by Mariann E. Danko
I find It very ironic that in this very merry month of May, with a special day dedicated to Mothers, I find myself volunteered well beyond any other time in my mothering life. As a single Mom I try hard to make sure I don’t spread myself too thin. I’m very selective about what I volunteer for because being home for my son is far more important to me than how much time I give up for school related groups. Not that being involved with school related groups isn’t important, I just feel it shouldn’t take an excessive amount of time away from my home. The situation I find myself in this month is rare to say the least and caused, in part, by the lack of action by any other parent. I saw a need that others agreed should be dealt with, but nobody wanted to take on the task, so, by default it became mine. This was in addition to obligations I had previously committed to. If I learned anything from this, it is to keep my mouth shut unless I know for sure the “I” will become a “we” really fast.
It is this over extending of myself that made me begin to wonder about all the ways Mother’s go above and beyond their every day duties. I don’t just mean all the volunteering, but the extra things Mom’s do for their children. The things we do to keep our youngins feeling safe, happy and grounded. Something we may think is nothing appears to others as a feat greater than they would have or could have imagined. I’ve been told the hoops I jumped through to protect and defend my son in elementary school were above and beyond and even brave. Although this is flattering, I don’t feel that way. I knew my son was not ADHD and I refused to just accept blindly what the school was telling me. (Momma Bear with her claws up.) I reached outside my comfort zone and challenged the school. By seeking outside council and educating myself about what it truly means to be gifted and spirited, I became an advocate for my son and all misunderstood children who’s processing centers operate at a faster pace than the norm. To me this is what every parent would do. If your child were sick, would you not go to any length to get him/her the medical care he/she needed? Wouldn’t you educate yourself about his/her illness so you knew what you were up against? Wouldn’t you donate an organ if that’s what your child needed?
What motivates such action? Love of course. That’s what motivates all selfless acts. We can’t bear to see our children in pain or we want to bring them joy or we just want to be there for them. It is no longer about us, it’s about our children. The important thing is to not loose site of ourselves. Personally I know I did. With each passing year I found the person that I was, disappearing. Not that that was bad, I loved being a Mom, but, the things that helped to keep me grounded, like my writing and other creative pursuits, faded away because there was no time for them. That was until a health issue knocked me on my ass and woke me up. My son was 9 at the time and this was a very scary thing for him. To see his Mom need surgery and then end up with pneumonia with sepsis which landed her in the hospital for a week made him worry. What happens if Mommy dies? I have no Daddy, what will happen to me?
I knew at this point that I not only had to heal my physical self, but emotional and spiritual self as well. Giving all of myself was OK, as long as I carved out time for me to regenerate. If not, my health would continue to be at risk. It was truly an eye opener. I was turning into a zombie, and not the kind my now teenage son thinks are cool. I had to learn how to find a balance. That was 6 years ago, and to be honest, with the exception of this month, I’ve done a pretty good job at that. Resurrecting my writing was the key. Once I lit the creative fire there was no turning back. This blog is evidence. I have found a way to weave my writing and parenting into one outlet. It’s a win/win situation. At least until my son gets tired of feeling like a science experiment. (If you haven’t read TWD Apocalyptic Parenting Tactic post, this line may not make sense.)
It is because of this blog that I actually paused and evaluated what I was doing to myself this month. As a chaperone for my son’s jazz band trip to Williamsburg, I found time on my hands during the bus trip. This was the ideal time to figure out this months topic. Once I started to ponder the subject, it didn’t take long before my mind meandered to the theme of Mother’s overextending themselves. Not just real Moms, but fictional ones. In literature, TV and film, we’ve seen both saint and sinner Moms. The saints obviously being the over achievers, while the sinners romp around only concerned with their own needs. I’m sure about now a whole cast of characters on both sides are dancing through your head. Some of whom we’ve felt major compassion for and others we just love to hate.
Of course, considering the roots of this blog, my mind instantly went to two extremely different mothers in “The Walking Dead.” First, there’s Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), who despite her somewhat questionable behavior at times, you can’t help but side with. Season one, as the wife of an abusive husband, her only light was her sweet and innocent daughter Sophia Peletier (Madison Lintz). After the abusive hubby meets his demise at the hands of some hungry walkers, we began to see Carol start to blossom. Her daughter was her whole world and she would protect her at all cost. Her real leap of character came after her daughter went missing and was later discovered in Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) barn. Bitten and turned. Her only light extinguished, Carol’s demeanor changed. She toughened up and by the end of this season (4), she kind of became a Mother of the whole group. Making some tough decisions even Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) didn’t want to make. Killing two members infected with a serious virus, in hopes that this would keep it from spreading. The biggest of them though was having to take the life of a psychopathic child, who had killed her own sister, and at that point become a threat to everyone. Both of these things would be considered a heinous crime in our world, but in a zombie apocalypse, it is acceptable behavior. We admire Carol for taking charge and having the guts to take on the tasks others were either too weak or scared to do.
In contrast, we have Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), one of the most hated characters on this show. Early on we see she puts her needs before those of her son Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). Leaving other adults to look after him, while she, believing Rick, her husband is dead, jumps into the sack with his best friend, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal). Seriously, where’s the mourning time? Granted, Shane is at the root of this, (nice friend), taking advantage of her vulnerability, but, if you’re a mom who puts your child’s needs first, especially in a zombie apocalypse, shouldn’t having your carnal needs met be the last thing on your agenda? Needless to say, when Rick does turn up, quite alive, Lori feels violated and manipulated, and quickly turns on Shane. Acting like the devoted wife who was pining for her deceased husband, she quickly drops her drawers for her husband. Seriously, who can have this much sex during a zombie apocalypse? As we all know, this much unprotected sex can lead to many things, pregnancy in particular. With Lori pregnant, she quickly becomes the needy one. In the end, though, Lori does redeem herself to a point, knowing in order for her baby to live, she must die. But, isn’t there always a but with characters like this, this situation forces her son Carl to make a decision no child should ever have to. Knowing his mother will turn into a zombie once she passes, he is forced to shoot her. Even in death she is needy.
So, in one show, there are examples of extremes on either end of the mothering spectrum. One who goes above and beyond for everyone, not just her child and the other puts her needs before her child and the other adults at times. What’s missing for both of them is a balance between mothering and their personal needs. Although Carol may feel always being on and looking out for the others is her personal need, in the end, it may very well be her downfall, just as it was for me. Not knowing where the writers will take her character, all I can say is I hope she gets a little Daryl time. Yes, this vigilant Mom deserves just a little of what Lori was getting too much of. And, as we already know, we can see where Lori’s self-indulgence got her. Thank God Carl was strong enough to do what needed to be done when his Mother passed, otherwise the viewers would have had to see the zombie walker version of Lori longing for everyones guts. Hadn’t she done enough damage while she was alive?
As I post this entry on the very last day of May, (I truly struggled getting this one written with all the extra obligations), I can look back feeling good about all that I did accomplish. But, I know, if not for this blog, I would have come close to loosing hold of the balance I worked so hard to get. Staying focused on my obligation to myself to post monthly, I made sure I stuck to my writing schedule, even when I struggled to find the words. I could have very easily let this slide, letting no one down but myself, but, that’s the very reason why I knew I had to stay true to my personal commitment. I’m no good to anyone if I’m not whole. And staying whole depends on staying true to me, even when I feel like Gumby.
Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all my fellow Gumby Moms!
© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2014. All rights reserved.
Graphic courtesy of: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_kiraan’>kiraan / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Photo courtesy of AMC