Aha! Parenting Blog

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A letter from your mother

Dr. Laura -- I went looking for a gift for my mother but was discouraged because I kept seeing messages of "Thanks for being my best friend" or "You've always been there to support me" or other positive messages, and I don't feel that way about my mother. Then on Mothers Day I began to read a few statuses of my friends on Facebook, and one in particular said "Thanks Mom for always saying I was the prettiest, the smartest, and the best, even when I wasn't" and I began to cry. My mom has never been a support to me. All I've gotten is criticism. And that makes it even harder for me to be a good mother to my own children." -- Becky

If you had a mother who was always there for you and remains one of your very favorite humans, you already know you lucked out.  This post isn't for you. I hope you were able to honor your mother -- or her memory -- on Mothers Day. 

But if Mothers Day always makes you feel a bit needy, please stay with me. When Mother's Day rolls around, any wounds in our relationships with our own mothers feel more raw than ever,  and leave us feeling like needy children.  We find ourselves wishing we'd had a fairytale mother, the kind everyone else must have had, the ones who inspire all those Mother's Day Cards.

And then Mother's Day ends up feeling the way Christmas does for many children.  One day, so burdened with wishes that no reality can live up to the urgency of our desire. 

All of our insecurities and feared inadequacies as mothers bubble up as we encounter the cultural ideal of motherhood -- the ideal our mothers fell short of, because they were, after all, only human. It's an ideal that no mother can fulfill, no matter how many times we resolve to do better. 
It doesn't help that our children and partners don't become perfect, even for one day. We don't stop being mothers, so we may find ourselves resentful that even on our special day we're still making all the usual sacrifices.

So we may end up not feeling like very good mothers ourselves on Mothers Day. We resolve to stop yelling and find ourselves yelling 24 hours later.

If we didn't get the love we needed in childhood, no Mothers Day can fill our cups.  But here's the truth. Nobody's mother was perfect. The myth of the perfect mother is a myth, and too much for imperfect humans to live up to. Every mother was raised by a mother who was only human. Every mother gifts us the pieces of parenting she salvages from her own childhood, and some of those childhoods were broken.  So every one of us has to learn to parent ourselves. That's how we transform what we're able to give to the next generation. 

We don't have to be perfect.  As long as we're willing to keep growing and loving, every single one of us is mom enough. 

Because you take the time to read these posts, I know you're committed to your own growth. That growth takes courage and the hard emotional work of repeatedly returning yourself to calm and resisting the slide into your own Mommy tantrum. This is hard, but it gets easier if we can acknowledge any pain we carry and work on healing it. That's what gives our child a more loving start.  Our ability to love our child always begins with loving ourselves.

So I want to forward to you a note from your mother.  If you already received a wonderful note from a mother you adore on Mothers Day, ignore this one.  But if you didn't, this is for you.

My Dear,
I know I wasn't the perfect mother for you.  Maybe there are no perfect mothers, but you deserved one.  You were born perfect, and you deserved unconditional love and support.  I apologize that I didn't know how to give you that.  I hadn't gotten what I needed in childhood, you see, and I was so wounded.  I know that's no excuse.  I wish I had had the support and courage to change for you.  I so wish I could go back now and give you the childhood you deserved.

All those ways in which I was unable to be the mother you needed?  They weren't about you.  They had nothing to do with you.  They were about me.  I am so sorry I wasn't able to be the mother you deserved.

I'm afraid you concluded that maybe you weren't good enough. But you were more than enough, exactly as you were.  You were so beautiful, so wonderful, so alive. Any mother would have been blessed to be your mother. 
And you are more than enough, right now, today. 

This year for Mothers Day, please give yourself the gift of unconditional love that I wish I could have given you.  There is nothing you need to do to deserve that love.  It is there in your heart.  You may need to get past some tears to find it, but your heart is full of love.  
Please bask in that love every single day for the rest of your life. 

You are a treasure.  Please treasure yourself as I wish I could have treasured you. You are a jewel. Let yourself shine.

with great love,
Your Mother

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