I met a woman while shopping recently. At one point during our conversation, I asked her if she had kids. She said “Nope!”  to which I replied, “Lucky you!”  To which she responded, “I hear that a lot!”

My response surprised me, as I have always thought that I was lucky to have a child, in spite of all the angst, worries, hardships and sorrows I’ve experienced as a mother. I started thinking about my knee – jerk response to my new friend’s “Nope!” and asked myself some questions:

– Do I really feel this way?

– Am I a terrible person/mother to have responded in such a fashion? 

– Is it my anger, frustration and hurt talking?

– What do I do with this perspective now that it’s leaked out of my subconscious?

– How do I make peace with such a thought?

After much introspection, I realized that I feel both ways – I’m glad I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy boy. I’m happy to have given him life. I also realized that it’s difficult to feel warmly toward him due to the travails, heartache and suffering I’ve had to endure because of his behaviors and decisions.

I understand that many people have more challenging circumstances surrounding their children, and my heart goes out to them. I’m blessed in many ways: my son is alive and he has four beautiful children who are all thriving. In addition, my son and I still communicate, if sporadically, and it is polite and friendly, despite the influence of his wife. So, I’m grateful.

I have found that no matter what our circumstances are in life, there is always, and I mean always, something for which to be grateful. For example, I live separated from my family – geographically and emotionally. Holidays are torture, especially since most of them are designed for family gatherings and connection. I miss my son and grandchildren terribly and there are days when I find myself spinning in a vortex of an impotent sadness. However, as difficult as it is to be alienated from my son and grandchildren, there are compensations. I no longer have to work so hard to survive in an unhealthy dynamic where I’m kissing butt all the time.  I no longer have to jump through hoops only to be told that I didn’t do it right. I no longer have to witness my son getting weaker and more tethered as the years roll by under his wife’s control and dictatorship.

Yes, there are many compensations. I’ve learned to accept things as they are, no matter how much I wish they were different. I’ve learned how to find peace and serenity by understanding what I can control and what I can’t. I’ve learned to manage expectations.

It’s a bit counterintuitive, but I feel lucky to have known heartbreak – many times over – because there have been so many gifts wrapped inside. And, I believe one of the biggest gifts has been to have a child whose existence has taught me so much about unconditional love.