Deborah at The Temptation of Words asked on a recent post: Can Mothers Be True to Themselves?
What a thought-provoking question. I’ve pondered it all week.
Mothering is an awesome and humbling responsibility. We know from our own mothers and Nancy Friday that how we understand ourselves is deeply attached to our mothers’ definitions of themselves.
When you get right down to it, what else do we have to offer our children but ourselves? Whether or not I feel adequate, my daughter has her roots planted in who I am, and how I live my life. She will learn her first and most lasting lessons about how to be a woman by watching me do it. This is basic psychology.
If I want SSR to value her own life and take it seriously, hadn’t I better take a stab at that myself? If I abandon the sacred ground of the life I’ve been given (my own)—tell myself it’s “selfish” to attend to it—I’ve essentially abandoned the soil that contains her roots.
There’s also this. It’s tempting to think that only I can give my daughter all she needs to be an adult; that I must forgo my own growth to tend to hers. But that’s giving myself too much credit. Many, many people will influence and teach and love her.
It’s also, maybe, a way to avoid taking responsibility for my own life. It can seem so much more noble to assign myself the keeper of hers. To hold on to that feeling of being needed as long as I can.
Being needed is a powerful experience and painful to release. Motherhood is the most profound thing that’s ever happened to me. I adore being a mother. I don’t want the active part to be over. I crave and yearn for more children.
Yet, life is what it is. I have one precious daughter. For SSR to grow into an adult, she needs me to get a life. If I cling to being her everything forever, she’s going to need serious therapy.
“Being true to ourselves” can tend to carry a connotation of turning our backs on loved ones—charging off into the sunset alone to follow our bliss. And you know, I’ve done a fair amount of that. I’ve been racked with guilt and self-doubt. But it it’s meant to be, those resistant feelings will diminish. And if it’s revealed that I’ve made a mistake, I can make amends. Few decisions are irreversible.
Today, as SSR approaches teenager-hood, I don’t feel the need so much to get away. I want to be with her more than ever. I know I have something she desperately needs: a loving guide in how to be a woman. In other words, a mother. No one else can give her that.