice daily even though she can no longer speak because of a stroke. They are embedded in me forever:

“Ask God for help”.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me”.

“Bring in the light”.

It turns out my mom WAS cut out for motherhood, despite the feelings of inadequacy she sometimes felt in the thick of raising kids.

And now, when I’m feeling inept as a mom in the heat of conflict or simply not knowing what to do in a certain situation, and especially when I’m triggered or feeling scared or overwhelmed about what our kids are exposed to in our current culture, that phrase, “I’m not come out for this” creeps in.

I remind myself, however, that I AM cut out for motherhood, and that although I feel ill-equipped at times to be the mom I envisioned myself to be, that I’m doing the best that I can, with love and good intention at the core, and I have to trust that this is enough.

Every mom is doing her best. I honor all mothers today and always for the ultimate act of love, sacrifice, and service that motherhood requires. Sending love to all of you ❤️