With my mother as a model, I figured that being a mom would be the greatest thing I ever did. That I would love every single selfless minute of it, and that like her, I would be an endlessly patient, and nurturing parent. I thought it would come naturally. After all my mom made it look so easy. I don’t have any memory of her treating mothering as work. She never seemed too tired for me, always making time to play, or sit and talk. If I needed her, she was there. Furthermore, I cannot remember her ever yelling at me, or losing her patience. While I on the other hand have yelled, and lost my head more, in the 7 years since I became a mom, than I have in my entire life. Yes it is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also pushed and pulled me in ways I never could have anticipated. It is a giving up of yourself. A letting go of you as an individual. Your needs come second. I mean I’ve since figured out, that in many ways, my needs must remain a priority, and that my joy, and wellbeing are key to the well functioning of our family system. But, looking at my mom back then, I had no idea of the sacrifices she made for my siblings and I, or that she too was tired, and stretched by motherhood. My mother showed such grace in how she managed things, that any wear she experienced was masked by her positive, and easygoing attitude. It was always so clear the gratification she got from being our mom.
My mom has reassured me time and again, that she too found it hard. She recounts having left me on the kitchen table in the middle of the night following a feeding, only to remember once snug in her bed that she had left me there. She also assures me that she lost her cool once in a while. She claims that kids have selective memory when it comes to their parents. I’m really hoping this is true, as I wouldn’t mind my kids re-writing a few less than stellar mommy moments in our family history book. My favorite story, is one my mother tells of how she once dumped a pot of water on my head because I wouldn’t stop bothering her while she was doing dishes. Thank God! Thank God that my mother, who I saw as the poster child for patience, actually lost it once in a while, and moreover, is like the rest of us, and is capable of being bothered! Imparting a lesson on the gifts of imperfection, allowing me to embrace my own humanity. She has taught me, that in parenting you do what keeps you sane. I was not scarred by her dousing me with water. I don’t even remember it! And it probably enabled her to let off a little steam in a harmless way. She has always encouraged me to be kind to myself first, and reminds me that the cracks in our veneer are where the light comes in. I love that she has been my champion for every minute of every day I have spent on this earth. I love that while she too knew that being a mom is hard work, that tests every part of you, that she somehow managed to do it all with a smile, convincing me that loving me was never hard.
The single most important thing my mother did for me when I became a mom for the first time was to encourage me to trust my instincts, not getting too caught up in the shoulds, and could haves. She’d come to visit bearing Starbucks, greeting me with a hug, letting me hold on, and let go all at the same time. I was so tired… I felt as though I’d come undone… She’d let me nap, or shower, or leave the house for a few blissful blocks of solitude between feeds. When I would cry, she would soothe me as though soothing an infant. Holding me, she would whisper, “You’re doing a great job Shan. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” She would take every opportunity to remind me of this, and still does to this day, as I move through the different stages of raising children. I needed to hear it as much then, as I still do now from time to time. This has helped foster my self-confidence as a parent, and ultimately my growth as a person.
Mom… Because of you I know that I am never alone. Because of you I know that no matter what, I will always be ok. Because of you I know that I am deserving of love and care. Thank you for loving me beyond measure. Thank you for being my friend and champion first, and parent second. Because of you I have faith that with time, and experience, my edges will continue to soften, and that I am already whole just as I am. You see, because of you, I realize that no matter what I mess up, or can’t seem to figure out, that my daughters will be just fine as long as they know that I am there loving them, every step of the way. Because of you, I know that I am loved…