When I read my journals, I get sucked in -- like when I've begun a novel that has captured my attention and heart. Each moment I'm reading I'm eager for what is coming, what will happen to these characters I'm suddenly interested in and I can't walk away. Only in my journal I know how the stories end because they're the characters in my life... or it would seem that I should. I often find that my journal is like a fishing rod that pulls in the experiences I have had yet don't vividly remember.
Two months ago this happened to me. I was working on a project and went hunting for an experience I knew I had written about. As I searched, I found a Mother's Day gift I had given myself a couple of years back.
It was a time in my life of tremendous growth. Though I didn't know it yet, I was in the final couple of months at a job I'd had for 8 years. I had recently launched my consulting business Flourish while working full-time for my prior employer. Emerging from perfectionism and negative self-talk, I had worked hard to rediscover myself and learn kinder, gentler ways of treating myself. As I sat down with my journal on Mother's Day I asked myself what I appreciated about my mothering.
A people pleaser from birth, my personality lights up and is energized when I receive praise. Learning to let my own good opinion of myself be the one most important to me took well into my 30's to cement. Whether because of culture or society or the pitfalls of my personality, I have spent most of my life on a hunt for the ideal and attempting to morph myself into it on every front of being.
Motherhood seems to be one exception to the framework I lived from. Somehow, I have always accepted myself and my way of mothering. I do not seek to morph myself into an ideal on the mothering front. I don't feel deficient in any way. It shocks me to realize that this is the case, having fought so hard to give myself acceptance in every other arena.
Love. The overused and true answer as to how this came to be is love. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I fiercely love my children and will do what I believe is best for them. I don't question myself when mothering. I stand by my mothering choices, knowing that I am always doing my best. Perhaps mothering helped me out of being my own worst enemy. Loving them, in part, taught me how to love myself.
So here it is, the Mother's Day gift I gave myself when I asked, "What kind of mother am I?"
I am the kind of mother who, in a sleepy stupor, will sleep with my children just about anywhere to settle them down and get them back to sleep. I get up with them in the middle of the night to get them medicine and ice water. I will sleep with them forehead to forehead when they are sick. I will worry about whether all of these efforts were enough and if they are breathing alright and if I took their temperature correctly and all of these thoughts combined with the little arm around my neck will keep me from sleeping.
When I read an article about the confidence gap between men and women I find a way to tell my daughter about it in ways she can (kind of) understand. I will ask her to help me be more confident and to try things that I'm not sure I can do and ask her to do the same.
I'm the kind of mom who feels very little guilt about staying home from work to take care of my sick kid. Yet, I will conduct a phone meeting at noon because that meeting just can't be rescheduled and really won't be able to be handled well by anyone else in the office.
I'm the kind of mom who locks the door to bar my children so that I can make love to their father. I go away with him for weeks at a time, leaving the kids in the care of their grandparents. I'm also the kind of mom who goes on dates after bedtime so the kids don't have their schedules disrupted too much or get deprived of the precious evening time they get with me.
I'm the kind of mom who meditates, who tries to notice the burning, bursting feeling in my upper chest and throat when my son smiles at me with crinkly eyes. I notice the birdsong outside our home and draw my children's' attention to its beauty.
I sit on our chaise with my daughter facing one another, legs crisscrossing, each of us reading Harry Potter and noticing the magic of the hummingbirds feeding on the kangaroo paws outside the window in-between paragraphs.
When I bake with my kids I remind myself before we start that the point is not to make something, it is to do something together. I put Disney music on while we bake and we sing along. We all feel happy while we do this...until Corban feels like Sophia is going to steal his turn and then Sophia defends herself loudly that she wasn't going to do this, and I try to manage that situation in addition to the fact that the flour needs to be added at just the right time. I raise my tone when I try to calm them down, adding to the intensity of the situation. There is flour everywhere when we are done and lots of dishes in the sink, but the kids are sitting at the table with too much syrup on their plates, melted chocolate on their noses from the chocolate chips that were used to decorate the pancakes in the shape of a duck, a house, Mickey Mouse, or a palm tree on their plates. For a moment there is quiet and calm. Hearts are happy as I make another batch with the message, "I ♥ U" and prep a tray with butter, syrup, bacon, and fruit to take to my hubby in bed.
I am the kind of mom who goes to book club for an evening with a little wine, lots of updates from friends, a dash of discussion about the book thrown in, and a bit of parenting advice from women in different stages of this journey.
I am the kind of mom who prompts her kids to tell her, "Thank you mama," when I give them a cup of milk both so they learn to thank people and so that I get to hear them say this adorable phrase.
I live by the philosophy and value that I must put my oxygen mask on first so that I am able and equipped to put the oxygen mask on others. I take care of myself so that I can do all of the things I want and need to do in my life. I am fiercely committed to this value.
I am the kind of mom who is deliberate about growing and continually doing the hard work of finding myself and cultivating me. I lost myself in the blur of parenting, early career, and the work of managing a home with my partner. I realized the cloud I was in and did some hard work to move beyond the fog into clarity. I rediscovered and rebuilt my voice. I found and created anew my passions and my gifts. I became better in every sphere of my life by doing this hard work. I am a mom among many, many other categories of identity and all of these parts of me make me a wonderful mother.
If you are a mother, only in the affirmative, answer the question for yourself. What kind of mother are you? How do you bust through the molds handed to you? How have you made mothering fit you uniquely? No matter what your answer, are you willing to accept it? Are you willing to love YOUR way of mothering? Are you willing to love yourself?