Mother’s Day is upon us again, and our families either struggle or rejoice in the business of celebrating us. It’s a sweet ritual, once you get past the fact that it can look like just another opportunity to sell us something.
But I’ve been thinking about our challenge, as mothers, to rejoice in ourselves. To be pleased with ourselves. Really. Deeply. Without criticism or recrimination. To know that we are enough.
I remember going into our Local Government Chambers to hire an infant baby carrier for the car (what a wonderful service, given that we only need the thing for a few months). My baby was still in my belly, soon to arrive. I was fresh to parenting, unharried, excited. Beside me was a mother returning the carrier that she had been using. She had a toddler in tow, and a baby – maybe nine months old, in a stroller.
She looked tired and harassed. Her attention was not on her children, but on interacting with the Customer Service Person. But I noticed her younger child. He had his gaze fixed firmly on her. And the look on his face told me that she was the centre of his universe. Simply, without anxiety, to him she was everything. His look said “Isn’t it wonderful? You are my Sun and my Moon!”
He was adoring, but more. For better or worse, she was his, they were connected. He knew that his mother was “enough”. She was busy, and I guess she knew, at some level, how important she was to him. But I doubt she stopped very often to really absorb it.
And if she did, I bet there was part of her that would not feel worthy.
Most of us come to motherhood having accumulated some kind of feeling that we are not enough, somehow lacking, or less than. It’s a world where women are not paid equally with men and where much of the work of caring for others is done by women and is either not paid, or is paid lowly. Women are vastly outnumbered by men in positions of power and influence. We are daily the victims of violence and aggression directed at us because we are women. It would be hard to grow up female, and not have some sense, lurking in the background if not the front of our minds, that we were not quite good enough.
And in deciding to write this to celebrate Mother’s Day, I’m aware of my own doubt, pulled up from the deep by the proposition that I am good enough. Surely, this is too much to claim? Look, at this long list of things I have not done, mistakes I have not corrected. Surely this doubt is real, and the other is false pride, overconfidence, a lie?
I work with mothers (and fathers, but that is a slightly different story, perhaps to be told when Father’s Day comes around). I love supporting their quest for confidence in themselves, ease in their parenting and connection in their relationships with their children (and others).
In this work, it seems to me it is often hard for us to really notice how much our children love us, how wonderful we are to them, and what a guide for living that this love is. We have trouble noticing that we are enough. We have trouble being pleased with ourselves.
Pretty much every parent wants their child to be pleased with themselves. Happy – striving perhaps, for goals they have formulated – but knowing that they are good, and the world is good, and that there are problems which need to be solved, and people who can work together to solve them.
I think every child wants their mother to be pleased with herself. Striving, perhaps, to correct mistakes, reaching for connection when things have gone wrong, but fundamentally knowing that she is enough. Proud.
So this is the truth:
From the moment they were born, your children saw the truth of you. They held you in their adoring gaze, asking not whether you were connected to them, but how deeply. They saw only your splendidness, and were not looking for your faults. They had every confidence you could do what needed to be done.
Remember that this is the truth of your relationship with them.
There will be times where it seems they doubt you. As they grow, they offer fewer reassurances of your importance to them. This does not mean they need you any less.
There will be times when you make mistakes, do wrong, do not parent the way you wanted and hoped you would. There will be times when you lose your integrity, when you do not live up to the person your child sees.
Remember even at these times, when you feel inadequate to the task, confused and unsure, that you are enough.
The person your child sees has not gone. You are still there. Stand proud, slough off your doubts, take on your struggles bravely and with conviction, defend – and if necessary, fight on behalf of – your children, yourself and all those you love & care for, and know you are enough.
Happy Mother’s Day!
A note about the pictures used in this post: if you click on them, you can find more detail about who took them.