If you want to know the absolute truth about mothering from my perspective, it’s the most opening, amazing, humbling, beautiful, vulnerable experience I’ve ever known. It requires you to bare the softest underbelly of your heart and offer it up, along with anything else you’ve got. It’s a giant mirror in your face that sometimes reflects back those places where you still have healing to do. It changes your outlook about life. Before I had kids, I can remember long teas with girlfriends talking about…whatever. This guy or that guy or this issue, or something someone said that hurt, or some pattern or another dogging one or the other of us. After I had my son, there wasn’t time for that anymore, nor much inclination on my part, because 90% of the stuff we dwell on is really meaningless. I’m very grateful I had my kids when I did. A decade earlier, and who knows how badly I’d have screwed things up. But it happens when it happens, and you are where you are, spiritually, emotionally, developmentally, financially. Most people do the very best they can with what they’ve got and where they are.
Motherhood has taught me forgiveness, because it really isn’t easy. And if I’d had my kids at 24 when my mom had me…wow. Disaster. (Way to go mom, and Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.) A lot of people carry so much rage. There are countless jokes (if it’s not one thing, it’s your mother), and Freud and Jung certainly spent a lot of time dissecting the importance of a person’s relationship to their mama. Harlow’s famous wire/cloth “mother” monkey studies showing the need for affection. Attachment Theory, and the incredible difficulties that ensue if a baby can’t attach to at least one nurturing adult. The effect of human contact on newborn babies, and how a lack of it can prevent normal development and lead to illness and higher rates of infant mortality. Soldiers dying with the words, “Tell my mother I love her”. There’s no doubt when you become a mother it’s an awesome responsibility, and you simply do your best. And if you find you need help, you reach out and get it.
I know of nothing else that can break your heart wide open, inspire you to be your very best self, and occasionally bring you to your knees with the awareness that you can’t protect your children every moment of every day. I found a lump in my breast last weekend (it’s benign), and although I’ve been through it before, I still felt that grip of fear. I managed to go about my business, being there for my kids, and teaching my classes, and writing (I know I was a little quieter this past week, this is why), and for the most part I had the mantra, “I’m okay” going in my head. But three times I broke down and all I could think was, “I don’t want to leave my children.” Because that’s what fear does to you, and even if you’re incredibly healthy and take very good care of yourself, you simply never know. That’s the kind of vulnerability we all live with, but when you have little people who depend on you, the reality of it is shoved in your face a little more frequently. There’s no point in succumbing to fear. None of us knows from day to day, so I think you go the opposite way. You go toward love. And you open and you share and you laugh and you listen and you go deeper, and you leave absolutely nothing in the tank. That to me is motherhood, but I think it’s the only way for everyone, whether you’re a mother, or father, or great friend, a son or daughter, sister or brother. Live with your heart open. Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mothers out there. And if you can, please send love to those mothers who don’t get to hug their babies this year. Sending you love. Ally