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.
(first published Mothers Day 2012)