Motherhood, Shattered & Surrendered
Today is Mother’s Day; I am a mother of a three-and-a-half year old Matthew, and a one-and-a-half year old Emma.
Today has been a day filled with all kinds of confusion as I continue to grapple with inner issues that have yet been reconciled, healed or properly understood.
It would be fair to say that it took becoming a mother to finally be able to unravel all the misconceptions I have been led to believe in all my life. Here are some of them, rewritten and corrected:
1. Motherhood isn’t about sacrifice but choice. This is a big one for me. There have been major changes in my life – and my husband’s – but they aren’t sacrifices to us. We’ve made plenty of life-alterations, cut back on a lot of pleasure-seeking ways, and every one of these decisions has been a choice that we make for our children. There will be many more of these, and I’m sure some of them will be tough decisions to make, but they will all remain choices, and not sacrifices. Because we want to choose to keep in mind our children’s best interests.
2. Our children will not be indebted to us. My love for my children will not put them in my debt. I love them whether they love me or not. I do not love them for the hope that someday, they will take care of me, or love me back a hundredfold, or realise how great a mother I am. I do not do that for a very simple reason: I fell in love with them when they were born. I love them wholeheartedly, in ways I never knew possible before. How can my act / choice of love put them in my debt? They will owe me nothing.
3. Having children does not make one a mother. I’ve read this somewhere and it can’t be more true. I like to think I was a mother long before I had kids – when I loved my cats and was the one responsible for their wellbeing. Matthew and Emma didn’t make me a mother by their presence; they made me a mother by teaching me to love. In turn, I became a mother by loving them, not by having them.
4. My children are my privilege; I am not theirs. By God’s will, our lives have intertwined. I don’t know who stands to gain the most, but at the moment, it seems to be me. I’m the one whose life has been transformed and made better; I’m the one whose heart has been broken open to love more deeply; and I’m the one who cannot believe how blessed I am to have these babies enter my life even on the worst of days. My children have been my salvation and redemption. They are the privilege I have to clarify my purpose and meaning in life, to teach me just how little time I have to do the best that I can, to stay the course and keep the focus on what matters, and discard what do not.
5. Love is not an assumption, it’s an expression. Where once I thought I knew what love is, because I’m the sort who invests my heart wholly even in the face of imminent heartbreak, I have now realised I may have only ever been the fool who believes that means I will always remember to love. Everything I have learnt about raising children, disciplining them, teaching them to behave, etc have been a far cry from loving them. My children need all the above, but above all of that, all they really need from me is love.
6. A good parent makes herself redundant eventually. One scene I replay in my mind is from Superman Man of Steel, when he went home to his widow mum at their home on the farm. Diane Lane who plays the mother, clearly misses her son and probably reminisces the life she once had with her husband and little boy – just the three of them, contented, safe, alone, intact, happy. But did she ever hold her son hostage by using her pain to keep him by her side? No. Because a parent equips their children to be able to leave home, spread their wings (or cape) and fly with all the powers that be. This is a big “NOTE TO SELF” for me. From this mother’s perspective (a mother with all three-and-a-half year’s worth of experience), this choice is not about being courageous, or having faith. Neither is it about being selfless and loving. Definitely it isn’t about being self-sacrificing or being a martyr. From this very sentimental mother’s very humble point of view, it’s just about doing what’s necessary and right.
7. The days are long but the years are short. I’m all too aware that soon, my koala-like children who cling on to me for dear life and everything-else-in-between everyday, will soon reject my hugs and kisses, and prefer to separate from me. I don’t have much time to right my wrongs, heal my wounds, vanquish my demons and break my pride. Someday soon, they will be on to me and all my vulnerabilities and inadequacies, my failures and weaknesses, will be laid bare for them to see. That illusion of invincibility will be replaced by the vision of a very human mother. While I know I need not be the perfect / super mum (if there is even one), I know I have to fight myself honestly and be the best that I can be for them. The hope is that when they do see the worst of me, they still know I’ve always done right by them. As a mother ought to.
8. My needs don’t come before my children’s. Not with young kids, they don’t. Who cares if I’m tired, or sad, or not in the mood or just want to be left alone? Those privileges are secondary when it comes to the privilege of being chosen for the most important job right now – to get down on my hands and knees… and play.
9. Teach empathy by empathising. Not by making them empathise with me. Who cares if I’m having a lousy day or the best of times? They don’t have to be interested in my state of mind, worries, concerns, victories, preferences, opinions and how my heart beats. My world is not bigger than theirs. They should have the opportunity to always be able to tell me about theirs, and if I should be so lucky, to be invited to enter theirs.
10. It is NOT a big deal to love your kids. Every parent should.
This Mother’s Day is the day I finally have my illusions about “motherhood” shattered – necessary, if I’m going to surrender faulty notions to be corrected and refined. It’s a restoration of hope and coming to terms with failed understandings of love that I’m working very hard to achieve. So here, above, are my rules and reminders. I pray earnestly and hope with all my heart, that I will not fail my children, and that someday, I can say to God, “I did my part.”