Something happened to me when I had a baby.
And I don’t just mean my body turned into a bloated pickle, though that happened, too.
Another transformation began, out of my desire to Do Well and Be Good for my child. I went from being “Amy” to “Mama” – I became “a mom.” A Mom. Not myself.
Mom: A role I was playing without any rehearsal, an archetype I was enacting without any experience.
My little girl tottering in my heels – me teetering in mom shoes.
Of course, you have a baby, you stop certain things, like swearing; and you start other things, like caring about nutritional values and safety ratings. Your goals shift from enjoying yourself and achieving personal aspirations to keeping this little needy little human from getting run over or choking on a safety pin. The years blur.
And then, several years into Motherhood, you realize you’re trying really hard to be This Person, this Mother, and you’re failing, desperately, and the reason you’re constantly stricken with bouts of inadequacy is because you’re striving to be something that you’re not.
Contemplating this recently, I asked myself: What would it be like if I gave up trying to be A Mother, and instead was just me, myself, Amy again? Amy, who is a mother, but who is – still! – Amy. Me.
I’m not sure if it was the kava-kava tea or not, but relief flooded my veins, just at the thought.
In my meditation practice, I’ve been learning to be true to myself, to find my authentic self. But I noticed when it came to mothering my kids, I felt this requirement to listen, not to my own needs, instincts, and preferences, but to some strange idea of Perfect Parentness.
Included in this was:
- trying to get the kids to behave properly at all times
- ignoring my own feelings
- behaving like a drill sergeant
The real Amy:
- sings incidental songs
- is playful and flexible, but definitely not perfect
- has feelings and needs
Of course, there are things that go against my original self that I still try to do – creating/adhering to routines, eating regular and robust meals, being on time to things.
But I think being honest about these challenges – to myself, and even somewhat to my kids, is more helpful than my attempt to just make them happen, forcing myself along with my kids.
Being a single mother is harder than anything I’ve ever done. It frays my nerves, it strains my heart, it kicks my ass on a regular and nonstop basis.
But I think remembering myself in it and through it, being myself and being present, I can draw on my strengths and be honest about my weaknesses and survive with an adequate amount of humor and grace. Trying to be A Mother is just pure exhaustion and totally unachievable. Trying to be myself is both a help and a hope. It’s a lot more fun. And being a mother is more fun, too.