From the moment of conception, the wisdom of a mother's body begins to create a nurturing womb for her fetus. Without any conscious thought, nutrition is provided first to the baby, even when doing so sacrifices the woman's own health. Motherhood is about giving.
In less than one year, Mother (and/or father, guardian, caregiver, etc.) is responsible for learning a wide range of scientific and practical information that represents a thimbleful of the lifelong course entitled, 'Your Particular Kid 101.'
If she is blessed, her pregnancy will have been sweet, her labor recoverable and her child healthy and wise. And as hard as these last days or hours may have been, there is barely a moment's rest before mother must be at the ready every millisecond, 24/7: to understand, soothe, feed, and care for the ongoing needs of this fragile human being who is dependent upon her for an indefinite period of time.
From the outside, new mothers may look dumpy, unkempt and scattered, but alas this is not a beauty than can be assessed externally. This particular state of trying to catch up to an overwhelming learning curve amidst chaos and exhaustion (which looks so horrific to the uninitiated!) happens to be the most exquisite bliss imaginable. That is, if she's lucky enough to have had simultaneous good fortune on many fronts.
As baby moves through the stages of childhood, mother must be constantly prepared for the unknown and unexpected needs which will require her, again and again, to rearrange her personal needs and often her place in the outside world. If she is doubly blessed, she will have a daily shower and the support of family and/or friends who contribute positively to the child's life.
Each woman approaches this monumental responsibility with the strengths and limitations of her entire person. If she and her child are healthy and she is able to sufficiently love, protect, teach, nurse and guide the baby from childhood to adulthood, she may one day find herself relaxing in bed with her feet elevated, when she receives the news that her 30 year old is moving back home.
Donald W. Winnicott (1896-1971), pediatrician turned child psychologist, introduced the idea of the "good-enough" mother, proving that in order for a child to thrive, the mother did not have to be perfect, but simply "good-enough." (Unfortunately even "good-enough" mothers can't control or compensate for unfavorable genetics, negative physical, political and social environments, or other traumatic factors).
Mother's capacity to be "good-enough," is largely dependent upon the nurturing she received from her own family of origin. For example, if psychologically primitive feelings, such as 'resentment that nobody took care of me,' are carried forward and projected into her child, she will likely perpetuate her feelings of hurt and inadequacy, sometimes perversely seeking 'mothering' from her child.
Mothers who can sufficiently address and heal their old wounds are better equipped to nurture their children. Miraculously, by healing a part of themselves, mothers rewrite their own stories, thereby changing the course of their own lives. Best of all, their children - and the rest of the world - are the beneficiaries. We all deserve to be appreciated and accepted as we are today, while always holding the hope and expectation that we and our children will grow beyond imagination.
The healthy mother's ability to be consistent and to appreciate her child's small successes is essential, but the Mother-Child relationship cannot and should not be reciprocal. Conditional relationships are for equals, adult to adult.
So, happy Mothers' Day! Honor your own mother, living or dead, in whatever way you honestly can. And ask not what your children can do for you. Rather, give the gift that keeps on giving: Once again, that would be you.