Photo of Annette and her daughter

The day after Mother’s Day

I didn’t put up a Happy Mother’s day post on Facebook yesterday because frankly I’ve been feeling like a pretty crappy mother at the moment.

Being a mother is tough and kicks your arse at times. And these days, there’s so much guilt, shame and judgement that is poured onto mothers, which makes us feel even more inadequate than some of us already do.

Celebrating one day a year on all that is motherhood seems even more inadequate. How do we really bring witness and gratitude to the bearer of life, the nurturer, the protector, the guide, the teacher, the mirror, the challenger, the creator… with fluffy slippers and breakfast in bed once a year?

The past few weeks has seen some famous folk like Amy Schumer and Princess Meghan become mothers for the first time, and it has also seen some women in my own circles lose their beloved mums.

It’s the full spectrum between the hope and infinite potential that new life brings on the one hand, and on the other, the separation and grief of losing one’s own mother.

And then there’s everything in between.

Those of us who don’t know our mothers, those whose mothers are lost to dementia or illness, those who are estranged from their mothers, those that can’t become a mother, and those who may be feeling like they are failing miserably as a mum.

When a mother holds the infinite potential of life in her arms for the first time and watches their child take those first breaths, there is an overwhelming expression of love; an expansion of the soul that transcends human emotion and understanding. It is soul meeting soul. The one knowing the same. The reconnection to all that we are in the great unfolding of life.

And then the unfolding of life kicks in.

You get cranky because you’ve had no sleep, and there’s another basket of washing to be folded, and you couldn’t be bothered cooking nutritious food because you are exhausted. And then your beautiful child screams at you and tells you they hate you for the first time and they spill their milk on the carpet (again!). And then you yell at them and wish secretly in the dark depths of the back of your mind somewhere that you never had children because it’s just too fucking hard! And then there’s the enormous shame that you could even think such a thing. What kind of mother are you? You don’t deserve to be a mother? And your child grows up and makes the wrong choices according to your view on the world, or they fail to meet your expectations – all the possibilities you envisioned for their life before they even entered the world – and you turn your disappointment in them back on yourself and feel like you’ve failed to raise them properly – haven’t given them enough love or attention, or have given them too much love and attention, or haven’t taught them resilience or courage or grit or determination and they don’t even know how to wash their own clothes because you’ve done it all for them for their whole lives… ARGH!

I know you hear this. If you’re a mum I know you’ve felt this. At least at some point.

So why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we feel so keenly the burden of our mistakes? We are human after all. We are trying our best (most of the time). We looooooooove this child more than life itself but sometimes it’s expressed as frustration or worry or disappointment or fear or grief or exasperation or intolerance or arrogance or aggression. We miss those moments when we were able to soothe our child with cuddles and cooing and rocking our hips back and forth and singing sweet lullabies. We long for the moments long passed when our child said ‘mummy’ for the first time or smiled at us and the sun exploded in our hearts with a joy so bright we couldn’t contain our tears.  

And then our child reaches adulthood and we think, ‘thank God I’ve made it to 18’, but instead of the elation of climbing the Mount Everest of childhood and adolescence, we realise that we’ve only made it to base camp and there’s still miles of vertical, unchartered territory that needs to be scaled and our weary bodies are running on fumes and the air is thin up there in parenting an adult land – deathly thin.

But we climb anyway.

What choice do we have? This is our child. This is the soul we agreed to walk with in this life; to journey with. To hold each other’s hands and skip along the path when we are feeling light and carefree, or to hold each other tight, and prop each other up, when we can’t take another step, or to wait for the other when one is falling behind and needs time to catch up.

The truth is my daughter mothers me as much as I mother her. She guides me and teaches me, she nurtures me, she protects me, she challenges me… She is my mirror. So when I feel disappointment and fear, she reflects it right back at me. When I reflect falling and failure, I see it on her face. When I don’t love myself, it stares back at me through her eyes.

And perhaps that’s all a mother can be – a refection of the self – hopefully, a little wiser, and with a few words of tenderness or wisdom spoken at the right moments – but we are only witnesses and helpers. The real mothering of the soul comes from within.

It’s when we take our own life lessons, our experiences, our connections and inspirations and nurture our soul from infancy to infiniteness.

Again it’s tough and kicks your arse sometimes, but ultimately it’s the most important work we can do as our own mothers – to realise our infinite potential and be mirrors of truth, love, wisdom, integrity and grace to our children if we are blessed to have them, and to every soul we encounter on this journey.

So enough with feeling crappy (she says boldly to herself!) and take the time to recognise that the only reason you feel so bad sometimes is because you care so much, you love so much, you desire so much for your child and for yourself.

Stand up, dust yourself off, strap on your sensible shoes, and keep climbing.

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

– The Climb sung by Miley Cyrus

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums that nurture and love us, and the mother that lies within.

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