Among all the other things that are grabbing our attention this week, we need to take a little time out to honor all mothers – along with other women, and even some fathers who are in the position of primary nurturer of children. And let’s not leave out those of us who have already raised our children into adulthood. We are arguably the most important people in the world, because of the influence we have on future adults who are now or will be running things.
But when I was a young mother, more often than not, I found myself dreading Mother’s Day. At the time, I was confused why this was the case, but I now realize it was because I didn’t feel I deserved to be “honored.” I was only 19 when my daughter was born, and 23 when I gave birth to my son. I had no idea what I was doing, so why should I be singled out to be appreciated? I felt pressure to be the kind of mother I thought society expected of me – to do everything the “right way.”
I’m now WELL past my 20’s. Actually, I’m well past my 50’s! And I’ve had a lot of opportunity to examine some of those early feelings, and to work on myself. I know now, that many mom’s feel the same way I did (maybe not about Mother’s Day, but about being a “good” mom), regardless of how old they are. There’s no class to teach us how to be a mother. We all just figured it out from watching our own mothers and other matriarchs; some of us read books and maybe even went to therapy to try to understand what we were “supposed to do.”
What I’ve come to realize (at least for me), is that there are no “supposed to’s”. It’s kind of like my spiritual beliefs: If my thoughts and actions come from a place of love, then I’m probably doing “the right thing” at that moment.
But all moms also know that we don’t always act out of love. The demands of the job are overwhelming and we can lose our sense of self with all the hats we have to wear. I won’t try to list all the things we do as moms, because I’ll surely leave many out. But to name a few: we’re managers, coaches, teachers, spiritual leaders, huggers, secretaries, therapists, mediators, schedulers, cooks, taxi drivers, house cleaners, nurses . . .
While we put much of the pressure on ourselves, there really is always WAY too much to do. I’m a list maker; and while I’m much better now about not beating myself up if everything on my list doesn’t get done, I still put that pressure on myself at times. But one day I had an “Ah ha” moment. I realized that when I make my transition to the other side, there very likely will NOT be someone standing there with a clipboard containing a list of all the tasks I didn’t get done today or any other day. It’s a good way to remind myself that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t meet my own expectations. And that maybe I need to rethink those expectations anyway.
I’ve also allowed myself to recognize that I have been a pretty darn good mom much of the time. I’m not what I used to call “Nancy Homemaker;” don’t see myself much as a nurturer; don’t even like to cook much any more. But I was always there when my kids needed to talk (I learned that if I didn’t nag them to tell me everything right away, they knew I would be there when they were ready, and that they could say anything without fearing my judgment, ant trust that I would help them work out a way to handle their situation). I drove them to and attended all their performances and games (even coached a few), & helped them hone their baseball, basketball and softball, drill team skills and their musical and artistic talents. Yeah, I screwed up some times, but I’ve learned to give myself permission to be the mom I am.
I’m paraphrasing here, but we have all heard that quote about what people say on their deathbeds: It’s not “I wish I would have spent more time at work.” Rather, they say “I wish I had spent more time showing my family how much I love them.” As a mom, that needs to be our #1 goal: to show our kids how much they mean to us, and how proud we are of the individuals they ARE; not to put expectations on them that may not even be what they want for themselves.
I’m going to leave you with this post from Sanaya that says what I think all moms (and the rest of you) probably need to hear:
There is time to get it all done. It is you who thinks that you must do it all in a certain period of time. And what does this do to you? It knocks you off balance. It lessens your awareness of who you are and why you are here. It causes you to lose your focus on what really matters. And what really matters? Being present. Being the presence of love. Loving. There is time for all else, in good time. If your “to do” list and your anxious thoughts take you away from presence and being and loving, then it is time to re-prioritize.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, aunts, sisters, dads, uncles and anybody else who deserves that title. We have to be there for our kids. We must inspire the change we want to see in the world. That means allowing space for some imperfections (in ourselves and in them), but also championing the uniqueness of each of them.