“Les, I’m having trouble with this K,” my Mother said. I suggested, “can you do one for her last name instead?” She looked up briefly and nodded a silent, ‘no.’ Then she found a hanger to push more stuffing into the narrow corners. We were surrounded by letter-shaped pillows. Each one represented a guest for my birthday party. I held my letter, ‘L’ closely while Mum worked. I can still remember the hum of her sewing machine. And the bright, flowered fabric.
She was the Queen of birthday parties, every detail was planned with love and creative flair. And I was so proud of everything about the kind of Mom she was. I remember how growing up, our home was spotless. When I took off my coat, she usually hung it up before I had time to turn around. She was always there for me and our family. But also, everyone else who needed her. She volunteered in our school, church, Girl Scout troop and the community. She gave cheerfully to everyone around her.
She was and still is, a loving Mother. And I’m grateful for it. But I see her sacrifices differently now.
There’s a Cost to Chronic Giving
Through my early childhood, she was incredibly happy. Because she was living the life she planned. But by the time I was in middle school, things changed. And we faced a lot of trials. When her life became bumpy and difficult, the stress and all that conditioned-people-pleasing, took a toll.
She hasn’t just aged, she’s weathered. When we’re together, I look for traces of who she was. And I often wonder, what if she had pulled back a little from Mothering? And reserved some of that once voracious energy, for herself? I wonder if she would have had more resilience. And more peace now, in her senior years.
We’re Distanced from our Families
Today, we extend ourselves even more than my Mother’s generation did. We spend more time with our kids and more time on paid work. And running a household is a lot like playing chess. You’re always planning your next move. For school to happen on time, breakfast had to happen on time. So, if you’re lucky, everyone slept and ate dinner the night before, when they were supposed to. It’s a complex system that gets adjusted in real-time. Constantly. And it’s okay to be proud of pulling the pieces together. Because it’s a feat of mastery! But it’s relentless. And it keeps us from living in the moment.
Because We’re Doing More of Everything
Over 2,000 parents, mostly Moms (97%) have participated in our pandemic research study. And as a group, Moms are breaking. Covid eliminated most of the workarounds, we used to manage unsustainable, fragile schedules. And although most surveyed Moms (87%) faced disruptions to childcare or onsite school. Most are doing more of Continue reading “What if you Gave a Little Bit Less of Yourself to Motherhood?”