Being a Perfectly Imperfect Mother

This morning I was walking out back and saw this mother with her babies…..I love the way they just follow her….the way that motherhood is so part of life…

I first want you to know that I am and have always been a very unconventional mother….a free sprit mother with free spirit children….sometimes that has made me feel and look like a freak….and often….it has made me feel like I am not doing it right. There have been so many things that have happened in our life that have made it necessary to adapt to situations….situations that made us fall outside of the ‘norm’….not so much where I have ever belonged anyway….but still…being a mom is hard and you never really feel like you are doing it right.

What I have learned is that NONE of us ever feel like we are doing it just right…..but that every one of us really is doing our very best.

I have always seen my children as big souls who are simply in much tinier bodies than ours….and that my job as a mother is to help them to grow into the exact soul that they were born to be…and already are. I have tried from the time I became a mother to just listen listen listen for what they individually need….being a mother is the hardest job I have ever had…the most precious, amazing difficult job. It is not always fun and there is so much that I flat out stink at…….but I want more than anything for  my children to learn to use their own wings. I want them to have an amazing life.  I have often felt like my children were wiser, better, smarter souls than I am……and if you ever spent a day with my children…you would understand what I mean. (just like I would feel about YOUR children if I spent a day with them) Motherhood has been this giant honor to me all along….a terrifying one……a scary one that so many days I wonder how I was ever given the right, the honor and the stewardship to carry out. I have been a mother for 21 years now…and still….it scares me every day to know that I am sort of in charge here.

My biggest fear in life is that I will mess up my kids. Truly…this is my very biggest fear.

So I have 5 amazing, funny, smart children who are free spirits with strong minds and wills and with their own dreams and their own goals….I am very very very close to all of my children. Marq and I have loved (not always ‘liked’ especially between the ages of 13-17) being parents to them from the very day in 1991 when I was 19 and he was 23 and we had ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE WHAT WE WERE DOING and our little dimple-cheeked son came into the world with a mass of black hair and sparkling eyes.

I don’t talk much about my children because I never want to cross the line with THEIR OWN story….ya know? I want them to live it out and be able to tell it on their own when they are ready to do that. I have learned the hard way to keep sacred things sacred…and my children are sacred to me. Please just know that my life is completely wrapped up in our 3 children who still live here at home with us…and the oldest two who are now living on their own but are still here just about every day. We are together every day…we eat together, work together, play together, dream together….we help each other…we all fiercely love and protect each other.

But there was a time, not so long ago, that I completely dreaded mother’s day….every single year that it came along. This is not because I dreaded being a mother….it is because every year….after the breakfast in bed from my sweet kids and the tender written words and special treatment by my husband…….we would head to church or flip on the television and hear a whole program about mothers….about motherhood….(often about perfect mothers, about the ideal image of motherhood) ….. and then the television shows, the commercials……the greeting cards………

…and I would start to feel little daggers being driven into my heart over all of my inadequacies as a mother….

…especially when my children were small and motherhood was in the “boot camp” stage….diapers and bottles and colic and croup and too many car seats to buckle to take a 10 minute trip to the store (so you just stay home, isolated, all the time and make due) …..during those years on mother’s day, during the nonstop tributes to mothers, I always felt myself withering a little more, a little more, a little more……….and I always wished we could just skip mother’s day because all it did was point out all of the things I was not good at and not doing and all of the ways that my children must somehow be missing out……ya know?

We have always sort of gone against the current with our parenting…..and I’m not going to give you many details of what I mean because one of the things that I think can make us very miserable on mother’s day and any OTHER day as a mother is when we look at how others are parenting and compare ourselves. What I will tell you is that I am an intuitive mother……and we are intuitive parents. We do what we feel is best for our children and our family……and very very very often that is very different than what is going on around us…what everyone else is doing………and so when I make the huge mistake of comparing….that’s when I am miserable and feel wobbly, shaky, clumsy and uncertain….just like everything else in life. Our life is 100% different from the life of any other family….we have had different experiences…we have 7 completely different personalities….we have 7 different life missions….we have 7 different sets of strengths and weaknesses…..so the only way to survive (and even thrive)  as a mother is to do it from my own heart…and listen listen listen to the gift of intuition that I know FOR SURE that we are all blessed with.

Just like everything else that we EVER do in life….especially if we are trying to do big scary things that have a lot of risks attached…….people have opinions.

Opinions are especially hurtful, even cruel when they are about the way we mother….or the way we parent……especially when they are directed at us personally…..OR WHEN WE TAKE THEM PERSONALLY.

In this age of over-information and beautiful blogs and facebook and pinterest and every other imaginable way to very beautifully and artistically be able to compare ourselves with everyone’s very very very best of everything………….please don’t ever ever ever do this when it comes to being a mother.

So….the way to be miserable on this very special, sacred and fragile day is to seek out every tribute to every mother (or any tribute to any other mother) and look at all of the ways that you don’t measure up to those tributes. Please don’t choose to spend this day in this way. So much is left out of those stories….so much….and if EVERYTHING was included…..those tributes would end up looking exactly like your life. ok? You are a mother worth writing a tribute about because motherhood is hard stuff that doesn’t really have big rewards that are easy to see every day….and often the rewards are many decades away from the time the work has been put in….with years and years of heartache, exhaustion and weariness in between.

Want to have a good day on mother’s day? First……give yourself some grace…..believe it when your children tell you that they love and you and they they are so happy that YOU are their mother. Believe it if they DON’T TELL YOU TOO…..because let’s be honest….there are stages in a child/teen/young-adult’s life when they are fantastically self-centered and believe that mothers will just show up every day just like the sun does every morning…and then they never think another thing about it. Someday……someday someday someday you will see that the love all really did sink in…..and that it was worth it. YOU KNOW that if you had it to do over again….you would have done ALL of that stuff that you never got thanked for. It was worth it.

Think hard about all of the ways that you have loved your children the VERY BEST WAY THAT YOU KNOW HOW TO LOVE THEM….and that YOU have just flat out done THE VERY BEST THAT YOU COULD DO……..and that you continue to do that every day.

…even if you can look back now and see that there are things that you would have done differently….because now you know better. You always did the best you could do…

And finally….the very very very best way to have a fantastic mother’s day is to look around at all of your friends…all of your family….all of the women in your life…..and please please please tell them that they are doing a great job. (because every one of them is doing the very best that they can do right now)

There is not a more beautiful, comforting and healing compliment that you can get about being a mother than one from another mother.

Tell the other mothers in your life that they are doing a great job….an mean it.

What we DO NOT NEED is to be judged….or to judge…..we don’t really need opinions about what we should have done, or should be doing……NO ONE KNOWS what is going on in any family that is being so carefully thought-through, agonized over and dealt with in the very best way that the mother (and father) knows how to do it.

Let’s be good to each other as mothers. Let’s not judge OURSELVES against each other…and let’s not judge each other. …and let’s all take a guilt-free nap….knowing that we really are pretty much exactly like every other mother alive out there….whether she is the mother being talked about in the tributes, or the one being gossiped about because of her out-of-the-box ways……let’s all just give each other grace enough to know that we are all doing the very best we can do………and that we all need a hug and a nap and some kindness to keep us going.
And…let’s remember that whether we have children or not…we all have mother hearts…and there are so many ways to mother……so be sure to reach out to those who have mothered you in any way…….sometimes the ones who mother us best are those who do not even have children of their own.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND.
xoxoxo
melody

 

(first published Mothers Day 2012)

Comments

  1. Mary Baker says

    The comment of those without children having “mother hearts” brought very rare tears – I can totally relate. Thank you for understanding xx

  2. Tiffany says

    It can be so hard to see the good things we do when we care so much about the consequences of the things we do wrong. I read your post and kept wondering if I would say that I parent differently than other people do…another thing to compare. And I do! Hey, look at that, I am just like every other mother – I do it my own way, sometimes I do things that I am so proud of because I know I got it right, and sometimes I just fail. But every day is a new day and we get to keep working on it. We get to keep refining our mothering as being a mother refines us, we get better at it, we heal and grow, and so do our children! I’m in the middle of boot camp (5 kids, ages 10, 6, almost 4, almost 2, and 9 months) and my back hurts and my dishes aren’t done. And that’s enough to make this a hard day…except that I am hopeful after reading this post. I’m hopeful that I can pray and intuit myself into my almost 4yo’s mind and turn Mr. Destructo toward something more productive today. Just today, and that will be enough. Thank you for reaching out to all of us Brave GIrls. You lift my spirits all the time! Someday I’ll come to a camp and we’ll meet! xoxo

  3. angel says

    Melody.. i just *know* that Spirit made sure i saw this today in the e-mail. i didn’t see it before, but i saw it today when i had the space to really hear & see it.

    there’s so much in here that touched me, had me in tears, had me feeling like “maybe i am ok after all”.

    just… thank you. thank you for all of it. <3

  4. Theresa says

    Thank you, so grateful for your post. This has touched me so deeply. Happy Mother’s Day to you. <3

  5. Scottie Viall says

    I love this and I love you. I am a different mom too and I am so thankful to know I am on the right track and so are the rest of us mom with a heart full of love. Blessed and have a great Mother’s Day

  6. twm99 says

    Hi Melody,

    You hit quite a few chords with me and my feelings. I hear ya sista. =)

    But, as a person that observes and actually takes polls from friends, something I have learned.

    It seems that the best mothers, worry the most about what kind of mother they are. Some of the mothers never think about it. It never crosses their mind to wonder. When my kids were little, every time they brought home a report card, I would ask them to give me a report card on how they thought I was doing as a mother. I didn’t want to ruin them!

    Your letter tells me two things. One is, you must be an AWESOME mother and you made me feel better about a long time guilt Ive carried about my children. I thought like you, that it was their life and I was going to let them decide what they liked, what they were interested in. I didnt push anything on them. And Ive always felt kind of guilty because they cant play the piano and ski and sky jump while juggling fire balls while throwing fireworks with their feet as the world cheered from below.

    But they can do so much, and they are very happy and very talented in so many of their own ways. And they had a wonderful life and I feel better now about this. I was right! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

    TWM

    p.s. If the pictures above are from your land or neighborhood, you, your husband and your children dont know this but there is a show about you. Its called The Waltons! =) Check it out. And youre even a terrific mom there too! =)

  7. Susan Pederson says

    Loved your story! Every day is Mother’s Day if you’re doing it right. I have been dealing with the addictions of 2 of my children these last months and things are going OK. I didn’t listen to the opinions of anyone who tried to tell me there was only one path to getting clean (ridiculous!) and that I was being an enabler (they didn’t even know what that meant!). Follow your heart, not the naysayers and always remember NO ONE KNOWS YOUR CHILD LIKE YOU DO!!!!

  8. Angie says

    Thank you! Had one of the most disappointing Mother’s Days ever and this was beautiful to read. Wish it was just another day. :) Good to remember that all three are in that self centered stage and someday the will appreciate (God willing), as I do my wn Mom. Beautifully written piece. Thank you so much! :)

  9. Trish DiPietri Brewer says

    Thank you for this! I am in tears! My husband and I are not the “norm” parents either. We do what we feel is best for our child, NOT what others or society thinks is best. My husbad never cares what others say or think; something much more difficult for me. This is wonderful to read and re-affirms that I am a good Mom! Thank you!

  10. says

    Thank you! I have always felt like Mommy Freakiest. I don’t “fit” with the neighbor’s standard of mommyhood…and sometimes it has been hard to be the outsider Mommy.

    Our parenting philosophies sound very similar…and long story short, my 19, 22, and 25 year old daughters are becoming the people they are meant to be following their own path…

    This is one of your very best posts, out of many many truly profound posts!

  11. Martha says

    Dearest Melody –
    Your post is so beautiful. I kept rereading sections because of the precious, honest, poignant, and relative way you wrote certain phrases. I relate to everything you wrote. My kids (my youngest is just a year older than your oldest and is now a mom, too) are working on their own stories and I am so grateful that they feel accepted and loved by me to explore without the limiting fear I grew up with. Love without judgment… the very definition of unconditional love!
    Be blessed! You sure are a blessing to me!
    Martha

  12. Melanie says

    Reading this late, but oh how lovely your words are! Ah, yes – the mommy wars. The judging and unsolicited advice. I always did it my own way and followed my gut, but was endlessly questioning myself. All the noise we hear as mothers. Breast feed or not, family bed or not, etc. etc. I guess you could call what I did attachment parenting. It was so hard, because people were telling me to do the opposite and not spoil them. Because of all the talk about breast feeding due to the recent Time Magazine cover, I came across a video clip of Dr. Sears who said such a smart thing. If we lived on a desert island and had none of this information bombarding us all the time, we’d just do what our instincts were. That made so much sense to me – too bad I didn’t see it then. Thank you so much for your comforting words. You do have a gift.

  13. Stephanie Cook says

    I am amazed by you Melody and the wonderful job you have done with your family. You are an inspiration to me.

  14. Janie says

    Thank you Melody! My oldest daughter surprised me by posting on fb that she was grateful that I was her mom and that thanks to me she is who she is today (I take no credit for that – it’s been God all along) wow really suprised me! We have had so many battles but just reading those words made it all worth it!
    Love you all hope you had an AWESOME day!

  15. says

    Thank you thank you thank you. I read these words two days to late…but in some ways, every day is Mother’s day. I’ve lost two moms…one to suicide when I was 9 and the other to cancer when I was 36. Mother’s day has been really tough for me…especially these last four years, when I’ve lost my grandma too. I’m thankful for the women in my life who still mother me, and this year I took the time to write letters to them. It felt so good. I’ve been a mom for 14 years now, and we’ve definitely done it our way. Some days I do the comparison thing, and those are the days I suffer the most. Thankful for your many many words of wisdom and love.
    julie

  16. Kate says

    Beautiful words, thank you Melody.
    The other day I read a quote that said: We do not hug our children so they hug us back. We hug our children so they will hug their children. That is the ultimate gift a mother could give!

  17. Julie R says

    Thankyou Melody. i needed to hear that. I love your honesty…especailly about comparing and expecting our kids to show us amazing love on mother’s day. Sometimes I think you live inside my head and have the same thoughts. Goes to show that most of us think alike and need to learn that we are OK and that we are doing our best.

  18. says

    I just love you, Melody! This post was spot on and so beautifully written. And thank you for the last part, mentioning those who have no children. I know that even after I had my son, once I’d lost my next baby, the following Mother’s Days were supremely difficult for me…and even moreso for my friends who had never been able to have any children or whose only children had died. Anyway, your entire post was just wonderful, and I have been working hard on not comparing myself to others, in any area, but especially in this area! xoxo jen

  19. MaryLee says

    I am not quite old enough to be your mother and I dont have children of my own, I do know that seeing the kind of person you are and how you are filled with love, you are an amazing mother, I wish there were more mothers like you in the world.
    My mom always used to say you give your children 2 things, one is roots and the other is wings. Thank you Melody for these gifts not just to your children but to all the women in the world that you have touched
    Mary Lee

  20. says

    Precious Melody…
    Thank you. From the center of my heart…. Thank you for being you… and opening your heart and soul every day and sharing the love inside with each of us. Happy Mother’s Day (one day late) to all. With Love From Cape Cod…. xoxox ~Sandi

  21. Jude Ann says

    Thank you for the awesome words Melody! Just what I needed to read right at the right time. Happy Mother’s Day to you and Kathy and all the moms in your families :)
    Thank you for the inspiration that you send out across the universe! It is truly amazing! Much love & light to you girls and all the team at Brave Girls Club!
    May God’s light shine upon you and be gracious to you.
    ~Jude

  22. says

    Beautiful photos and even more beautiful words! Thank you for your insight on Motherhood. It makes my heart happy to hear you talk about having grace toward other mothers – That’s so important!! We’re all doing our best. Whether we realize it or not we’re in an unspoken sisterhood that should lift each other up. Love it!
    Smooches, Amy

  23. Nancy Resnick says

    I’m absorbing your words, Melody, much like my face is absorbing the sweet rays of the sun we so randomly see here in Seattle. Those words are the life blood of my journey as a mother too. For so long I compared my apples to everyone else’s oranges; I saw myself as flawed because I wouldn’t/couldn’t/ didn’t wanna keep up with everyone else. Even though I knew that I didn’t want to parent in some pre-determined stepford mom type of way, it still made the bad I felt feel hella worse.
    I’ve learned we can and are each others mother on this site. No matter if we had a crap childhood or lacking in something, the pure way you choose to touch each and every one of us is the catalyst, the perfect elixir for all of us to drink in ways to know we are the very Best we can Be with what we Have. How many times have we heard that phrase??? Now, with your help and insight, we Mean it. Have a blessed day, everyone :)

  24. Steph M says

    @Julie W. You are so right…the ONLY opinion that matters is that of our children. I believe that whole-heartedly they are the only ones we have to answer to. I’m always prepared to apologise to my daughter for anything I feel get wrong and now at just 5 she does the same thing. Your son sounds like a sensitive soul and that is something to be very proud of indeed. I think you must be doing an amazing job and clearly so does he. x

  25. Steph M says

    What beautiful and comforting words, thank you so much. I have always wanted to write something like this but just don’t have the talent to put it into words as eloquently and heartfelt as you have here. Every mother needs to read this and I’ll be ensuring nearly every mum I knows does! Thank you. x

  26. Julie W says

    Mother’s Day was a few months ago here in the UK and I too am an intuitive mum (to a teenage son) having had long-term depression and anxiety most of my son’s life. I believe that the only “opinion” that counts on being a mum is that of my child. In my card, my son drew a vase and a flower and wrote “Shine like the Sun”. I think I’m doing ok, then x And so are you Melody xxx

  27. Analee Haro says

    I just wrote love messages to my friends who are incredible mothers. I feel so good. My first mother’s day was so sad and I am letting go of that day and focusing on my seventh mother’s day which will be filled with gratitude, love and happy children.

    Thank you for sharing. You are such a gift to me.

  28. Libbi Corson says

    Thank you so much for your transparency and honesty! At 62 I stll can struggle with this, so this was incredibly refreshing and freeing! Many many blessings to you!

  29. Michelle says

    I absolutely love this Melody! I don’t often speak out here, or in the classes, but this just spoke to me, and I’m really going to try to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to people. For so long I have found myself comparing my mothering “skills” to other women, and of course, I always come away feeling like I’m a horrible mom. So much of this negativity comes from face book and other social media. Thanks to you, Melody Ross, Brave Girls, Daily Truths, Soul Restoration 1 and 2, and Body Restoration, I am finally looking at things differently and reminding myself, that I don’t do that anymore! Happy Mother’s Day! You are such a special person who radiates so much love, I so hope I can come to Brave Girls Camp one day!

  30. says

    You cut straight to the heart of my sour mood today. It is Mother’s Day weekend and I’m not enjoying the spotlight because I am seeing too many of my own flaws. Thanks for your words – especially about truly listening to our kids’ declarations of love and praise for us. I needed this today. Happy Mother’s Day to a phenomenal mother!

  31. Marsha says

    Melody, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about Mother’s Day.
    I really needed to read and absorb your words today.
    I understand exactly how you feel.
    Your words tell me that you are one phenomenal mother with children who love and adore you.
    I hope your Mother’s Day is as beautiful as you my friend!
    Blessings to you and yours,
    Marsha

  32. Susan says

    Thnk you thank you thank you- exactly what I needed on this eve of mothers day…. Being a mother of teens today…. And losing my own mom a couple years ago… Exactly what I needed right at this moment in time….

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