Walking in the door of my children’s’ daycare centre, car keys in hand, my anticipation builds. I can’t wait to see my kids! I turf my shoes off on the mat, and make my way to my oldest child’s classroom door. I open the door, call out my son’s name – he whips his head around, absolutely jubilant. “Mommy!” he cries, never more excited to see a person in his life.
My heart sinks. I hate being called Mommy.
Let me explain. You see, I suffer from crippling major depressive disorder. It’s a cancer that eats every shred of happiness that exists or could possibly exist inside my brain. It takes the simplest pleasures of life (such as hearing your beloved children call you Mommy) and grinds them to a fine dust, then blows that dust out the window into a rainstorm.
I love my children so much it physically hurts. So why do I cringe when they address me by the only name they know? Because it places a demand on me. Because somewhere deep in the shadowed recesses of my mind, I know that they need me, and I am not there for them. I exist behind a screen, able to hear and see them, but unable to touch them – not really. When I hear them call me “Mommy”, I am reminded of all the times I have failed them, and all the times they have forgiven me without a second thought. The sound of my name turns my soul to ash because I am the only Mommy they’ll ever know, and aren’t mommies supposed to be good and loving and wonderful? Depression has stolen their Mommy, and they are barely aware of it.
When my gorgeous, soulful, energetic two-year-old boy calls me “Mommy”, it means he needs something from me that no one else can give him. When my wonderful, loving, intelligent four-year-old boy calls me “Mommy”, he’s conversing with his best friend. When he punctuates each of his sentences with the word, he wants me to know he’s talking to me. In that moment, I am the centre of his entire universe.
Still, I can’t bear to hear it during the difficult moments because it cuts through my heart like a knife. (And it is truly only the difficult times that bring this emotion out of me – when I feel sad and selfish, thinking only of myself, as this disease often makes me do.) But in those moments I need only to stop, put down the paperwork or cooking utensil or toilet brush, and look into their innocent eyes to garner just enough hope to make it through the next minute. Breathe. Remind myself that they love me. Bitch-slap the big black dog and survive til it’s bedtime.