I adore my kids. I am also amazed that they are such marvelous adults because in retrospect, I think I was, frankly, a little screwy in how I raised them.
When I became a mom, I was determined to be the best possible mom I could be. I wanted to heal every wound that I felt I’d incurred in my own dysfunctional childhood home by not making any of those mistakes with my own kids.
I became a great mother. The BEST mother. I knocked myself out. I built my professional life around being at home with my kids. I built my personal life around my kids. I breastfed for like a hundred years (ok, only 11 years, but still…). I had a family bed. I homeschooled. I home made their toys out of natural fibers. I prepared only healthy, organic foods. I made cute clothes and knitted sweaters. I started playgroups with other naturally minded mommas. We went to museums. We built magic fairy houses outside. I tried to be present for them emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually, in every possible way, in every possible moment.
I loved our time together.
That is…Most of the time.
But not always.
Actually, sometimes I hated being a mom. Not my kids – they were awesome and I loved them every second.
But I sometimes hated my inner experience of being a mom. A nagging feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt often plagued me. And being a poster child for the newly forming attachment parenting movement didn’t make it easier. I believed that a “good” mom should breastfeed for years on end so when one of my kids stopped at 2 and a half I thought maybe I had done something wrong. I believed that a family bed was the healthiest thing for kids so I persisted even when we weren't all sleeping that well. I thought my kids needed mom there 24/7 to feel loved and secure.
I turned myself inside out trying to be the perfect natural momma.
I neglected to set healthy boundaries for my own well being.
I was in the constant pressure cooker of myself!
And from the emails and Facebook posts I get, I know that many of you are, too.
The part that I reflect on most now that my kids are grown and navigating their own lives (and their own parenting styles) is that while I was modeling being the uber hip, loving and natural mom, and I was also modeling alongside of it the idea that taking care of self means selfish.
And that’s just not true.
With the luxury of retrospect that age brings, and perhaps a little wisdom, too, I now realize why I was “over parenting” – as I now think of it.
I worked really hard to be the best at everything. because I believed that I was only enough when I was the best.
I translated this belief into mothering. I had mistakenly believed that only perfect was enough.
But there is no best mother. There is no “ perfect mother.”
She is a myth. She is a myth that keeps us from understanding our own mothers with compassion, and she is a crazy-making myth for us in the midst of what is really a very messy, uncertain job with no possibility of perfection: Motherhood.
NOT ENOUGH is a wound that a lot of women internalize throughout our lives. As a result we live our lives proving to others (and thus ourselves) that we are more than enough. But in the process, we risk missing out on living, as Mary Oliver calls is, our “one wild and precious life.”
None of us can be a perfect mother. None of us can really be perfect at being anything but who we really are. In trying to be perfect, we inevitably fail and fail again. Then we try to push ourselves harder to be more perfect next time. Vicious cycle. The wheel goes round and round.
And maybe being the “best” mother isn’t actually setting the best example of a life well lived to our kids. My kids didn’t really need “mom” quite as much as I thought they did – so in some ways, my beliefs chipped into a greater resilience I could have instilled when they were young. “Yes, mommy is going for a massage and a night our with friends, and No, you will not die.”
Maybe letting life be messy, making mistakes and being okay with them, and nurturing our own “wild and precious life” eventually gives our kids permission to grow up and do the same.
As a midwife and physician much of my life’s work is dedicated to helping women find wholeness, wellness, authenticity, and fulfillment in their lives. I want us to be able to thrive, laugh, be curious, fail gracefully, and succeed joyfully. To experience our wild and precious lives!
Toward that, here is my Mother’s Day Gift for YOU!
5 TIPS for Being the
BEST POSSIBLE MOTHER HAPPIEST YOU EVER
- Be the best YOU that you can be. Be a role model of full, whole-hearted living. Love what you're doing — and take a break when you're not. Be the kind of person and live the kind of life you hope your kids will have the chance to be/live when they grow up.
- Rather than beating yourself up for not being “good enough,” find things each day to be proud about in your mothering each day. Write them down. Reread them when you're in doubt.
- Have regularly scheduled time for you, and barring an unforeseeable and unavoidable act of nature – stick to it. Make it a good amount of time – at least a 2-hour stretch, at least once a week. Start when your kids are babies and keep it up as a steady time for you that your whole family honors. If you think that you can’t make this happen because you believe you don’t have help, enough time, etc., then get the help and make the time. It IS possible if we take the idea that we’re indispensable to our kids out of the equation. I guarantee you there is another mommy who would love to trade some hours with you. We're better moms when we're nourished moms.
- Think about how you’d want your daughters’ lives to be – and create that for yourself – now! Live the dream. They are more likely to if they see you doing it!
- Trust in your children’s’ inherent strengths and resilience; trust the world and other people to be good to your children. If we trust the world and trust other people, we open the door to help and community. It does take a village to raise kids and simultaneously be healthy, thriving human beings.
We can't be perfect moms. We can wink at each other when we see each other doing our best with a fussy child in the grocery store. We can ask for help, trust help, and take help. And we can nourish ourselves on a regular basis, so that when we return to “the mommahood” we are refreshed, happy, and know that we are enough!