When I became a parent, I worked hard to remain true to who I was. I engaged in hobbies and maintained friendships, and even went back to school at the age of thirty-nine. I knew that there would be a transitional period when my children left home as I adjusted to not being a full-time mom anymore. I didn’t anticipate that on the road to being an empty nester, my children would come out as transgender. And that in the process of supporting them, I found I lost myself.
As parents of transgender children, our primary goal is to love and support our children. Next, we ensure the people in their lives accept them and love them for who they are. In that role, we are educators, advocators, and allies. We have terminology to learn and acronyms to keep up with. Then there is the mountain of paperwork to wade through for name changes and insurance purposes. Every five minutes, there is another question to Google.
Anything we can do for ourselves lightens the burden on our children.
It can feel overwhelming in those early years after your child comes out. You are managing your emotions while supporting them and learning all you can about something you may have no idea about. It is a lot to juggle emotionally and mentally. And, on top of that, it can consume a lot of your time and resources.
There comes a time when our children don’t need as much support. For those of us with older children, that time comes sooner. For those of you with younger children, your time will come later. That doesn’t mean we won’t still support our kids, because of course, we will. But that hands-on, full-time support will be over.
Who are we if we aren’t supporting our children?
You may find that supporting your child took up so much of your time and energy that you didn’t make time for yourself. That your hobbies and activities fell to the wayside. In the process of educating, advocating, and allying, you lost yourself.
Or, it may be that a lot of the activities you enjoyed doing, you haven’t done since your child came out. The last memories have are doing them together with your child before you knew they were transgender. That can bring a lot of complicated feelings as you try to move forward. Will beginning those activities again erase those memories you have with your child? What if you no longer enjoy that hobby or activity, and it ruins the memory you have?
It can be hard to find your way back to yourself once you’ve been lost.
Our inclination can be to jump back in where we left off. Or to dive in with both feet, pick a big project, and get to it. If you are a knitter, that could look like a blanket or sweater. If you are a woodworker, maybe you start with a big piece of furniture. If you are a painter, maybe you paint a portrait or a mural.
If you have been away from your hobby or craft for a long time, diving back into something big can be a mistake. It could lead to burnout. Worse, you may get discouraged and quit altogether. The key to returning to what you love is to start small.
Small steps lead to bigger steps which allow us to feel successful.
Once we feel successful at something we enjoy, we are more likely to do it again. And once we begin to do what we enjoy more often, we begin to feel like ourselves again. Or, we discover that maybe we have outgrown this hobby or craft, and we learn what it is we enjoy instead.
It’s important for us to support our children after they come out as transgender. In order to do that, we have to be supported as well. And one way to do that is to make sure we are spending time on the hobbies and projects that nourish our souls.
Have you lost yourself since your child came out? What is one small step you can take to find your way back?