This weekend I had the pleasure of giving a talk for a lovely group of Moms from all over the globe who were needing some support and insight in dealing with some of the heavy of momming during this current state of the world. I have written these insights into this week’s musing, FOR EVERYONE, because we are ALL deeply affected and shaped by our mom relationships and the way we care for ourselves.
There will never be a more emotionally vulnerable experience than motherhood. I would like to just to acknowledge this for all of us. We will never have our hearts stretched beyond capacity by LOVE and concern and a MAD desire to GIVE EVERYTHING and then MORE THAN EVERYTHING to another human being, or beings in quite the same way. It’s a wild ride. It’s a heart wrenching breaking filling and opening GIFT. I’m a gonna need some serious curse words to truly convey it, to you who already know it, because you are living it, and to you who are the daughters and sons and children of mothers, and I mean all mothers, not just mothers in blood, because you are all touched by it.
Motherhood brings up our greatest bloody courage.
And it brings up ALL of our hurty places; our unhealed spots.
Sometimes we pray to the goddess of all things good and beautiful, that we will NOT become our mothers. Because maybe they hurt us or let us down. Maybe they weren’t healthy, or able to crawl out from under a cycle of pain and suffering. Sometimes it was really bad, ugly, sad. Sometimes it was or is just that they mirror something in us, or love us in a cloying interfering way, or see us as a version of ourselves we really need to climb on out of and heal from.
Momming can be complicated as fuck.
Sometimes we lose our moms. To death, to addiction, to violence or depression or illness.
And we lose our capacity to let love in for a while.
Motherhood is beauty. It’s softness and gentleness and wisdom and power.
When we are moms, we stand in the face of judgment and we get stronger than it because of that power.
I used to joke that as I mom I would never become “enlightened” because my children have a direct line to my EGO; to my scared self that loves them so much she can’t bear to fall short, and will crumple at their crabbiness, disdain, criticism, and button pushing, no matter HOW MANY holy mantras I repeat beneath my breath, or scream at the top of my shrill ‘mama’s gonna lose it’ voice —a cue for them that says hey we could have a little fun with this (omie womie schmomie Gawd dammit).
And children are like little ninjas. They are given an immersion education in our wiring, and our short circuiting. They have the time, and nothing to lose, like little prisoners they can learn how to carve a weapon out of a spoon, and stab it directly into our Achilles heel while smiling sweetly from behind their pigtails and eating a lollipop.
You know how many times I have called my Mom up as an adult, to deeply and woefully apologize for judging her? Because I could see AT LAST how loving and strong she was and I could see at last over my very real but absolutely ridiculous teenage attitudes which were totally NOT my fault because teenagers are wired to rebel and judge and take out all of their insecurities and struggles on their parents who are a SAFE PLACE for them. But only as a Mom do we realize the special HELL that is being on the receiving end of our beloved child treating us as incompetent, foolish, ridiculous and stupid. Lordy *closes eyes and crosses self.
So there is that.
Motherhood is heart filling and wrenching and brilliant and tragic.
In a WORLD that does not teach us to nurture.
It teaches us to go to war.
With our selves.
With each other.
It strands us, and leaves us motherless within.
It teaches us that someone else has it worse.
And that if we hurt we are lacking in gratitude.
We are taught a model of emotional debt, in which we are always struggling to live up to. To be worthy. To be enough.
And we try to parent within that, often running on emotional empty.
Even our self help becomes something more we have to accomplish, pile on, push toward. Must meditate, must practice mindfulness, must…rest, the subtext of which is “I can’t even rest right” (ugly cries into facemask).
AND THEN ADD COVID to the mix.
To every simple decision.
To economic security.
To our children’s daily lives.
To our children’s futures.
To our emotional plates.
Just sit with me for a moment, and lets’ take in what a doozy that is.
We are caring for our children, whatever ages they are, in a world that is not physically or economically safe right now, as a baseline. And there is no perfect way to do that.
I want to laugh cry over a tub of Ben and Jerry’s just typing about it.
So today I would like to pay homage to the nurturer in ALL of us. MOMS, CHILDREN OF MOMS, FRIENDS OF MOMS, MOTHER FIGURES.
To encourage her. Lift her up. Help her be strong, forgive herself, and know her own capacity to feel. To remind HER that WE need to create EMOTIONAL SAFETY within ourselves, so that we can share this with our children. A sanctuary in which we can grow with our children, whatever age they may be and whatever the world might dish out.
And to help create a sanctuary of emotional safety —I share the following insights:
No model of parenting is wrong.
One of my favourite strong brave loving moms made a decision to be a full-on career mom. To hire a live-in nanny to be part of her family. To give her everything after hours but to leave the domestic front to her live-in support.
One of my other favourite strong loving moms decided to stay home full time and “mom the shit” out of her kids, from baking to crafts, octopus level “hands on”.
One of my favourite strong brave loving moms decided to do both, because she was born with a fierce level of energy and can both rock her career and make life look like a Pinterest board, with a little support.
One of my favourite moms gives no fucks about dishes and rules, but is loving as hell, cooks up a storm and does it all while managing some serious health challenges.
I myself gave my kids all of the best emotional support, wisdom, caring and nurturing twenty years of experience could offer. But dinner was a la carte, sporadic, and involved everyone eating something that was convenient for my work schedule and their very diverse palates (vegetarian princess versus exotic chef). There were no family commercials for “dinner together” bonding going on at my house. Nope. And true confession, I still both stand by my choice and also forgive myself for not somehow fitting in three hours of dinner prep and clean up on the daily on top of all of the tasks of healing the world and living life because every so often I feel pangs of loss and guilt that I couldn’t just do it all, darn it ta hell, because what the hell is “it” anyhow?! Elusive illusionary perfection, that is what.
The model of parenting that is right for you, is the one that feels LOVING and HEALTHY for you.
Be the warrior, or the academic, or the giver of beauty, or the nourisher. Make YOU work for you.
There are thousands of ideas out there, foisted upon us as expertise, about what matters, about how to affect our kids’ behaviour and manipulate their currency, but at the end of the day, what we really care about is that our kids THRIVE and experience WELLNESS, and are HAPPY. AND, funnily enough, we can’t create for them what is missing for us. So, we’re in the get happy program together. Happy always trumps right, especially when Dr. Spock and Dr. Phil can’t see eye to eye.
Expect for not from.
When we stop PILING and PUSHING, and start asking what will support us and encourage us and help us we change the game. We are less exhausted. Fear, the motivator behind “you should and you have to” depletes morale. It is inefficient. It drains. It disconnects us from inspiration and intuition.
As soon as we start to encourage ourselves, to have patience, to ask ourselves what we need, rather than what we need to do, to start expecting FOR ourselves instead of constantly trying to live up to our worth, we can experience being enough already.
We need to realize that our to do lists tend to be comprised of things we struggle to get to, because we feel tired, overwhelmed, maxed out or undecided. They are lists of the hard stuff. And if we are measuring our success by our ability to ADD to our existing daily repertoires, a bunch of hard emotionally taxing stuff, we are slipping into bullying, and we are overlooking ALL that we do on the daily. I once wrote myself a list of all that I had done in a day for every new one I created. I was astonished at how much I was DOING already that I simply did not give myself any credit for, because it wasn’t on the newly impossible list.
Leave emotional space in the day timer.
AND when we are performance reviewing ourselves (which should always be only encouragement and unconditional love anyhow) we need to remember that we are NOT MACHINES, we are emotional beings, and emotions take up time and space. We need a set of stickers for the day timer that say things like “cried for two hours” “couldn’t get myself to function” “spent the day worrying about everything” “felt randomly sad” “tried not to yell”. Feeling feelings is essential to emotional health. It takes time and space. And that is okay, and we need to give ourselves credit for it, rather than shame ourselves for it, or judge ourselves for not cleaning out that closet while we were ugly crying and wiping snot onto our pajama sleeves, of course after which we snorted hand cleaner, ate a tide pod and bathed in comet #stayingsafe.
Would you say it to them?!
I once had a client (well there have been many over the years but one stands out) who was in a loveless marriage and deeply conflicted. She reasoned that she needed to stay in the marriage and forgo love and joy for the sake of the security of her children.
I asked her if she would hold her child to the same decision. Would she tell her child that they needed to choose between love and security in life? That they would have to resign to living loveless, when they were in obvious pain and turmoil and loneliness?
Whether it’s a big life decision, OR a small one that feels bigger because we are putting so much pressure on ourselves, we need to let ourselves off the hook. If it’s not good enough for our children, it’s not good enough for us.
And if we choose it for us, turns out, we are choosing it for our children. Even when that is the last thing we mean to do. Oops a daisy.
Last but not least. Choosing love is an antidote to what happened five minutes ago, when you lost your shit and screeched at your teenager like a two year old. It’s an antidote to what happened when life had you by the kahunas and you lost your way. It’s an antidote to the enormity of what you need to do in a day. It’s an antidote to Covid (not to be confused with a vaccine) and it’s an antidote to FEAR. And the choice appears for us and reappears for us once an instant.
Over and over.
It is always there.
It never expires.
It’s a way out of every hell.
Turns out we are made of the stuff.
And when we choose the brave strong loving MOM inside of us, when we side with her, and keep choosing her, everything less than starts to heal, until we can’t remember there was ever a doubt.
So, to the Moms in our lives and the Moms in our hearts during this time of honouring, I am choosing love with you and for you. We’ve got this.
— Love Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
P.P.S. If you would like me to give a talk or teach a workshop to your group or at your special event I am happy to help. Contact me here and we’ll chat about it.
P.P.P.S One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.