I pitched this parenting column 12 years ago, because frankly, I felt like parenthood was the Earth’s best-kept dirty little secret.
Why hadn’t anyone told me how hard it would be – the labor, the birth, the crying (both me and the kid)? This was no Johnson’s Baby Shampoo commercial.
I had a 6-month-old son and was working full-time as a freelance writer and going to graduate school. My husband recently had started his own business.
We had no money. What the hell had I been thinking? I rolled change to pay the cable bill and slogged through each day with a colicky baby who couldn’t poop. I didn’t feel grateful; I felt like maybe I’d made a big mistake.
That’s the truth. My truth, anyway.
We were healthy, and life was good, I realize that now. But it was hard. I was overwhelmed and unsure.
After the first year, I was grateful, and even a little surprised we were still married and everyone was alive. This column was a cathartic release for me at first, and then gave way to rejoicing and discovery, and you humored me and allowed me to do it.
This will be my last column, but I write it with a pretty light heart. My son is older; he doesn’t want me to write about him.
And I’ve taken a full-time position with a start-up publication to expand my own career chops. This, too, is hard and overwhelming, leaving the familiar, the comfortable.
But anything worth doing is hard. That’s what I always tell my son. I’m guessing that’s true for grown-ups, too.
My decision about becoming a mom – the one I doubted at first – is, without a doubt, the very best decision I ever made. Oh, he drives me crazy, and I still feel overwhelmed, but I’m starting to look at it with a larger perspective. Is this how I was? How did my mom feel?
I’m a pretty spiritual and religious person, so I also think: Is this how God feels with me sometimes on my journey – that I’m not getting it? That I’m stubborn, repeating the same lessons over and over?
Parenthood is a mirror that’s downright eerie.
At first I wrote about baby and toddler stuff, and then I decided to write about the journeys or pathways of other parents. I’ve written about atheism, autism, adoption, developmental disabilities, cancer, divorce, fundraisers and charities. I even rewrote Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave your Lover,” renaming it “50 Ways to Irritate your Mother.”
A few updates on parents I interviewed:
I wrote about Jim Dukes in 2013, a Cary High School graduate who returned to his childhood home in Cary to recover from PTSD resulting from several sports-related concussions and time spent in Afghanistan as a defense contractor. He’d lost his job, his marriage, his ability to read, write and drive.
When I sat down with him, he was just starting to build a new life after two suicide attempts, spending time with his son and working to discover a new career. He was brave to share his story with me and highlighted the ongoing struggle of veterans, athletes and others suffering from PTSD with limited resources.
Today, Dukes lives in Columbia, S.C., where he has turned his love of photography into meaningful work. His son, Caden, is growing fast, and Dukes is an involved dad.
“Things are great,” Dukes wrote me. “I’ve been driving for a year. I’m continuing my photography as a healing outlet, and I’ve even had an exhibit in New York City. I continue to offer healing art programs for a wide range of people in need. I’ve never been happier.”
More recently, I wrote about the Roach family, who traveled to Ukraine in 2014, as Russia was invading, to adopt two children Lera, then 13, and Vitalik, 12, to join their other son, Colby, 10, at home in Apex.
The language and academic obstacles were tough on both, and Colby had to adjust to having two siblings instead of none.
“Lera worked very hard in seventh grade and refused to accept any accommodations for English as a Second Language student,” Noelle Roach wrote me.
“This meant studying five to seven hours every day after school, but she finished the school year with all Bs and a C in math and no accommodations,” she said. “We were so proud of her. Additionally, she won a character award for her persistence and for never giving up.
As for Vitalik, Noelle writes that his English skills are “amazing.”
“He has learned to read, made many friends and excelled at soccer,” she wrote. “Colby maintains that having siblings is still better than being an only child, but admits that sometimes the Ukrainian kids really get on his nerves. He has grown personally in so many ways. He is compassionate in regards to the extra attention they need.”
I’m going to miss this space to connect with families doing the most daunting thing there is – helping another person grow and figure out how to be in the world. Really be.
I’ll be around, though, and I’ll still be writing. Please connect with me on social media – either Facebook or Twitter – or send me an email through my website at christagala.com.
Thank you for reading, and for sharing your lives with me.
What an honor.