The good mother.
The loving mother.
The mother who never shouts.
The mother who is selfless.
What I’ve learned is this: hold all of that loosely. Don’t cling too tightly to your feelings of guilt, frustration, or inadequacy at not living up to these motherly expectations, and don’t even hold the term “mother” too tightly. Here’s what I’ve found:
I often assume because I am a “mother” I must act in accordance with that title — I must do motherly things and I must take on a motherly demeanor. This role, however, comes with some side-effects: when I feel I’m not playing that part correctly, I suffer. Guilt arises. Shame comes ‘round sometimes to tell me I am inadequate. Frustration is felt when I feel I cannot adequately play my part or when my children aren’t assuming their given roles.
Of course I am a mother in a very real sense. I gave birth, I love them, I tend to them, I hold them, I rock them to sleep. But I do not want to cling tightly to an identity, label, or role. I want to show up as pure, open presence. I want to cast aside the title, the expectations that I place on myself when I hold too tightly to the idea of “motherhood”, and the role that I often feel I must stick to.
This doesn’t mean I won’t act like a parent. It doesn’t mean I won’t set boundaries when needed. This doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly drop my daily responsibilities or not show up for my family in a stable way. What this means is that I will give myself permission to show up as I am, as pure presence, as a human; this also means that I will allow my kids to show up in their uniqueness, in their fullness, and in their humanness. This means that I will not assume that because I am a mother it means I must express in a certain way. I will give myself grace instead and I will still tend to my heart and mind as an individual human-being, too.
When we come together as humans (big and small) and I hold roles/titles gently, we are all free to be what we are without a need to conform to ideals or to rigid forms of behavior that don’t leave room for our beautiful humanness in all of its messy glory. Room is made for each of us to be what we are as unique humans who are already perfectly complete. It means that when we come together, it’s from a place of pure presence, love, and openness without rigid expectations.
What I find is this: when I don’t cling too tightly to a role, my kids open up. I open. Our interaction feels freer, lighter, more harmonious and ultra joy-infused. And I give myself more grace and permission to be fully human.
What remains is the recognition that rigid titles don’t leave room for us to express in our full glory.
After all, I am not just a mother.
I am (end of sentence).