My five year old will often cuddle into me and tell me “you’re the best Mommy ever.” When we’ve talked about how children grow up and live in their own homes away from their parents she’s cried “But I don’t ever want to leave you.”
I cherish these moments because, as we all know, one day she will grow up. I wonder what our relationship will be like when she doesn’t idolise me so much. I know there are ways I have not been able to meet her needs and one day she will know this too. So I wonder: will she hate me for it, will she deny it, or will she see me for who I am and love me anyway?
It’s a fact we mothers have to accept. No matter how perfect we try to be, no matter how we try to meet our children’s every need, at some point we will fall short. It’s a fact we don’t like to think about because of course we don’t want to hurt our children, but by nature of any relationship no one person can fulfill all of another person’s needs.
One way or another we will wound our children.
When I started reading articles about the mother wound years ago it was like standing with my nose to a boulder. It was an issue so close I couldn’t see clearly. Little by little I’ve been able to step back and see it for what it is. If you haven’t read about the mother wound I highly recommend you do. Since we all have healing to do around this issue, you will no doubt find value in the subject. I found this article particularly helpful.
Last year my husband graduated uni and started working full time outside of the home. I started my own business. Within that context I’ve been faced daily with the question of what it means to be a Woman, a Wife, and a Mother at this place and time in history.
I’ve thought a lot about my maternal lineage, and within that have taken a good look at my own mother wound.
I’ve thought about how I began this life in my mother’s womb, being fed from her body, being held within her. I’ve thought about coming into this world and being totally dependent on her. Every person has this sacred bond with their mother, and every one of us has been affected by this relationship whether we like it or not, whether we want to reject it or cling to it.
I’ve thought about what my mother was going through at certain times in my life and how her experience would have affected me. In that I’ve found a compassion for what she was going through and a compassion for myself in what I experience(d) as a result.
I’ve looked at my girls and thought a lot about the bond between mothers and daughters. Somehow I began to ponder the fact that when a baby girl is born she has within her all of her eggs within her womb. It struck me that while I was carrying my girls in my womb, their womb was already holding my future grandchildren. Then it struck me: while my mother was in her mother’s womb, a part of me was there with her too.
I was in my grandmother’s womb.
How mind blowing is that? I’ve never particularly felt connected to my maternal grandmother. In fact, she was a pretty miserable, cold woman–particularly toward my mother. Because my mom wasn’t closely bonded with her, either was I.
But I was in her womb. How could we not be connected?
Besides the fact that science is proving that memory can be passed on a cellular level from one generation to the next, on a spiritual level, on a soul level, how could we not be connected? A woman’s maternal line is literally connected forwards and backwards by way of the womb.
In fact, I named my first born daughter Adelle after my great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother. The strange thing was I didn’t know I was doing it! I had no idea Adelle was a family name, but I knew the name was meant for her and I believe there is a spiritual reason for this little serendipity.
Over the past year I’ve thought about my grandmother a lot. Since we weren’t close I don’t know a great deal about her, but I do know that she was a housewife mothering four children during the 50s and 60s and I know how many women felt oppressed and depressed during that time. She often didn’t have access to a car. I also know that when her kids were older she got a job as an administrator at a hospital and thrived there in that role.
In my exploration of what it means to be a woman, wife, and a mother I’ve been faced with my own resentment of the roles placed upon me. While I love my children, I’ve struggled with the duties and obligations that come along with motherhood. I’ve been miserable at times. I’ve been angry at times. And in those times I’ve thought of my grandmother.
Maybe she wanted to go out and get a job. Maybe she had dreams of her own that she couldn’t fulfill because of the time and place she was born. Maybe she felt like a caged animal as I have.
Maybe. But the difference is I have a lot more choices available to me.
And so somehow, strangely I’ve felt connected to her lately. I’ve developed compassion for her and her wounds. I’ve wondered what it was like for her mother and her mother’s mother. I have thought about all the insidious ways their inability to cope with the roles imposed upon them would have bled into their relationships with their daughters. I have realised I am holding the torch of their resentment and rage. I’ve felt the weight of responsibility to heal this wound that I carry as best I can in this life so I can pass a different kind of torch to my girls.
You know, we often think of maturity as aging. When we take on the responsibilities of adulthood, we think we’re mature. But being an adult and maturing are two different things in my eyes.
I think we start off this life inside our mother’s wombs and we come into this world still totally dependent on her for all our needs. Her ability or inability to nurture us the way we need shapes our view of the world. In one way or another we grow up with a part of us still expecting her to fulfill all our needs as she did while we were in the womb. Many of us either stay dependent on her or we hate her for not being able to give us what we need. Whether we cling to her or we reject her, we are one with her still.
Maturity calls us to individuate from our mothers. True healing begins with unconditional love and compassion for ourselves. When we can do this inwardly we can then turn the gaze outside of ourselves. We can see our mother for who she truly is, not who we want her to be, and accept her in the same way we accept ourselves. The pain may still be there, but we can begin to see where she ends and we begin. We release her from our expectations and forgive her. We can then forgive ourselves for any wounds we inadvertently create for our own children. What a gift this is for everyone.
From this place of maturity we are able to fully step into ourselves and explore what is authentic in our hearts. What is it that is our Truth? If it’s different to our mother’s we know that it is not so much a rejection of her as a departure into ourselves. When we can do that and know in our heart that we are truly serving our Self, we can then hold space for our children as they mature and go into their own departure.
Just the other day my five year old gave me the look. I was being silly with her friend and she gave me that pursed lipped, head cocked scowl. It was written all over her face: “you’re embarrassing me mom.” She still worships me and wants to curl up in my lap every day, but this was the first really clear sign of her individuation.
In my heart there was nothing but happiness because I felt like I was watching the first step in her journey toward womanhood and self-discovery, and I get to be with her, watching, encouraging, and cheering her along. I couldn’t feel more blessed and honoured.
My hope is that I will be able to hold space for both my children as they come to realise and mourn that I’m not perfect, that I cannot fulfill their every need. That because I’ve done my own work and I’ve forgiven myself I can stand grounded for them within their process and that in the end they’ll embody the same unconditional self-love and acceptance that I have come to know.
That is the torch that I would like to pass to my children.
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