Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Lesson in Motherhood


I've had an article from Real Simple stashed in my desk for two months now. I've been wanting to post about it, but I didn't really know how. Still probably don't. But I felt it was something I wanted to say that's more serious than most topics you read about here. It's personal, yet so defining, that I feel compelled to share. I know some people won't understand my desire to share something so personal, and the need to do so is something I can't fully explain other than to say it's a part of me, and this is a place where I want people to feel they can know me on an honest level.

The article was titled "The Mother I Never Had," and the synopsis reads, "For most of us, Mom is the champion boo-boo kisser, the shooer-away of monsters, the warm refuge. We know how to parent because we learned at the foot of a master. Not so for author Paula McLain, who had to learn how to be the mother she always wanted -- all by herself."

Heavy. I had to read it in small bits. And while my experiences are different than the author's, my general feelings are so similar.

For starters, I don't want to seem ungrateful. I have some genuinely amazing women in my life who have always cared for me and guided me into becoming the woman I am. I credit them, my dad and a loving God for the stability I managed to walk away from my childhood with. But it's been years since I had my mom, if I ever had her at all.

The first time she left, I wasn't yet 10. My life could be described as normal up to that point. She was the perfect PTA mom who made breakfast for us each morning, said our prayers with us each night before bed, and added her own special touch to everything we did. And from what I can understand now, one day she didn't want that life anymore.

We would visit her every other weekend for a while, but even as a child, I could sense her instability. She was tumultuous and that scared me. She came and went and disappeared for periods of time. Our relationship was always off and on, all the way through my years in college when my brother and I finally decided it was too painful to only have a mom who wanted you sometimes.

It's been about 10 years since I've seen her or spoken with her. A greater part of my life has been spent without her than the years she was in my life.

In the article, the author says, "I swore that I would fashion myself a solid, reliable, good life. I would become the mother I had been endlessly denied, loving and lovable, poised to kiss and bandage, bolster and encourage." That's really been my feeling for years. The desire to become the things I always wanted and felt I didn't have. To one day be a better mom than the one I'd been given.

Another paragraph from the article says, "When I looked at my son, who was totally dependent on me to meet his every need, I was abruptly brought face-to-face with my mother's leaving. The thought that kept running through my mind wasn't intellectual but visceral and raw: I had been her baby. She had held and fed and dressed me -- and she had left me anyway."

Maybe that's the part about our relationship that I will never understand. From what every mom tells me, the love you have for your child cannot be described. It's so whole and unconditional that you just have to experience it to understand. And ultimately, it's not a feeling you ever want to walk away from. I will always wonder why my mom never felt that. 

I can't do much about the past, but all of this raises concerns within me about my future. If I didn't have a mom to watch and mimic, how will I know how to be a mom myself? I see my friends have children and naturally fall into their motherly instincts. I worry that I don't have those instincts. Sometimes even now, I worry that my friends can sense my lack of instinct when I'm around their children.

These feelings and thoughts always rise to the surface around Mother's Day. How could they not? But with time, I'm learning to count on the things I do have -- a big heart, a desire for family, a loving husband by my side. I'm learning that I'm not simply defined by my genetics. Despite whatever fears I may have, I look forward to being a "champion boo-boo kisser" for my own children one day.

18 comments:

Catherine said...

You are a great friend, a wonderful wife, and there is no doubt in my mind that you will be a fantastic ,loving, and caring mother! Just look at how sweet you are with your niece! Thinking about you this weekend...

misti said...

I think honesty like this is always a good thing...real and refreshing and affecting.

My mom is the perfect example of how genetics don't define a person. I think good ol' God-given motherly instincts and a supportive environment later in her life made her the best there mother is. Your kids will feel the same!

Melissa Guyton said...

What a day to re-stumble upon your blog! (At least I had the "Sexy List" to help me dry the tears!) I've experienced firsthand your mothering skills...from the cooking, being a good listener and seeing you care for random stray animals. You will be a great mother! :)

Stephanie Jordan said...

I'm glad to see that two of my former roommates think I'll make a good mom one day! Thanks for these sweet words. They go a long way. You are all such fantastic girls. Thank you!

Jonathan said...

Oh Stephanie! I have watched you with our little herd of kids and it is very plain to me that you are very natural with them. You will be a fantastic mom!!! And if you ever feel the need to practice for a while, feel free to come borrow mine. They always want to bike to your house to see Ty & Stephy (as he says). God gave us the ultimate parenting model and as long as you follow His lead you'll be golden. I'll be thinking about you on Sunday.

Ashley Netherton said...

I LOVE YOU!! I KNOW you'll be a wonderful mommy one day! You're already a great friend, sister, wife, etc! Look at Baxter, you've done well with raising him to this point! With all kidding aside, this article brings up the whole, Nature vs. Nurture debate! I dont think motherhood is soemthing that is learned from watching, it's learned from DOING!

Stephanie Jordan said...

Jonathan, I love to see your family biking through the neighborhood. Stop by anytime! Sometimes it's offputting what kids pick up on ... I'm just hoping they don't feel my nervousness because I love that little herd of boys (and a few girls) very much!

Ashley, I hope I can give my children haircuts more frequently than Baxter! And if not, I've always got you to help make things happen!

I really am overwhelmed by these comments.

sga said...

Take it from a guy who has a great mom and is married to a great mom...there's just a great-mom-X-factor, and you've got it. You'll see.

Jenny Gulett said...

My sweet, dear friend. . .how many times have we discussed this very topic? I am beyond proud of you for being brave enough to blog about this. You are going to make a wonderful MOTHER and all of this will come full circle for you. You are a beautiful person inside and out and I'm proud to be your friend!

melissa said...

Friend! I know you will be an amazing boo-boo kisser!
Feel free to come practice over here anytime!

Cynthia said...

Okay, let me start by saying that I hardly see you at work, but I post on your blog. Weird! :-) Anyways, what a real, honest post. You aren't the only one who has parents that aren't a part of your life. My mother and father have been in and out of my life for years now. I do have aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and friends that make the journey easier, though. Like you, I ask myself the same questions. How can you mimic being a mother when your own mother isn't around. Why aren't they around? What did I do to cause this? How could you not be there for your children no matter how old they are? The list goes on and on. It makes for awkward conversation, too, when you meet the "perfect" family that seems to be there for each other and when asked about your family, you may get a lump in your throat when explaining how long it's been since you've seen your folks, etc. I always steer away from that conversation because I don't want my lack of relationship with my parents to define me or change people's perceptions about me.

Anyways, you seem like a very nice person who will be a great mother. :-)

Maybe I'll see you at work one of these days? :-)

judy pinnix said...

As someone who was with you almost daily at that difficult time in your life, I can truly say you have overcome so much to become the wonderful person you are. You may never know why your mother did what she did, but I do know she loved you. I believe that you will be a loving, kind, understanding parent.I am so proud of you, and will eagerly await news of a Little Jordan in the near future.

Meryl & Russell McLendon said...

Stephanie - what a great, great post. I agree with you completely. Genetics will not define who you will be become. I further agree that the people you surround yourself and your own positive attitude is what shapes your life. To me, you have always been happy, positive, hilarious. When the time comes for you and Ty to have children, you are going to have so much to offer them. You will know what they need from you and you will be an amazing mom. Amazing I tell you!

Mandy S said...

ok, this was super heavy reading for 7:45am on a Friday! ;-) but love it - even though i had to wipe away the tears to start work! I promise, you're "motherly instincts" will kick in with kids, and truthfully, you have them already...you just don't see it! you are a true care-taker and have a bigger heart than most! you really are great w/kids (better than i was before i had kids...and i think i'm doing ok w/Ruby Belle!!). jonathan is right, God gave us a great example! trust me, you've got it! thanks for sharing your heart w/all of us! we'll all be thinking of you this weekend!

Smith + Long said...

Stephanie...what an honest response that article..which I also read and thought it was a great article and very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on motherhood...you are going to be a great mother one day....God is going to give you all the right tools at the right time! Thinking of you this weekend....

dersmit said...

Wow. I mean, just "wow." There so much I'd like to say but I'm not sure where to begin and much of it has already been said in previous comments. How courageous of you to even create such a post. That in itself shows your "awareness" of your concerns. And because of that recognition, you obviously want to do right. That wanting will lead to doing.

I am in the same boat, and the paddle I'm missing is from my dad. I gave up trying to figure out why and just decided to use his actions as a guide. If he taught me anything, it's what NOT to do. I'm not always the perfect dad, but I do try my best.

You're going to make a wonderful mom Stephanie. It's easy to see from your blogs alone just how caring you are. And I know from our weekly acquaintance how kind you are. And if you put your heart into motherhood as much as you opened it with this post, your kids will know how loving you are.

Margaret said...

I couldn't have a more wonderful daughter in-law who makes my son so happy and who I know will make a fantastic mother to my grandchildren.

Stephanie Jordan said...

Thanks for the sweet words, Margaret! I hope I can be an awesome mom one day!