This year, I own Mother’s Day.
It used to be about others; my mother, my kids, the mothers I know and many birthdays. I let the day pass without a thought but a card, a few texts from friends and some flowers for my mother. It was an afterthought; “Oh yeah, I’m a mother too.”
This year is different.
This year it is about me. I accept that I am thoroughly, totally and bone shakenly a mother. It has taken me 11 years to consciously get it.
Why so long?
I’ve been busy figuring out motherhood while simultaneously being in denial and clinging to the remnants of my past life. Apparently, I’m a slow learner.
I have been surviving; occupied with the daily, physical and psychological tasks of being not only a mother, but a wife, a colleague, a teacher, a leader, an employee, a daughter, a traveler, a sister and friend. Amongst all this, I didn’t quite realize I had transformed into a mother, if atypical.
Add to that that I’m a whole bunch of “nots”.
I’m not amazing. I’m not super woman. I’m not loving, ever-giving and kind. I’m not the mother in flowery greeting cards with perfumed and pink envelopes. I don’t bake cookies in a flowered apron. I dislike pink for what it stands for. I don’t know ego-less love. I’m not an archetype. I am not always there for my kids. I’m not a perfect role model. I’m not like other moms.
I admit, sometimes I swear in front of them. I definitely get mad at my kids. Sometimes, I put myself on time out so I won’t scream what I want to scream. Sometimes I yell anyway. I have endless guilt. I fear I will ruin their lives. I’m sure I will ruin their lives.
I am an anti-mother. I’m hard on my kids. I push them and sometimes I make them uncomfortable and cry. I have been honest and direct with them, choosing truth over comfort even when it made them tense. I have given them cupcakes for breakfast and stolen their Halloween candy. I have been inconsistent, kind and ruthless. I have been selfish, selfless, loving and cold. I have failed my kids individual needs. I have given my kids what I needed. I unconsciously and always put my family first even when it wasn’t for the best. I am a fierce fighter. Do not stand between me and my kids. I will not be soft, kind, graceful if you do. I will not hesitate to use my fists if I have to. Write that on a Mother’s Day card and make it black.
And there is this…
I tell my kids that their job is to make me happy. I tell them that other parents don’t love their kids as much as I love them because I don’t let them (fill in the blank). I tell my son he is nagging and needs to work on better strategies for managing his boredom. I tell my daughter her organization skills suck. I tell them that fair is a fairytale.
I tell them they are perfection. I tell them I’m so grateful for them. I love them, passionately and deeply, every single day.
I have been physically transformed by them, my hips are wider, my breast varying shapes and sensations from them. I have a bent, sometimes achy rib from my son’s pregnancy. I endured the richest and most deliberate pain giving birth to my kids. I experienced crazy, irrational love, exhausted relief and accompanying rage. I have not enjoyed sleep as luxuriously as before motherhood. I have been in the worst shape of my life after their birth.
Motherhood almost took my life after a black and bloody miscarriage. I sobbed silently, numbly and uncontrollably in the recovery room after an emergency DNC. It scared my husband and I intensely. A byproduct of motherhood is that it can kill you.
I have been isolated by motherhood. I lost friends as I learned to mother. My energy to give generously to others waned. As my social world collapsed into hyper-focus on two little souls, I became a shitty friend. I became a crappy daughter that desperately didn’t want to become my mother. I am a strange mother, an outsider with parenting quirks. I chose natural childbirth, breastfeeding, a career throughout and I believe nurturing looks more like tough love than coddling.
Motherhood was a 9.0 earthquake to my marriage. Now, it is rebuilt and an unrecognizable form. I almost can’t remember what it was.
I’ve not paid attention to Mother’s Day because I’ve been so busy picking up the pieces of my identity since it rocked us.
It has been my dirty, messy, disturbed hero’s journey not into spiritual enlightenment but into grounded and unhinged motherhood. Not a cycle, not a pretty path, not a journey into something better but a journey into furious acceptance, a rich relationship with anxiety and fear and a deep, layered and textured understanding of love.
Motherhood happens to a mom. Mothers do not courageously lead families. These kids and their experiences, they choose us as their adventure. We manage the damage as it occurs.
I have learned deep lessons. The hardest and longest ones of all have been about having compassion for myself. Compassion for my kids, that is easy.
The best thing so far; I removed the expectation that I control my kids character or destiny. Barring the crazy mind blowing miracle of pregnancy, I don’t make them into anything. I can set up a framework; schools, activities, communities, nourishment, vacations, and most importantly a clear understanding of my views and values, that they work within and then I let them go.
They teach me. It is a deep truth. I must be a better person because of them. They lead and I follow. I survive. I am molded. I will never return. Motherhood defines me.
I own Mother’s Day, and it is everyday.