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.
I'm a former journalist turned marketer of concrete. I still type a lot. Other than that, I'm married to an oilman, the owner of a mini-schnauzer named Baxter and a lab named Lacy, chef to anyone with an appetite and a connoisseur of $10 wines.