“Mummy, you are here for me. You are here for all of us who are dear to you”. The words spoken by our three-year-old make me pause with a warm feeling in my heart. “Yes, I am here for you”, I say. “For every one of you who are dear to me”.
I discussed with my husband how much I should share about our family’s life in my new blog. Our life has not been an average sort of life. Three years ago I calculated that, over the preceding ten years, our family members had been in hospital for a total time of about two and a half years. The inpatient days after that have added up to several months more. At the worst time, three members of our family were in different hospital wards in two different cities.
I started working when I was 16, sorting mail alongside my studies. Just before my second maternity leave I graduated with honors from a commercial institute. There was nothing to predict that, for the next 15 years, I would only have odd jobs for a few months at a time and no full-time employment.
Whenever possible, I grabbed at the chance. I walked into an interesting firm to ask if they would take me for the minimum pay. I wanted to hang on to my membership of society, even with the restrictions imposed by my own health problems and those of our children, especially the special needs of our oldest child.
I once called a city official to say that I had found a job with proper pay. I also told him I had applied to a nursing program. He did not appreciate that as a good thing, because they could not provide day care for our oldest child. I persisted in my plans, and we had a care worker in our home for the summer. I started my nursing program in the fall, but had to drop out a few weeks later, because there was no afternoon care available for our special-needs child. I stayed at home. There was no alternative.
Our oldest child lived for less than twelve years, spending almost all of his last year in different hospitals.
Before that final year I had been his unpaid caregiver. Even while the child was in institutional care, I fought for his right to good care. His last few months were easier, and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. But then, without any warning, came the grief of his death. It was as if we had been hearing a rumbling thunderstorm gradually going away, but were still struck by the last devastating lightning.
Grief was mixed with relief, however. We no longer needed to worry about this child, knowing that he was safely in heaven. Our life seemed calmer for a while. We even had a lovely glimmer of hope, as there was a new baby on the way. But before the first third of my pregnancy was over, I was on sick leave again. I had to stay in bed for 22 weeks, and I woke up every morning happy to know that the baby was still safe inside me.
After the birth of the baby, the physical problems of our children and the traumatic memories of our oldest child’s life began to take their toll. After another difficult pregnancy, we had our third tiny premature baby. I got used to having a calendar booked full with medical appointments and meetings. By the end of March last year, we had had about 90 different appointments, 7-10 per week. I was on family leave and stayed home even after that. I was also an unpaid caregiver for our two school-aged children, who seldom were at school for a full day. My husband was the sole breadwinner.
I read politicians’ opinions on how to make stay-at-home mothers apply for jobs, and how the long-term unemployed are not even interested in working and need to be activated and urged to find employment. I began to feel bitter. I knew how things were in reality, but statistically, I had always belonged to either or both of those maligned groups. I knew that there are gaping holes in society’s safety networks and that officials do not always treat people fairly, because bureaucracy is neither flexible, nor adaptable to exceptional situations.
While doing the household chores, driving, or enjoying the rare opportunity to go for a walk, I often listened to a radio voice speaking about life in a fascinating, meandering monologue. I knew the speaker was my polar opposite: a healthy and wealthy male who could easily make himself heard. It seemed we had nothing in common, and even our views of life were different. But still something happened: very gradually that man helped me revive my self-esteem. Each episode seemed to contain a sentence addressed directly at me. He seemed to appreciate the value of the work I was doing at home, to speak on my behalf – and always give me a small push forward.
I realized I had strayed on to a long road of victimization, which would not take me toward participation but rather toward marginalization. I seemed to re-discover my talents and realized that I could use them even now. I could do things that would help me find my niche in society. I took my laptop whenever I had a free moment and began to write, even if I had not been asked to write a small poem or song or something. I defined goals for myself and began to work to attain them. I mostly did t in the nighttime when the house was quiet, but it did not seem to make me tired. Rather on the contrary, I was happier, better able to enjoy my children, more organized. I kept the house tidier and found my daily life easier than previously.
I had never liked the word empowerment. Now I was personally experiencing empowerment. I was suddenly myself, not just a mother and a family caregiver.¬ I no longer found it tiring that I was needed all the time. I had held my head high and appreciated the value and meaning of my work, but I had allowed the public discussion sow seeds of doubt in my mind. That had resulted in a consuming feeling of embitterment. I had often felt that even the Heavenly Father seemed deaf and blind to our family’s problems.
Now I am writing, weaving my thoughts into stories, emboldened to try. This blog is one outcome of this process. I have decided to try how well my wings carry me, and whether I can make my childhood dreams come true. And yet, the first sentence of this text is also still true. I am here for my little three-year-old and my whole family. And I know that the Heavenly Father has not forgotten me. He has given me abundant resources for this endeavor.
Text: Paula-Maaria Itäniemi
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
Monet suunnitelmat ovat tänä poikkeuksellisena keväänä muuttuneet. Muun muassa perhejuhlien järjestelyjä on pitänyt miettiä uudelleen. Tämä on koskenut myös avioliittoon vihkimisiä. Nyt vihkimisiä on toimitettu niin, että koolla on ollut vain joitakin läheisiä, ja muu juhlaväki on seurannut tilaisuutta ehkä virtuaalisesti.