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/ May 12, 2024

Seeing ourselves clearly

It’s Mother’s Day.  My kids are all having a moment of quiet after swimming and having brunch at home.  We’ve been “on” all morning, and I’m taking a moment to myself with a cup of tea to sit and write.  My favorite thing to do these days.  

As I sat down at my computer, I had nothing special on my heart. Maybe it’s because it’s Mother’s Day, or the life season I’m in, but I began reflecting on my years as a mother, and how much they have changed.  

When my kids were younger, I think motherhood scared me. Not in the obvious way.  But more in the gnawing voice only I could hear that I couldn’t trust myself.  That if I were alone with them for too long and things didn’t go well I’d snap or yell.  I’d be impatient. Scream.  

And I didn’t want to be that woman.

So, in some subconscious way, I hedged my bets. I got a lot of babysitters.  I came up with a million excuses for places I needed to be besides there.  I was really good at being a mom. In doses.  

I wonder if I started blogging all those years ago as an escape.  Not from the kids.  But from the person I was afraid I’d become around them.  A version of myself that I wasn’t proud of.  That was less than.

A woman who…

was impatient


was too demanding

too strict

Couldn’t figure out sleep schedules or how to breastfeed.  

So I hedged my bets. Took the job in doses. Always needing to be tapped out.  It was never the babies.  Or maybe it was.  I don’t know.  It all feels like a blur.  

My kids are older now.

I’ve lived more life now too.  Know more.  And I have more confidence in myself as a woman and as a mother. 

But I’m pretty sure I’m still sending them to therapy for something.  All the gentle parenting in the world can’t erase the uneven power dynamic that is parent and child.  

We do our best.  And while our best is enough.  It still leaves tracks.  

As I sit and write this, JP is on a flight to NY.  He’ll be there for work all week.  And even though it was my idea that he fly out early, that old familiar feeling has returned.  Me.  Alone.  With our four kids.

And that voice I became so familiar with all those years before, grew louder once again…

Do I have this?

Am I going to lose my patience this week?  

Will I have the energy to listen to Sloan’s 10th story telling me about the nuances of an octopus heart, or will he see through my half smile as I gaze past him only half listening?  Will Lillian hear the frustration in my voice as I try to calmly get her out the door and be done applying the makeup I’ve told her a hundred times she’s not allowed to wear?  Will Frankie feel my disappointment as he’s running late once again, making all the other kids late to school?  When I reach back for his hand in the car telling him, “it’s ok, no one is mad at you”.  Will he know that a part of me actually is?

I share this now not to tell you about J’s travel schedule for work or complain about being alone for a week with my children.  Many women handle this, and so much more, every day.

Instead, I share this because, after fifteen years of mothering, I’m still learning that this entire experience, while I have been surrounded by babies everywhere, has always been about me.

Me learning to live with me.

Learning to accept me.  My flaws.  My shortcoming.  My imperfections.

Learning to mother not my children.  But to mother me.  

My kids showered me with cards this morning.  You can picture them.  All hand drawn.  Beautiful in every way a mother would want.  And they wrote the most beautiful words.  Thank you for always being patient with me.  I love how you are always so excited when I wake up, and you make me the best breakfasts.  Thank you for helping me solve my fights with Sloan and calming me down when I’m angry.  

The most beautiful words, with eyes lit up just for me.  As if I was their whole world, and then some.  

They say you can never see your own reflection accurately. That it’s always backward.  Isn’t that strange?  You live your whole life only seeing yourself backward.

Maybe that was my problem all these years.  I saw myself, as a woman and as a mother, backward.  

If only I could see myself, not in my reflection, but through their eyes.  Then maybe that voice wouldn’t be so loud.

Up until recently, we’ve always had help.  A few hours here or there.  Some seasons more than others.  

A few months ago I made the decision to change that. That the responsibility of all four kids, and our home, would be mine.  I wanted the job again.  Full time.  

Maybe in some way I needed it as a do-over.

To try the role once again, only this time, without the fear.  Understanding that my sense of self, my reflection, is backward.  

And to my surprise, it’s been better than I had imagined.  For all of us.  

I’ve always thought we had a fairly calm home, but the past few months have shifted things even more.  I see it in my kids.  They’re happier.  I’m happier.  There’s a different energy when it’s just “us”, and it feels really good.

I think as a woman I’ll always have a tendency to doubt myself.  To only be able to see my reflection backward.  That’s the beauty and curse of being someone who is self-reflective.  If you look too hard, for too long, it all becomes a blur.

So instead of relying on my own reflection, I’m relying on my kid’s energy, their smiles and their contentment to be my barometer for how we’re doing.  And if I’m using that as my marker, then I’d say we’re doing ok. 

I think for some women, mothering comes easy.  But for most, I’m guessing, it doesn’t.  

We know instinctually how to mother. How to nurture. It’s in our DNA. 

But for better or worse, our world, and our society isn’t set up to support mothers.  We don’t value the work done in the home.  We don’t have systems set up to create villages and support.  We leave her alone.  To do the work on her own. Without encouragement.  And it creates doubt, insecurities, and even a sense of loneliness in the strongest of women.

I have no grandiose words of wisdom here.  Other than just simply noticing that it’s taken me almost 15 years to settle into the role.  

I know the first 15 years of this I didn’t see myself clearly, or appreciate all I was doing, had done.  And it makes me sad for her.  I want better for my future self.  I deserve more.  We all do. 

I hope that whoever is reading this now if you are a mother, you’re finding a way to see your reflection clearly.  That you begin to understand your reflection is backward.  And that it’s not your fault.   Mirrors are tricky that way.

But listen to me, you’re doing great.  You can trust yourself fully.  Even when you can’t see yourself clearly.  

Your children can. 

And in the end, that’s all that matters.

With love, to all who mother.  today and always.




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