Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Complexities

It's a day that has felt like a long time coming: my first as a mother with all three of her children surrounding her.  What a long journey towards this day.

It is a complicated day for me, for at least a few reasons that I'd like to note.

Today is the most complicated Mother's Day I've had in eight years because I share this day with the memory of a Mother who bore two of my children.  She is no longer on this earth.  I never met her.  But I miss her.  I wish I'd known her.  Apparently Lizzie looks very much like her first mother did, and has much of her sense of humour and cuddly nature - we'll talk about that today.  We'll talk, too, about the precious memories that Seth has of her.  And I'll grieve what our kids must have gone through when they lost her at such a tender age; what they will always struggle with, knowing that they will not (in this lifetime) see her again.  My poor babies.  How I wish I'd been able to see the kids' First Mother just once, to talk with her about her beloved children, to let her know that they were going to be ok.  Today Geoff and I will light a candle in her honour; I wonder what the kids will think about when they see that small flame.  I know my heart will be full.  She will always be a part of our family's celebration of Mother's Day.

Mother's Day is always complicated for me for another reason.  Because, though my family is complete and though I've been a mother for eight years now, I can't ever really forget the pain of not having the family I longed for.  It's amazing to me how some pain just never entirely goes away and how the experience of it comes easily to the surface.  First were the years of waiting for the miracle of Matthew; then came even more years of waiting for Seth and Lizzie (and the pain of our agency's bankruptcy in the midst of it all).  In both of these waits, we were never certain that our children would actually come to was thus a journey of hope mingled with (usually even more) despair, and a journey that shaped me and changed me.  I think today of the women I know who still know this kind of pain and remember my own.  These thoughts and memories temper my experience and celebration of Mother's Day.

If I'm really being honest, this year's Day is complicated for yet one more reason:  I don't feel like a terribly good mother these days...not one worth celebrating, anyway.  I'm truly not trying to be self-deprecating here, and I'm not trying to wreck Mother's Day for anyone, including for my family.  I'm being honest with myself.  If it's true that a Mother contributes heavily to the tone of a home, then I haven't done a great job of this over the past several months.  When my bout of depressions hit last fall, it felt like things in our home slid a little downhill along with my private descent.  And though I'm gratefully doing much better now, I know in my heart of hearts that our home lost a little something in those months.  I lost a little of the gentleness that I used to have as a parent, and feel as if my emotional exhaustion has sometimes prohibited my love for my children from rising to the surface enough to colour my words or tone with grace and kindness and wisdom.  I want that back and I need to re-think a little my priorities for our home.  That will be worth celebrating.

I know that Mother's Day posts are generally full of thanksgiving and joy and wonder and all of those lovely things as we think about what it means to be a mother.  I feel rather selfish in complicating my feelings about today because I know full well how blessed I am.  I am so grateful to be on this end of the journey towards being a mother.  I also feel very thankful that my children have a mother and I am honoured to be that person in their lives.

I am also thankful that I have a mother and I would be remiss if I didn't mention her in the context of Mother's Day.  Speaking of complications, my Mom and I have had our share of them over the years.  There were years in my twenties when, well, let's just say that we didn't always see eye to eye...I don't think she would argue with that statement!  Even now, we don't always agree, though with my stubborn nature I tenaciously cling to the hope that I can change her!  But one thing has never changed in my forty-five years:  I know that my mother loves me and would do anything for me.  She is excited by my excitement and saddened by my sadness; she is someone I can pick up the phone and call when I simply want to share some news.  Even when she disagrees with me and probably wishes she could bend me over her knee, when push comes to shove, she supports me.  Even in this past year, during a lot of really difficult moments of learning how to parent older children of adoption, my mom (and dad) has been there for me when I needed a listening ear, a comforting shoulder, a dinner that I couldn't bring myself to cook, or someone to take the kids out for lunch so that I could recoup.  The past eleven months have surely been the hardest of my parenting years, and my Mom has been there for me, as she always has been.  I am blessed to have my Mom and am thankful that my kids know her so well, too, as they see her often and love her.  I love her, too.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and thank you.

So...Mother's Day.  Where does that leave me?  I'm all over the map in my feelings about wonder it's seeming so complicated.

Mothering itself is complicated and full of contradictions, in my mind's eye:  It is so fun at times and distinctly not fun at other times; it is rewarding and it is disheartening; it is the most natural thing in the world and simultaneously the thing I have worked hardest at to grow and change in; it means loving instantly and it also means learning to love; it is longing for freedom from the day-to-day grind while fighting hard to establish and maintain some sort of routine; it is needing a measure of personal space while snuggling with a child who has no such boundaries; it is about giving endless love while not always feeling it or receiving it in return; it is about the struggle between wanting to be the best possible mother while learning to take care of myself; it is about suspending personal needs at times and learning about the self-sacrifice involved with parenting; it is raising my children in a godly home while still struggling to know how to live as a godly woman myself; it means accepting who my children are while still believing that I have influence; it is following my gut in the moment about how to handle a situation and equally as often choosing to sit back and wait and think about what to do; it is, for me, about being a Mother while honouring another Mother who no longer walks the earth; it is about holding on tightly to those kids I love with all of my heart and about knowing that I am working so hard to prepare them for a day when I have to let go.

Really, for me, the bottom line is that there is nothing more complicated than being a Mother (or a Father).  Why should my feelings about today not reflect this?  Truly, being a Mother is both the single best and the single hardest thing I have ever done.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. Hi Ruth:
    I don't expect you to publish this comment, but I don't have your email on my contacts list on my iPad, so I'm writing here.
    I'm kind of concerned about your Mother's Day post, not because I don't support your goal of striving to be a gentler mother (once again). Rather, what concerns me is how hard you are on yourself. It feels almost as if you think that unless a mother is good, excellent or perfect (?) she shouldn't be celebrated on Mother's Day. Or, at least you shouldn't! In fact, Mother's Day is about celebrating the mother(s) we have/are--the real ones who lose it sometimes, who are not always emotionally available, who get distracted by 'unneccessary' details of life, who love as well as they know how, who provide safety and care as well as is possible, who demonstrate by example what is most important in life...
    I previously mentioned the idea of Winnicott's "the good enough mother" and I would like to encourage you to see yourself this way--good enough that your children are attached/attaching; good enough that your children are well and nutritiously fed most of the time; good enough that they can count on you to follow your word; good enough that they can work out their stuff on/with you; good enough that you own up to your mistakes when you make them (modelling responsibility, apology and the hope for forgiveness); good enough that they surely know how passionately they are loved, and on and on.
    You are one of the best mother's I've ever met or seen. You are thoughtful about your mothering and it shows in how your children are growing up. Please think more highly of yourself as a mom--pretty, pretty please?!!!!
    I love you and honour you as a mother.
    Love, Joanne

  2. Ahhh Joanne...phonecall coming up.