Motherhood has been the biggest paradoxes I’ve experienced in my entire existence. I feel like I am constantly going back and forth feeling equally weak and powerful, brave and terrified, fragile and strong; sometimes all these things all at once. But my biggest fear that I’ve had since the very thought of motherhood became a significant reality was the fear that through my lack of a positive mother figure and my poor relationship with my own mother, that despite my best efforts of raising my own child, I would fail to be the mother my child truly deserved.
I read an article recently that reminded me about the irreversible damage that can occur when someone has experienced an unstable or traumatic childhood that I learned about in my child development classes and seen firsthand in my early teaching experiences. The same idea that has haunted me, that whispered in my ear that I am already too damaged, too broken, to be the mother I want to be. The fear that my experiences as a daughter will ruin my role as a mother, not just the faulty lessons, the negative outlook, the vindictive games, and destructive ideas but the lack of morals, of a loving nature, of truth, of peace. The fear that I am lost, with no path to follow.
If the path was not shown for me, how will I find my way? How will I not get lost in the same maze of destruction, the cycle that repeats generation, after the next? Do I have the power to break free?
Not long ago I read a sentence that spoke volumes to my soul.
"As in nature, the soul and the spirit have resources that are astonishing"
And my heart remembered, all at once, at least for a moment, and there was no doubt or worry, just knowing. Knowing that all I need is within me already; from generations, from lifetimes, from timeless, ageless, eternal knowledge. I must only seek it out, deep within, to tap into it, to open each door slowly, intentionally, without fear or anxiety. My soul knows the way.
Even though I know this instinctual mothering was born within me long before I was even forming in my mother’s womb, that fear finds me in my weakest moments. Ever since I stopped being a baby myself I wanted to be a mother. Always fixated on my dolls and playing house, forgoing any time to actually play to look after my young cousins every chance I got. Taking on babysitting jobs at 12, volunteering at childcare centers throughout high school, later transitioning to nanny while studying to be a teacher for young children. And even though I know that my innate mothering instinct was not only ingrained into my DNA but with a lack of mothering in my own childhood, it was out of necessity that I took on that role as well. Someone had to look after my brother and I, to make dinner, to make sure our homework was done, that we got to bed at a reasonable hour.
And along that path of caring for myself and my brother I learned all the ways a mother should not behave, the neglect, the emotional manipulation, and the model that being the victim is the only way to live. As I became older and more aware, I lay in bed and night, sometimes softly crying, other nights loudly wailing with no one to hear, repeating to myself over and over, “this is not the way a mother is supposed to be.”
I feel lucky somehow that I was born with the awareness to know that things weren’t right and to tell myself I would be different. From seeing how friend’s mothers treated them, or the way my aunts were with my cousins when I stayed for the weekend, even from unrealistic ideals shown to me on TV of family perfection. I just knew deep down that I needed more, that I deserved better, that someday, I could and would be more than was offered to me.
But despite that awareness, that fear still brews beneath the surface, bubbling up every now and again in my darkest hours. Those times when I find myself defaulting to anger instead of finding my calm, even happy moments, where I hear a phrase come from my mouth that she would say, I twinge at the thought of following in her example.
Some days as I lay my hand, now that of a matured woman, looking large, across my daughter’s small delicate chest as she breaths softly sleeping, I see my own mother’s hand on mine, and suddenly I am small and delicate again, just a girl looking up at her mother with only love and admiration, imagining the day that I would someday be mother myself. Thinking how there was not greater role in the entire world than to be that protective life giving presence in someone’s life. I realize that she herself was just like me scared and confused of her role as a new mother with deep issues from her own upbringing. And for those moments I forgive her for all her mistakes and misguidance. I see that she was doing only what she knew how, working with the tools she was given from generations of woman before her and from her own current circumstances as a young mother. She didn’t do well , but that’s all she could do, that’s all she knew to be.
And for those moments there is not resentment or anger. There is only acceptance and love.
Then how quickly I can circle back to the fear. The fear that I will only be able to offer what I was given, that I will continue the cycle that has been around since before I was even born.
This is when I try to offer myself that same acceptance I just moments before felt for her. I too, am only doing the best that I am able to do at this very moment. With all the experiences I’ve had, with all the models I’ve been given.
But even more importantly, I know deep down in my heart of hearts, and to the depth of my soul that there is something strong inside of me that will allow me to break free from the cycle. That if we find a way to tap into our deep rooted wild nature of our ancient souls we can find the answers to liberate us from this lifetime’s sorrow. That intuition of our mothering nature is within us if we find a way to listen and that is what can set us apart from the mothers that sometimes we feel have failed us. And this is what will help us erase the fear and embrace our true nature. We will not always be perfect; we will sometimes resemble them more than we’d like. But we are not them. And we never will be. We are our own beautiful, fallible, wise and loving selves. We are our own Mothers.
Written by, Holly Bamber