I have just come across the following quote on parenting, mothering to be specific, and had a strange, split personality, somewhat uncharacteristic response to it. I'll let you read it and then try and make some sense of my reactions...
“[Mothers can] put their own lives and interests on hold as a sacrifice to their children. As noble as this seems, [it is] a sort of negligence: withholding who she is - the best part of herself - from our children.” Monte and Karen Swan
Intellectually, the point is well taken and holds some deep wisdom and truth. But here's the bit where intellect and 'gut' response part company.
Does it seem to you others who parent that sometimes there is just no getting it right?? Parenting, for me at least, is pretty full of second guessing and worrying about whether you are getting the part where you lead these tiny people into life even close to right. Its often all I can do to get through the day and keep all of this worry and even guilt from overtaking me. It horrendously immense and frightening and in my darker moments it threatens to consume me completely.
I know this sounds bleak and defeated but in actual fact its not at all.
When I talk to other wonderful mothers I find that below the surface, when we are brave and supported enough to give them voice, these feelings exist in so many of us. These truths of mothering don't stop us from feeling joy, having fun, parenting with depth, wisdom, integrity and calm. But some days not being overwhelmed by the enormity of it all takes all the reserves I have. This is a time that I am moving through. My feelings will shift and change as they have always done. This period of my life that is indeed focused around my children and me in my role as parent, is not putting 'me' on hold, but rather adding a building block, a dimension to my whole self.
And this is my point here. I have not lost my independence, my sense of self, my identity as a woman. It has only been made deeper, more dynamic by this as with every new experience. I am not consumed, I am enriched. I am not 'sacrificed' nor am I 'negligent'.
My intellect chimes in here with the argument that for some women raising children has meant that they stop pursuing goals they hold dear and subjugate themselves to the needs of others. Believe me I am the last person to use my soap box to say that this is the role and calling of motherhood. I would suggest however that its is not about the mothering, but rather about how we integrate children into our society and communities.
So here for me is the bottom line. Is the best counter critique to the problem of potentially loosing ourselves to the worry and strain of raising children to call us 'negligent' for allowing this to happen? I mean, god, what a word to use masquerading as support for mothers! To tell us to let go some of the worry and blame by, well, blaming?
Give us a break. However we do it we are doing our best. Not judgement slipped in under the auspices of tough love, but rather warm tea (or a stiff brandy), a non-judgemental shoulder to cry on and some laughter about this crazy journey that one way or another will make us the women we should be.