When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

January 13, 2011

January 13, 2011

Lulu LoBrutto, 5 months (January 2011)

January 13, 2011.  Next week I go for a second interview regarding a position I nearly covet with an environmental advocacy group.  It’s a chance of a lifetime, a chance to jump back into a meaningful career, to contribute, and to turn some much needed attention to myself, to my own goals and aspirations, my own sense of accomplishment and purpose.  When I look back over our time as a family, I realize I’ve been happiest, and most sane, when I was immersed in work, teaching at Bard.  My life is still incredibly busy, but my days are filled disproportionately with managing my son’s physical and mental health, his education, and working, always working, to help him integrate more successfully into daily family life.  And it’s wearing me down.  I know I’m giving him my best, at least on most days, but I’m also getting to the point where I’m not sure sacrificing every ounce of every fiber of my being for miniscule progress is prudent, or even very beneficial.  I may have already brought him as far as he can go in terms of attachment and orientation to his world.  It’s very possible that he’s the best that he can be and the time has come to loosen the reigns and somehow expand his circle of caregivers.  When he became our son, Peter trusted no one, he was lost inside his own disordered mind, and was more alone in the world, literally and figuratively, than any child on the planet deserves to be.  Pat and I have changed those facts, substantially, and I’m proud to acknowledge that our son is now a child who knows how to give and receive love, who knows what it feels like to trust and who shows compassion toward others on a daily basis.  There are times he looks at me, shy at first, and then his eyes light up, all at once, as they meet mine.  My heart soars in these moments to heights I never dreamed possible.  They are transcendent in their beauty, and in many ways, nothing short of miraculous.  I realize that.  But I also realize that despite these achievements, Peter forever will require 24/7 care, there’s no doubt about it.  He can’t regulate his own behavior for even a nanosecond and will always need someone to model and talk him through appropriate choices and more generally, help him navigate the everyday terrain of his life.  The professionals in our lives are telling us that Peter needs an entire system of care beyond what we can provide as parents and that its time to start turning over the reigns, at least in some respects.  But even though I accept the truth in these words, I realize that I’m still thinking and behaving as though his condition can be substantially rehabilitated, that I can will our son toward a more meaningful, more complete future.  Maybe I’m not ready to let go of that dream, maybe certain dreams do help us sustain rather than delude.  Or maybe holding onto the hope that Peter will emerge higher functioning than seems practicable is the only rational course of action – after all, to admit otherwise is to give up, and I can’t and won’t do that.  So where does that leave me?  If I’m fortunate enough to be offered this position, can I in good conscience take this full-time job or will I be turning my back on our needy children, on the 24/7 demands of raising Peter, not to mention the less urgent but just as important responsibility of helping Sophie blossom and overcome her challenges?  I think the answer lies in believing in myself, and in realizing that its okay to have my own life, my own aspirations, and that career, family, children (even special needs children) don’t necessarily have to be either/or propositions.  So many women grapple with this balance, there’s nothing new here, but somehow the stakes seem higher because our children are former Russian orphans, and because Peter has overwhelming needs.  Egocentrism at it’s best perhaps.  But one thing I do know: I’m hopeful about this opportunity.  If I’m able to persuade the folks that need persuading that I can contribute substantially to their cause, then I want to find a way to make this work.  I want a chance to rediscover myself in a manner that expands my identity as Peter and Sophie’s mother to include career and colleagues.  I want to think that diving back into my professional field, coupled with my new teaching responsibilities at Marist College, may even make me a better parent.  I’m too consumed right now with the problems, the heartache, and the never-ending, drive-you-nuts redundancy of life with a brain-injured child to have any sense of perspective, or balance.  Plus, the issue of income and benefits can’t be ignored.  Peter’s problems have caused an enormous financial strain, one that Pat bears 100% right now.  The fact that he’s significantly older than I and under tremendous pressure doesn’t escape me, ever.  Our financial safety net has been chewed clear through by private therapists, evaluations, specialists, equipment, medication, relocation, and countless – sometimes foolishly desperate, interventions.  If Pat were to get sick or injured or worse, well, I’m not quite sure what I’d do to keep our family afloat.  Our lives are insecure in so many regards, a hard pill to swallow for a person who craves security and stability.  The bottom line is that I’m very excited about this opportunity and look forward to learning more about the organization and the people who work there.  At my initial interview, I noticed a dog bowl and a large bone in the building.  I wonder – if I’m fortunate enough to be offered the position, whether I’ll be able to bring our dogs (okay, maybe just one) to work!




  1. Again, Mary, though our stories are different, I know just where you are.
    Congratulations on your taking a look at what I call being the best parent you can be without necessarily providing all the parenting yourself. That is a terribly difficult and painful thing to do. And, best of luck with the interview.

    Comment by Christopher Duncan — January 13, 2011 @ 9:19 am | Reply

  2. I sure understand your thought processes to a degree. Single parenting my son required that I cross that bridge a few times as well, the most recent being the realization that I just couldn’t do both anymore without completely burning out. It has meant drastic lifestyle changes, but in some (not all!) areas we are happier overall for it. The shift to simpler living has definitely been calming and peaceful. Environmental advocacy would be such fulfilling work – all the very best in your endeavours.

    Comment by Christine — January 13, 2011 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  3. Mary, this is WONDERFUL news. I hope and pray you get that job! You need it; your family needs it.

    Coming to grips with reality is NOT giving up. It simply is what it is: an honest assessment that Peter has come as far as any one person could possibly ever have brought him. The cruel reality is that neither you nor Pat will be here forever, and the day will come when Peter will be in the care of others, strangers, for the rest of his life. Now is the time for him to begin learning how to expand his trust and love to such others outside of your family. By taking the job, and letting others do theirs, you will be enabling him to do just that. You will be ensuring his future happiness after you are gone. That’s the essential dream and what truly good parents do.

    Years ago, before my divorce, I had reached a point where I felt like a dry, empty cup left in a desert. Everyone had drunk from it. No one replenished it. There was nothing left to give. It was only when I started doing things for myself–things that pleased me, allowed me to be myself again, and made me happy–that the cup was refilled.

    It’s quite possible that Sophie’s need is more urgent than you realize. You are her role model. It would not surprise me in the least if, in the way of children, she thinks that the lives of mommies must be lives of sacrifice, stress, and sorrow, and that’s all she has to look forward to in her own life. After all, isn’t that–to a great extent–all she has ever seen? By replenishing your own cup of life now, she will observe that a woman can have a life of her own, can be happy and, in that happiness, be better able to enrich the lives of those she loves. Those you love include dear Sophie and devoted Pat.

    Again, I do hope you get that job or, if not that one then, some other. You have made every sacrifice humanly possible for Peter. It looks like you may be ready now to restore and replenish your own life that God gave you not just in the service of one, but many.

    Comment by Kathleen — January 13, 2011 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  4. Mary, does Peter qualify for adult residential supports? I think I may have missed that piece somewhere along the way. If so, that’s awesome, and definitely makes a world of difference in the choices you’re able to make for your future and the future of your family. “Now is the time for him to begin learning how to expand his trust and love to such others outside of your family. By taking the job, and letting others do theirs, you will be enabling him to do just that. You will be ensuring his future happiness after you are gone. That’s the essential dream and what truly good parents do.” Exactly! Kathleen’s a wise woman 😉

    Comment by Christine — January 13, 2011 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  5. Good Luck! I hope you get this position and can start focusing a bit more on YOU so that you can be a more balanced version of yourself. You NEED to have the adult brain stimulation and company of ‘grown ups’ during the day in order to be the best mom you can be ~ honestly, you deserve it.
    Sending prayers and good vibes your way!
    xoxo Meg

    Comment by Meg Coldwells — January 13, 2011 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  6. Just from what I’ve gleaned from your writings, you have been out of balance for long enough. If you can get the security and satisfaction in some aspects of your professional life, then you can be in a better frame of mind to take care of your personal life. I find this to be true in my circumstance, anyhow. I don’t have a dream job by any means, but working 30 + hours a week gives me quality and quantity time with my son, yet puts food on the table and allows for a certain peace of mind. I’m rooting for you. You’re a wonderful mother and writer. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    Comment by Sara Houck — January 13, 2011 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  7. Mary,
    The idea of a job is a great idea! Don’t beat yourself up this is going to be good for all of you!! Take a break and take care of you, everything else will fall into place. You’re doing a great job!!!!!!

    Comment by maureen.t@embarqmail.com — January 13, 2011 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  8. you go girl! good luck and let me know how it goes!!

    Comment by mel — January 14, 2011 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

  9. Good luck, Mary!

    Comment by Nancy Crenshaw — January 16, 2011 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

  10. Mary- I have been reading your blog for some time, and (in short) you and Pat are an incredible inspiration to me. I so hope you are offered this position, and I send good luck vibes and prayers your way!!

    Comment by Karin — January 18, 2011 @ 10:12 pm | Reply

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed reading you’d story.

    Comment by April — January 20, 2011 @ 9:49 am | Reply

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