My family and I recently relocated to Birmingham, Al. One of the many things on my to do list was to find a counselor in this new city. In one of our first sessions together, she asked me this seemingly simple question. “What does it mean to you to be a mother?”
I started to answer by listing off things that I do as a mother, tasks that I assume as my son’s mother, but that’s not what she asked me. I had to stop, take a breath, and answer as honestly as I could. In that moment, I reaffirmed my belief that being a mother means being a facilitator for my son to live a happy and full life. It means letting him show me who he is and what he is capable of, while I guide him along the way.
Now, just because this is my definition of motherhood, doesn’t mean that I fulfill this role with ease and grace at all times. I have had my share of breakdowns in the middle of grocery stores, of not wanting to get out of bed in the middle of the night to soothe a crying baby, and of wishing we could stay home instead of driving to therapy. I’m human, but I’m also a goal oriented human, and if I can remind myself my end goal as a mother, I can take small steps to get there one minute, one hour, one day at a time.
My efforts will never be linear; I have to take into account my circumstances on any given day. Some days, we have appointments that are back to back and no time to just play. Some days we are home all day and I’ll choose to just hang out with my kid and watch cartoons, play with toys, and skip doing therapy at home or doing certain chores because I believe that everyone
needs a break and time to decompress, even kids. But that doesn’t mean I don’t question these decisions — because I do, all of the time. If I don’t put Oscar in the stander enough, he won’t develop the flexibility in his hips and pelvis to be able to walk. If I don’t take him to school, he won’t get any social input that day. If I put off his heart surgery, he’ll have it when he’s old enough to solidify the memory and maybe he’ll be traumatized. He already has PTSD from all of the doctor appointments and procedures he’s already had. The other day, he came with me to an appointment where the doctor was going to take my
blood pressure and Oscar saw the cuff and started trembling and crying. I had to turn his stroller around so he wouldn’t look. It’s hard. Really, really, hard.
Some days, I have the ability to step back and ask myself, “Are you doing the best you can with the information, energy, and time you have today? What can you do better next time? How can you be more productive tomorrow?”
These days are so important because they help me regroup and ultimately shape myself into the mother and person I want to be. I think self-critique and self-editing is so important— not only in writing and business, but in the development of self. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you offer your family? Your community?
It is important to think about these things often. The ability to do so does not happen every day, but when it does, ask yourself “What does it mean to me to be a mother?”
I’d love to hear your answers.