Someone asked me recently what I thought was the best and hardest part of being a mother. The best part is having your heart expand to a degree you wouldn’t have thought possible. To love so deeply and so completely, you’d do anything and everything to support your child(ren)’s growth, happiness, well-being and joy. The gifts of those impossibly soft cheeks, those beautiful eyes staring up at you, that tufty hair and tiny little grasping hand around your finger. The first smile, the first word, the first laugh, the first step. The first time you’re asked a question and you have to pause and breathe because it cuts right through you, like, “Are you going to die someday?”
Being a mother slices you open. If you didn’t realize you were vulnerable before, you will now. All you want is to see the expansion of this person who’s come to you. You want to discover what’s going to light them up and bring them joy. You want to nurture those sparks of interest and see what blossoms. You want to be there. And if you’re awake, you’ll understand that nothing is promised. I found a lump in my breast last year that turned out to be benign, but that’s the kind of thing that brings you to your knees. Please let me be at their graduations. Let me be there when someone breaks their heart for the first time, the second, maybe the third. Let me be there when they’re teenagers and they’re confused or insecure or scared or they feel awkward or different. Let me be there for the “ordinary days’ when it’s about drop-offs and pick-ups and packing lunches and going to the park. When homework needs to be done, or they need haircuts. Let me be there. So maybe that’s the hardest part. Accepting the vulnerability of the thing.
But I also think that can be the part that inspires you to show up, all the way, every day. To give them everything you’ve got. To make sure they know their feelings matter, and you listen when they speak. To make every day full of, and about, love. Of course you’ll lose your patience sometimes, you’re a human being. So you can also learn to forgive yourself, and to show them what it looks like to apologize from your heart, so they’ll know how to own their mistakes, too.
If you do it well, you’ll end up with grown children who want to hang out with you. That’s what I hope for, anyway. That my kids will want to call, or have dinner, or take trips when they’re not living in the same house with me anymore. Then I’ll think I must have done a good job. But even more than that, I think the thing is to raise happy, kind, compassionate people who know themselves. Who understand the best thing in life is to give from your heart, and that if you feel of service, your life will have meaning and purpose.
I hope they grow into adults who won’t be attracted to people who don’t know how to be kind or how to love. I hope they honor themselves and follow their hearts and contribute in some way to raising the happiness quotient of the people around them. Motherhood asks it all of you. It asks you to give in every way possible, and it also asks you to let go. To love for real. To accept, to celebrate, to cherish and to support the happiness of your children, even if, and maybe especially if they’re traveling down a path you wouldn’t have chosen for them.
And let me say this. Sometimes you have to mother yourself. If you have healing to do, if you doubt whether you’re worthy of love, if you feel stuck, or scared or confused or frustrated, or if you’re in a state of self-loathing, you’re going to have to re-parent yourself. So that the voice inside your head shifts from one that might be full of criticism and a lack of forgiveness, to one that’s nurturing and kind. There are so many different healing modalities available to work on this—yoga, meditation, therapy, journaling, getting out in nature, reading good books. If you weren’t mothered the way you wanted to be, it’s never too late.
But if you were, I think the nicest gift you could give your mother is just to sit and meditate on all the ways she was able to show up for you, whether she’s with you, or with you in spirit. Just to sit, and allow yourself to be filled with gratitude for those qualities that exist within you, as a result of what you saw at home. Because that’s really where it starts. That’s our first experience of love. Wishing you some right now, and sending a heaping dose to all the mamas out there. Happy Mother’s Day whether you have babies, or you’re birthing something else into existence, like your art, or a different way of moving through the world. Remember that birthing anything into this world requires love, bravery, challenge, courage, faith, and compassion for yourself. Ally Hamilton