I have ovaries and I grew up babysitting as my first business, but I still didn’t know how I would be as a mother. I like to think maybe I had to be born into motherhood, just like my infant babes had to be born into this crazy existence of person-hood. I had to be initiated -tired and bumbling, so vulnerable and unsure, while keeping this new little thing alive and thriving, 24 hours a day. A beginning phase to the many unfolding phases on the journey of mothering, survival…for them and me.
Then having a second one, I was to be born again. This time, now how to mother a Max? Max is different than Emma. Max is loud and opinionated from the moment he took shape in my belly. Emma has different needs. And needs me in ways that could feel smothering to an independent, only child, loner of a mother.
I was intensely mothered. My mother is a recovering co-dependent, alcoholic turned deeply in to recovery and the support of the group. Only the dingy, smokey, cold church basement rooms and late night coffee hours at Denny’s would comfort her. As it looked to me, I (and my dad, my family, anyone outside of the group) was the source of the worry…the reasons why she was there. So she tells me she was there to learn how to be a good mother, so I would never have to go thru what she had to go through. But during her long therapeutic phone conversations, AA meetings, and work, there I was coloring, waiting…waiting, waiting, while she rehabbed her soul.
I didn’t have a bad mom, I wasn’t neglected or even abused. Her fierce intensity felt like love. She didn’t run from mothering, in fact all of her trauma ran her full force into the kind of staunch maternal instincts to know the right way of living from the dead wrong. Now she knew what not to do. And if she just held me accountable to the strictest right ways of living, I’d (or maybe she’d) be okay.
Her opinions over rode my own, so I battled myself a lot. It seemed as if, when I tried against her guidance, I missed the mark most times. Bad choices, weird outcomes, I couldn’t really find what worked. All this second guessing manifested depression that sank me into my bed, TV, binge eating, work…whatever made me numb. I still have nightmares of being lost in the hallways of high school, symbols of the psyche inside of myself that perpetually feels lost and about 15 years old. But I make it through okay in reality. The feelings of lost only help to initiate action, to find out what’s real about where I stand. So its served me in some sort of profound way. I love how Tony Robins says, (paraphrasing here) “If I blame them, I should thank them too for making me who I am today.” And I do. I do not blame my mother. I just am reporting on the facts of my own experiences of being mothered. Looking to find some semblance of reconciling these patterns that keep showing up in my own mothering. Because here I am now, estranged from my mother. And as a motherless woman, the ghosts of being someone’s daughter hangs in my shadow. Feelings I try to move through, move past, let go of, but seem to stay vigilant in inflicting their shame on a daily basis.
I see myself peeking out around this wall, looking to see if the choices are clear on the path. If there’s an undeniable action to take. I try to mother, thru the fact my daughter-hood has been severed. Sometimes I feel like I mother in the best way I know how to pretend. Its all very confusing for me. The grief will stir deep when I retrace the places I went with my mother, back before I knew what was to come. It pops in on the regular. I manage to skirt past it just brushing by the gooey ache before it sticks too deep. Even when I open up to talk deeper with someone on the loss of what I thought a mother was supposed to be, it almost feels outside of myself. Outside of the experience of what is real for a good person, like myself. But then again, maybe this loss officiates what I’ve always feared, and is what pins the badge of shameful living on my vest.
But somehow the estrangement feels like it was inevitable. We were on a one way track to something far too unreal. Covered in tension, quiet disapproval, yet trying to be “normal” interactions. Towards the end of our relationship, my throat would just tighten almost like I was dying right in front of her. She knew something was terribly wrong. I knew something was terribly wrong. And maybe she was just the only one of us who had the guts to do anything about it. My therapist is impressed by the very clear way we ended our relationship. We said to each other what we needed, and unfortunately neither one of us could bend on our boundaries. It was actually pretty healthy in family standards. But painful none the less.
So now I’m recovering or uncovering those parts of myself that went numb for so many years. The parts of myself that were wrong and were hiding. And by the way, they were probably actually wrong, and its fine. Please don’t do the nice thing and tell me how they weren’t. But that is part of my process in this life, I’m finding. That I’m uncovering the very things I try not to be. But that in itself is this bumbling practice too.
I just don’t know how to show up in what ways, most times. I mean feeding my kids dino nuggets or a healthy meal…how many arguments do I want to have everyday? How do I get us out the door without loosing my temper? And when I know my kid is only screaming to get his way and I give in just to make it stop…am I ruining him forever? Creating a serial killer? This is only the tip of the iceberg of the phase of mothering that I have now entered. Holding space for the social development of bickering 8 year old friends, not sure how to have these basic conversations. I try to give them tools that I’m not sure their 8 year old minds can wrap their heads around. But I don’t know, its something that I needed and need to hear, how is it that we have real relationships? How do we relate to people when it scares us?
I know all the self-help answers. I’ve been working on myself since I was born. Maybe I don’t have the right answers but what’s even worse is hearing advice, I’ve had a lifetime of advice. When I want to I can rally to the bright side. But the affirmations seem to disappear when I walk through the ghost of my past. When my senses pick up the loss. I’m not sure I will ever get over my experiences being mothered. I am sure I am doing my due diligence to offer my children their own experiences to overcome. But it is in the loss of my mother, the loss of my daughter-hood that stems its own unique pain to overcome. Reconciling the human roles and trying to reduce them to insignificant and unnecessary roles of the world, does not seem to take the sting out for very long. My therapist reminds me I am in grief. Which helps me to identify. But how long does the grief last? How many journal entry’s, expensive therapy sessions, shaman ceremonies, will aid my recovery? Maybe it never will. Maybe this is exactly what I ordered up in this lifetime to recover myself. To evolve myself. To grow. To hurt. To love.