Friday I was getting ready for work. It was after five, and as everyone was winding down their day, mine was just beginning. With the kids out front with the Hubbs and the neighbors, I enjoyed making my dinner and listening to the news in the background. As awful as the news can be, I'm a self professed news junkie. I half listened as I enjoyed some alone time, thinking I could not wait for the weekend to begin.
Then I heard it. Another report about another mother, brought to the edge of motherhood, and beyond. I froze. I turned around. And soon I found myself on the floor of my kitchen, crying.
Ebony Wilkerson has been charged with three counts of first degree attempted murder and three counts of child abuse after she attempted to drive her three children, ages 3, 9, and 10, and herself into the Atlantic in her mini van. Reports say that she had been acting "crazy" since arriving in Florida a few days before to escape an abusive relationship. Reports say that members of her own family tried to have her committed just days before her drive head on into the ocean, but she did not meet the criteria for a 72 hour involuntary hold. Until she drove her mini van into the ocean.
As I sat there on Friday with huge tears in my eyes I knew what would become of Ebony Wilkerson, if only in name. She would be labeled a monster. A criminal. The worst mother to walk the earth. How could she? Why would she? What is wrong with her? She will be the hot topic for months and maybe years to come. I'm of the Susan Smith generation. Perhaps you are of the Andrea Yates generation. But we will forever remember those names, as long as we live. Because they are mothers who's minds took over. Mothers who couldn't get the help they needed, even if they didn't desire the help.
Why would a story like Ebony Wilkerson's or Cynthia Wachenheim's affect me so? Because every time I hear their stories, I think: What makes me so different? What made them snap? And what has saved me from snapping?
The same day as I was sitting in my kitchen floor, staring at the TV in horror, was the same day a friend of mine on Instagram posted a picture of her running away from home. It was only for an hour or so, but motherhood had gotten the best of her, so while she ate in a restaurant alone while crying, she posted her confession. Because she needed to know she wasn't the only one. She needed to show someone else that they weren't the only one. She needed to document the point where she said, I need this. I need to breathe, I need to re-group, I need a time out.
Did Ebony Wilkerson ever have that opportunity?
Saturday night, after my hell of a day, I cried in bed as I recounted all the ways I had failed at life that day. Then I started to tell the Hubbs about Ebony Wilkerson. How she just drove into the Atlantic. And I told him that I got it. That some days are so incredibly hard that all you want to do is run. Run away and never look back. I asked him, what makes me so different? And while I would never consciously do anything to harm my children, (that I have nightmares that anyone would ever come to that conclusion about me) I didn't immediately think Monster when I heard Ebony Wilkerson's story. I immediately thought, she had no where to go.
I've said before if the only thing I ever do is to open the conversation about how difficult motherhood can be, how isolating and crippling it can be, then I will have served a wonderful purpose. Yes, motherhood is beautiful and wonderful and everything and nothing you have ever wanted. But damn if it isn't the hardest thing you will ever do. It will make you crazy, it will make you emotional, and it will make you stronger after every battle, after every failure, after every fork in the road. Many of us are lucky. We have support systems, friends, family, and dare I say, blogs. When we break down, walk to the edge, need a time out, and most times we can get one. We can look at our children and remember why we are doing this. We can count to ten, breathe, and convince ourselves that the best solution is a Starbucks in an aisle at Target, and not a drive into the Atlantic.
There will continue to be reports about Ebony Wilkerson. No matter what they say, no matter what truths we may find, one truth remains: She was a mother. A mother who in that very specific moment felt that she had no other options. That after enduring abuse, after being evaluated, after thinking she was fine, she made a decision that changed her entire life, and the lives of her children. No matter how many people call her a monster, believe she is a monster, and call for her to be treated as such, at the end of that day, and at the end of her days, she will still be a mother who was pushed to the edge.
Today, I'm asking you, no begging you, say something. If you are the one who is hurting, speak up. Even here in the comments if you want, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know someone who is hurting, talk to them. It can be as easy as saying, "Motherhood isn't easy, in fact sometimes it blows". It may be the thing that saves them. Even if you are in Target today, and you see a mom, with one in the cart and another hanging on her leg, both crying, both throwing gold fish all over the floor, smile at her, with kindness and say, it's the hardest job in the world, and you are making the best of it. She may just kiss you on the spot. Because there is nothing worse in the world than feeling like you are the only one struggling. That you are the only one who can't breathe. That you are the only one, two tantrums away from the edge of the ocean.