Inspire – Women of Dartmouth Stories

Setting the Bar Low

When it comes to motherhood, I set the bar low. I don’t want my children to have too
much to live up to.

Ever since becoming a mother, I have been ambivalent about society’s expectations for
living up to that title, for doing the work of care that mothers are asked to do. My brother
gave me great advice about this a long time ago. He said, no matter what you do your
children will go to therapy and blame you for it. If you work, they will say you were never
home. If you stay home, they will say you were overbearing and around too much. So
do what you want to do. This was among the best advice I ever got. I have been the
kind of mother I want to be. I have tried really hard to consider my own needs along with
the needs of my family. And until recently it has worked out pretty well.

In April of 2022, while visiting France with my family, my daughter was rushed to the
hospital in an ambulance and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. She spent 8 days in the
hospital and I got really good at using Google translate. Together we learned how to
count carbs, give insulin injections and check her blood sugar. We were taught what to
do if her blood glucose number is too low, and how to adjust if it is too high for too long.
The technology for diabetes is amazing. Abby now wears a continuous glucose monitor
and an insulin pump. With an App, I can see her blood sugar level at any time. The
worry is she will go too low and pass out or her sugar will be too high and that could
impact her long-term if it lasts too long.

Remember at the beginning of this story when I told you what a laissez-faire mother I
am, how I don’t pay attention to my children, and the way I put myself first and
practically ignore my kids? Since Abby’s diagnosis, I don’t recognize myself. My
mothering has totally changed. She is now in college and I am still checking on her
blood sugar all the time, bugging her about when it is too high for too long and even
calling campus security to knock on her door if her blood sugar is too low and she
doesn’t respond to my texts and phone calls.

I’ve always been judgmental of mothers like that. Just leave your kids alone. They will
be fine, I think to myself when another mom shares her fears and worries. Not anymore.
I’m right there with you. You might look inside your kids’ closet or read their text
messages, I look inside my daughters’ blood. I’m not sure it gets more invasive than
that.

My job is to keep you alive. That is what I tell my kids. Until now, I always thought that
was a low bar. Suddenly it isn’t. My daughter is doing a great job of managing her blood
sugar, and generally taking responsibility for her health. And I can’t help worrying about
her, checking in with reminders and questions. I know I am driving her crazy. I am
driving myself a little crazy too. And I don’t want this to affect our relationship, especially
since she is away at college.

It is so easy to feel like a bad mother. Like my brother said, whatever I do her therapist
is going to hear about it eventually. I guess my goal really is to be a good enough
mother. A mother who keeps her children alive yes, but one who still has her own life
and her own priorities. Abby’s diabetes flipped the scale for me, but slowly I am finding
my way back to balance, and she is learning how to care for herself. The more I step
away, the more she steps up. And that is how it should be.

8 thoughts on “Setting the Bar Low”

  1. Your essay beautifully captures the complex journey of motherhood and how unexpected challenges can redefine our roles and priorities. Your honesty about the evolving relationship with your daughter post-diagnosis is touching. It’s a testament to the resilience of both mother and child, adapting and growing together. Thank you for sharing your story.

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