It’s Mother’s Day in Canada today. I spent the day with and celebrating some incredible women, both moms and maternal surrogates (non-moms who project the maternal instinct of love to their friends and families). While I celebrated, I was also thinking about how crazy motherhood is. I read a lot… I know, it’s a shock, but try to keep your mind from being blown… and in some of my books, I find a lot of emphasis placed on finding the root of our behaviours; often, the roots are seeded in childhood, for good or for bad. This leads to a whole discussion on whether one’s mother was distant or overbearing, a tiger mom or a flake, if she was open about sex or insisted that sex before marriage was terrible, if your mother played favourites, or made mistakes, or, or, or… What is not often discussed, other than in parenting books aimed at making us feel better as moms that we are not completely screwing our kids up, is the fact that becoming a mother does not suddenly bestow us with an ancient maternal wisdom that will allow us to know how to handle every situation that comes our way. We are still the same women we were before we gave birth, just now with a new responsibility.
When my grandmother gave birth to her first child, she was 19 years old and had been married for 11 months. (I did the math for you…) When my mother gave birth for the first time, (me) she was 22 years old. I don’t know about you, but I would not say that my problem solving and wisdom skills kicked until much later than 19 or 22. When I was 19, I was suffering through my first depressive episode, while I struggled to learn Portuguese at University (Não, I still do not speak Portuguese). When I was 22, I was panicking about graduating from university and desperately hoping my boyfriend of 6 years would propose to me. These are not mindsets of a woman set to instil sage thoughts into the mind of another human. Today, there is discussion that adulthood does not truly begin until at least the mid-twenties, but possibly as late as our 30s (Daily Mail – 30 is the new 21).
My mom did a wonderful job raising my brother, sister and I. She raised creative individuals with a drive to succeed in whatever our chosen calling should be. My sister is a PhD student, and single mother, adeptly handling both; my brother is the Creative Director of a Media Publishing house (Shameless Proud Sister Plug). As the saying goes – the kids are alright. That said, whenever I am expected to confront my anxieties, fears, neuroses, depression, etc., I am directed to consider what might have occurred in my childhood to make me behave the way that I do. So, on this Mother’s Day, as a mother, allow me to call Bull sh*t on this being the only or rather pervading reasons why I am a neurotic loon.
I am not saying that I do not believe that events in our past cause us to be the way that we are – they do; and I am not saying that moms do not mess up their kids – we do;what I am saying is on this Mother’s Day, consider cutting your mom some slack. She literally did the best she could (*please be aware that I am not referring to abusive, neglectful, or malicious women. I am referring to the moms who tried, and yet couldn’t always get it right).
When we were little, we genuinely believed that our Mommies knew everything. They were the most beautiful, the most amazing, the most perfect beings in the universe, and it was imperative that every question that popped into our heads be spewed directly at her, where she would immediately answer with a witty, cunning, intelligent response, lighting our way to also knowing everything, just like mommy.
When we got a bit older, we realized that sometimes, maybe, Mommy didn’t seem to know exactly everything, because after a few years at school, we came to realize that “because I said so” was not actually suitable response to questions; and neither was “to make little girls ask questions”.
When we became teenagers, many of us suddenly felt that these beacons of light, fun and beauty where actually old fussy ladies out to keep us from having fun. (I’ll admit that that wasn’t my belief, as I was born an old fussy lady, intent on stopping myself from having fun. I am pretty sure my mom would have encouraged a bit more fun on my part, had she had the chance.)
When we are older still, we begin to believe that our moms are not nearly as clever as we are, and how is it possible that my mother could not recite Clause 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982? I mean she was literally alive when that was signed!! (For the record, Section 7 states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”.)
Then we become adults and realize that between seeing her brilliance, and her flaws, our mom has become a fully actualized human, with her own pains, fears and anxieties. She may not have actually been made of sun beams and rainbows, but by god she knew how to get a stain out of a white shirt even if it had a black trim!!! She knew how to make a dinner for 5 plus any neighbourhood kids that stayed with essentially nothing in the fridge. She knew when we needed our heads stroked until 2AM, regardless of the fact that she had to get up for work tomorrow, as we cried our eyes out about a C on a math test.
But how did she know how to do that??? When I was placed in my mom’s arms at 22, she had no basis of comparison; she had no way of knowing if what she was about to do next, either by plan or by instinct, was the right thing for me. She had no idea whether she was setting me up for success or for failure, all she knew was that she loved me and she was willing to try her best. When my grandmother was 19, and had a baby girl, and was preparing to move from the Prairies to the West Coast, she had no idea how she would manage. She had no idea how to keep a baby alive, but she knew she had to and that she loved my mom. (And in her case, she didn’t even have the benefit of automobile safety!)
With my kids, I have no idea if I am screwing them up for life. I have no idea if I am involved enough, or too distant. I have no idea if I am projecting the image of a confident woman for them to to model. I have no idea how to tell my daughter to make friends at school, or to not worry so much, because I don’t know how to make friends or not worry!! All that I know is that I love her, and I want the best for her. And that everyday, I will keep trying.
… and that, god-willing, when she inevitably reads something that tells her that all of her adult problems are rooted in my inability to parent correctly, she will see me as a whole person, who had a great responsibility, no training, and was just doing my best.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms of the world, who are secretly just regular human beings and have no idea whether what we are doing is right. I am right there with you. ❤️
#motherhood #mothersday #momlife #mistakes #justkeeptrying #kalidesautelsreads