What does it really mean to let go? When we turned this question over to our editors and readers, their responses proved that grief, catharsis, and rebirth come in all forms—whether it’s finally moving on from a failed relationship, rebuilding oneself after a painful trauma, or quietly saying goodbye to the person you once were. Our series, Letting Go, highlights these compelling and complicated stories. Below: Reader Adelfa Marr shares how becoming a mother allowed her to really reassess her relationships.
We all know having kids changes your life, and it does in many, many ways. These include the obvious: Things such as having a child who is yours, rarely peeing alone, and not thinking twice about putting your hand into your baby’s diaper to check if they’ve pooped. However, along with those obvious changes comes some shifts in personal growth that I don’t think people really expect.
My mama bear mode kicked in the second I knew I was pregnant, but it skyrocketed once my son came into the world. I started to see the world and people around me in a different way, in a clearer way. I began to notice that a few people I kept close to my heart weren’t really all that great. It took me a while to figure out how this was tied into my baby and motherhood until it hit me: “I can’t have this kind of negativity around my child and I refuse to have to explain someone else’s awfulness to him.” I also did not want to explain why I deal and have dealt with such awfulness to begin with.
I wanted to bring a life into this world and raise him to be a great, kind, loving, and caring human being, but I couldn’t do it until I shed the negativity and toxicity out of my life. It was definitely time to let go.
I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about letting go of friendships and setting boundaries with some familial relationships, so I started writing everything down. This was also an excuse to buy yet another journal, but this was crucial—absolutely life-changing. I started writing down the names of my closest friends, and as I did, I realized that some names didn’t feel right being on that list. I thought back to the things that were driving me insane about them, such as the fact that some hadn’t reached out to ask how I was doing after an entire pregnancy and labor, which almost everyone knows is a pretty big deal.
I also had some “friends” who would reach out to me whenever their life was in crisis, whether it be to vent or for advice but dwindled away if I ever needed an ear or a shoulder. My most saddening “friendship” realization was noticing that my social media had been blocked, my texts had gone unanswered, but I somehow received registry information for a baby shower that I was not invited to. Um? Let’s draw the line right here, right now. So I drew the imaginary line on the pristine white sand on the warm beach that only exists in my head, but now what? Do I write them and tell them that I wasn’t having it anymore? Do I tell them they’re terrible people and this is my friendship resignation? Or do I simply breathe it out and let it all go?
I took some deep breaths and let some of it go, but I couldn’t seem to let all of it go. I was in desperate need of closure. I went forth and wrote an email to two or three soon to be ex-friends sharing some of my thoughts, many of my feelings, and in the nicest way possible told them I didn’t want them in my life anymore. Needless to say, I was met with some anger, some more Instagram blocking, phone number blocking, and a lot (maybe too much) cussing. Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t upset about it at all. On the contrary, the retaliation felt like a confirmation that I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t left with any harsh feelings or ill wishes toward anyone either—just a huge sigh of relief.
I was wishing it could end there, but then came the list of toxic family members. You know—the ones who say borderline racist things at the family get-togethers or the ones who tell you that you’re not mothering your child in the right way and definitely the ones who touch your kid’s face without washing their hands after you asked them seven different times not to. I wasn’t just ready for closure—I was ready to throw the whole family away.
Considering the tiny fact that we’re related, throwing them all away was not an option, but boundaries were. Figuring out how to have these conversations turned out to be a little easier than expected because of all of the anger that was fueling me. I started by having them visit us and then asking if they wouldn’t mind having a talk with me. I tried to be gentle and remain vulnerable despite my anger. I took my thoughts from, You were being a total asshole when you told me you didn’t like my son’s name all the way down to, I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment on my decisions as a mother the way you have in the past. After all, I couldn’t expect someone to be open to changing their ways if I shared any thoughts in an angry tone. Using a lot of “I feel” and “I think” seemingly put them at ease. It felt liberating to be open and honest and to share the boundaries and the level of respect I wanted as a part of the family, a mother, a daughter (and daughter-in-law), and simply as a human being. Cue the final sigh of relief.
This time in my life has been extremely rewarding. Letting go of the toxic people in my life, letting go of anxiety and of some insecurities, letting go of anger and resentment, and finally enjoying my day-to-day. None of it was easy, but it was all completely worth it. It’s been an interesting journey, and until now, I couldn’t fully see the effect that years of negativity and toxicity had on me. You truly don’t know what you have until it’s gone, except in this case, I’m glad to see it go.