Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thoughts on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is not a happy day for many women.  Women struggling with pregnancy loss, infertility or those who hear the ticking of their biological clock with no possibility for a meaningful relationship on the horizon, struggle.  If our mothers are no longer around, it can be a difficult day or if our mothers were so wounded that they were unable to adequately parent us, it can be challenging.  I confess to struggling with this day for over three decades for a number of reasons.

My expectations of how I should be treated on "my" day were rarely met.  I expected my ex-husband to expend the same amount of effort for me that I did to make his day meaningful.  He rarely met those expectations.  And to be fair, my expectations were probably unrealistic.  The expectations created by the media hype surrounding this day has also been problematic for me.  My real life rarely matched the rose-colored Hallmark version of mothering or of how Mother's Day should be celebrated.

"Good Enough" Mothering

At this stage of my life and in light of the trauma of finding out that the man I was married to is a pedophile, I have spent a lot of time in reflection and introspection.  There are many things I regret about the way I did life as a married woman and the way I parented my children.  One of the phrases that always jumps out at me when reading the S-Anon literature is that we "often neglected our children" due to living with an individual struggling with sexual addiction or compulsions.  I always thought I was a good mom, and still believe that I was, in many ways.  But one of the more grueling aspects of recovery is realizing that I did neglect my children emotionally in order to cope with that knot n the pit of my stomach that I now recognize was my ex's undiagnosed pedophilia.

I spent so much time trying to create and maintain the "perfect" home and life and to keep things running smoothly that I did not have time or patience for my children's emotional needs.  I rarely just sat on the floor and played with them--there was too much to do.  I was operating out of a vow that I made as a young woman after my profound betrayal.  That vow was that I would be such a good wife that he would never "stray" again.  If I was a good enough wife, he would be happy and not give into temptation and no child would ever again be hurt by his hands.  But in the process of trying to be a "good enough" wife, I was not the mother to my children that I had hoped I would be.  This is my regret.

In psychological literature, there is the concept of the "good enough" mother.  Simply put, it holds that if a child receives enough nurture and love from his mother on a fairly consistent basis, he will have the resiliency to overcome any deficiencies in mothering he may have experienced.  The good enough mother is not perfect but the parenting she provides is sufficient enough to instill within her child the confidence and esteem needed to overcome her mistakes and shortfalls.  I would venture to say that most women feel they were or are not "good enough" mothers on Mother's Day, which is a tragedy.

Mothering My Inner Child

My days of active parenting of my children are over but I still have a child who needs my attention and love.  My inner child has been growing but still has lots of insecurities, fears and needs.  I am the only mother she has and she is depending on me to care for her tender soul.  I have been an absent and neglectful mother to this child for many decades and she knows it.  But I will renew my pledge to be a "good enough" mother to her on Mother's Day.  She will teach me to play and I will teach her to feel secure and loved.  She will move me out of my head and into my heart and I will hold her when she is lonely, afraid, or sad.  Together we will rediscover the joys of dancing in the rain, running barefoot through the grass and just sitting quietly to watch a hummingbird at the feeder.
Sculpture by Josep Sanchez Carrasco

Someone has said that it is in the gaze of love between a mother and her nursing baby that we first learn the concept of relationship.  We spend our entire life trying to regain that connection and that gaze.  We look for the gaze of love and connection in so many wrong places, which leads to all sorts of painful consequences.  I love this picture of a sculpture by Jose Sanchez Carrasco because it illustrates the gaze of love that a woman and her child share even before the child is born.  And it also serve to remind me that I have the power to grant my own child within the love and connection she is crying for.

Honoring Myself as a Mother and a Child

 Whether we want it to or not, Mother's Day is here.  For some of us, it will be a good day; for others, we will struggle to get through it.  We may be surprised or we may be disappointed; our children may honor us or forget about the day altogether.  Regardless of what my kids do, however, I plan on honoring myself.  I was a good enough mother and I am profoundly proud of my three amazing kids.  They have navigated the rough waters of the past two years with remarkable grace, strength and fortitude--I must have done something right!  I will honor the job I did with them, forgiving myself for my failures.  And I will honor my inner child and the new relationship I am forging as her mother.  I may even "allow" her to buy me some flowers for our garden because it is a day to celebrate--maybe not in in the Hallmark kind of way but to celebrate nonetheless.

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