In my own journey as a mother, I’ve learned the most from hearing other moms speak their truth. I learn from their stories of struggle, yet finding the lesson hidden deep in the mundane normal daily moments. It’s their stories and my own that I find myself so passionate about and wanting more of. I want to photograph it, I want to share it. I’m starting a new series that I hope will inspire you. Real moms sharing their journey in an honest personal way. They are moms just like you and me. They have hard days and days that they feel so much pride in their life they could burst. These moms want to share because by sharing we come together. We break down the invisible walls that separate us. They destroy the question of ‘what kind of mother are you?’ and replace it with ‘we all mother from the heart’. I am so honored to introduce you to Sara. I met her just a short year ago and she was the mom that was further along in her journey that I felt held it all together. She was a mom that I knew I just had to get to know better and be friends with. I am so glad I listened. Thank you so much Sara for sharing your heart, I’m honored to share it with others. xoxo
“Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of someone else.”
– Judy Garland
My mother has a very defined worldview. Armed with her Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette, my mother had a “correct” way to do everything. Run the dishwasher at night. Bath robes made from white terry cloth. Never go to sleep with a dirty kitchen. Always buy off of the registry. White wine with two ice cubes. Her rules for life earned an infamous nickname among my siblings and friends: Carole-land. You either knew the customs of the land or you didn’t- and if you didn’t, you’d quickly learn.
Being the youngest of three, I revolted against the regime of Carole-Land. Some of my acts were minor- going to a Northern public university, not joining a sorority, marrying a man with facial hair; to ones that almost got me deported- piercing my nose, touring with jam bands, my left-of-center political leanings. But regardless of how far out my rebellions took me I always got my passport back out and to return through customs to Carole-Land.
The laws of Carole-land made it impossible to know her as a person. She was mom with a capitol M. Her actions made sure that the boundary between parent and child was a hard one and that there was no dispute. Due to this distance that her parenting-style created, I needed my own children to know me and understand that we were going to be friends. To have the kind of parent-child relationship that I dreamed about, we needed to be attached. I envisioned myself as a baby-wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby-lead weaning, holding down a full time job outside of the home Zen mother goddess who still found time to exercise, spend time with her friends and be an attentive and attractive partner. Because of my choices and my sacrifices, my kids would be better. In essence, I could have it all because I believed I could do it all.
And on October 27, 2011, my beautiful girl E was born. And she crapped all over my vision.
I remember sitting at a play group with a bunch of mothers that I met online when E was 4 months old and I was amazed by these mothers- they seemed super human and were the visions of motherhood that I longed to be. But when asked how they were making it work, their responses were all self-deprecating and borderline on martyrdom. What my sleep deprived brain took away from this interaction was that I was not doing enough and if I scarified a little bit more then I too would achieve mommy-hood nirvana. So I tried. (I am my mother’s daughter after all.) I had this running monologue in my head that often started off with one of these deadly statements, “But if I just did (fill in the blank) better, then everything would be more relaxed,” “But why is so-and-so’s kid so much easier than E? What am I doing wrong?” or the worst one, “But the book says…” Where it left me was on my stairs at my home one June afternoon, looking at my 8 month old daughter, writing a goodbye letter to her that it wasn’t her fault, but that I just wasn’t cut off for this whole motherhood thing and that one day I hope that she would forgive me for leaving her at such a young age.
The mother I longed to be was dead. Left in her wake was a skeleton of a woman who didn’t even recognize herself. Like all losses, there was a mourning period but it wasn’t until after the birth of my second daughter that I realized that I was mourning someone else’s losses- not my own. Did I really want all those things I sought after, or was it because I was told by someone else that these were the ideals? The pressures of perfection that I placed on myself were no different than my mother’s- the expectations were different but the confining feeling was the same.
There is grace, humility, and forgiveness in motherhood, I know now. So often we hold ourselves to standards that are unattainable because we are fearful of what may happen if we do not. But when we restrict ourselves to one way of doing things, we restrict our children as well. So for me, my best version of motherhood is a hybrid of all of the people and things I come into contact with- my mother’s ways included. Although my mother’s style of parenting is different than mine, I appreciate that she tried to do her best with what she believed to be right. Because at the end of the day, we both had/have the same goal: raise children who appreciate their mom for raising them with kindness, compassion, and flexibility not with impossible expectations that sacrifices the mother-child relationship on the altar of one motherhood philosophy or another.
If you’d like to share your journey as a mother, CONTACT ME, sessions are free for Mom to Mom participants.
xoxo – Rachael