Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mothers Being True to Themselves

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.   




Zuzana said...

I am not a mother, but to those who are; this is a wonderful post about what the role of a mother should be.
Nevertheless, I am about to become an aunt for the third time any minute now.;)

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

Hi Sallymandy:

Wow - what an important post. I wish I had been that astute when my children were little. I love where you say that if you abandon yourself, you are abandoning the soil your child grows in . . . so beautifully expressed.

Deborah said...

Sallymandy, I felt like a kindred spirit was speaking to me. How often have we heard women express their discomfort with - or even outright denial of - their inheritance of aspects of their mothers' personality, behaviour, attitudes and more?
You put this issue into such clean perspective - yes, as you say, it is basic psychology - and although I have long since accepted that I carry my mother within me, maybe now I can embrace that.

My daughter, at 23, has certainly been affected by my decision to follow my own path , but until I read your post, I tended to view its influence on her as almost wholly negative.

I could go on about this but maybe it would be more appropriate to do so in a post when I've had more time to absorb what you've said. In any case, it was a very worthwhile read indeed and I'm very glad you picked up the idea and added to it so thoughtfully. Thank you!

Between you, me and the Fencepost said...

I found you from my sister Maria's blog, Clour me Happys' blog roll.

I read the link at the top of your post which led me to another link on womens happiness by Huff post blogger Marcus B. and now I'm back . . .
I've been somebody's mama since I was 19 and I have often wondered about being true to myself and what that means. Thank you for your eloquent and kind words. Definately given me 'food for thought'.

ethelmaepotter! said...

Beautiful and so true and insightful. I have no doubt that your daughter will grown into a fine young woman, and yes, mother.

Rosaria Williams said...

This is a very important topic, especially since women will have more bittersweet relationships with their mothers than with anybody else.

La Loca said...

Insightful and thought-provoking post. Glad to have you "back."

La Loca said...

Insightful and thought-provoking post. Glad to have you "back."

Cynthia L. H. said...

Beautiful. Profound. Insightful. Truth.
I see myself in many thoughts that you have captured today...and I see my own mother, as well as my three daughters...and my little granddaughter. There is a fragile thread that ties us all together.

Tracy Watier said...

This is almost too close to home for me. My daughter is 19, moved out on her own (well, with roommates!) in February and I was very surprised to find myself wondering what the heck I'm supposed to do with myself now. I was never a "helicopter mom" but I did work at home for most of her life so I could always be available. Especially during the very intense years from 15 to 18, I think I lost myself a little because she required so much attention and energy and I only had so much to spread around. I'm happy to report though that I'm coming back into focus. And because I don't have an impressionable young girl at my feet every day, I'm free now to be my actual, authentic self once again. The rewards of motherhood have to come at some sort of price, don't they?

Lori ann said...

Oh what a post Sallymandy. So close to my heart. I think you'll be fine gently helping your girl find her wings. When she does, she'll always fly home to you. And you'll be testing yours all over again too!

Kat Mortensen said...

That is a gorgeous shot of Gwyneth and Blythe. Really.

Duchesse said...

Such an eloquent expression of our dual responsibility, to hold them and to let go. Thank you.

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