Today, I am finding that life is hard. Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. Figuring out how to pay for all of this ‘life’ that we are not actually living is hard. Everything is just hard. Throw into the mix the feeling that I am not living authentically and you pretty much have my day today, or most days, I suppose. Yes, yes, we have running water, electricity, internet, enough (too much?) food to eat, clothes and all of the other creature comforts that were a luxury for many people not all that long ago (and yes, they still are in other parts of the world, I am aware that there is a more global perspective on life and issues facing women and families, but right now, I’m worrying about my micro-world right now). So chalk this post up to #firstworldproblems and #straightwhitewomanwhine if you must. Moving right along now…
Authenticity is a technical term used in psychology as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures [emphasis added]; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith [emphasis added].
– from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I knew, very early on, that I really wanted to be a mom (and a writer, and a lawyer, and a musician, and hold a PhD in psychology and be the owner of my very own personal cash register, but mostly, to be a mom). At sixteen, I wanted a baby. I wasn’t having sex, so there was no real risk of having a baby, but I man, did I ever want one. And in my clouded adolescent mind, I was ready to be a good mom. At SIXTEEN. Flash forward a handful of years and I was a mom. To a beautiful, perfect, lovely boy. And being a single mom (by mutual agreement) was frustrating sometimes, but I never felt defeated by parenthood or like I was not doing a good job, or that I was really messing up this weird little dude who called me Momma and whom I loved beyond reason. Flash forward another decade or so and I become mum to two more beautiful little boys. And at first it was overwhelming, but so confident was I as a mother that I figured, ‘yeah, I got this.’ Only, sorry about your luck, but I didn’t have it. Not even close.
I had never before been half of a parenting couple. I did not know how to discuss and negotiate anything to do with raising children. I had always had the autonomy to choose what I thought the best thing to do was and there had no one to answer to, no one to check with – I was the boss and whatever I wanted was the way things went (again, talking about child-related decisions only). And then, falling in love, leaping into marriage and diving into a whole new life and suddenly I was no longer the boss. I was Mum, yes. But there were new rules, another person’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to consider. This is not a bad thing, by any means, but it was a new thing. And now, this many years later I can admit that I failed at figuring out how to make the necessary adjustments in my parenting modus operandi.
And I was no longer the mother that I had been. I did not speak my mind, or at least I did not speak it effectively. I was not able to convey parenting or life principles that I believed were important in a way that was credible. I acquiesced to my partner’s beliefs where we disagreed. And now, looking back, I was wrong. I should have been truer to my maternal instincts. But I was not. And now, I believe, life is harder because of that.
Flash forward almost another decade and now there are a total of five beautiful souls who call me Momma and need me to be more than I have been, more than I feel like am but not more than I believe I can be. Five pieces of my heart, all who need me figure shit out and be the mother they deserve. It’s not enough to cook, clean, tend to and chauffeur these fragments of my heart. They need me to guide them through their struggles. They not only need to know that whatever happens, I’ll know what to do, how to help, how to make things better, but that I’ll teach them how to navigate the treacherous terrain of their respective lives with honour, honesty, creativity, and kindness.
So, here I am, almost halfway through my life and I am re-starting my quest to discover how to live life authentically and to figure out the best way to help and to guide each of these children with the challenges that they face. I read, I research, I talk to other parents, teachers and doctors. I seek information out at every turn and try my hardest to hear not only the message “there’s no fixing this – you screwed this up but good” but rather to hear “yes, you’ve made mistakes, but all is not lost. You can make amends and be better and every moment is a new moment to do better, make wiser choices, and lead by a more positive example.” Because that is the truth that I really want, need and must to believe.
Each of my children is different from the other. They each have their own ways of dealing with life, problems, stressors, successes and disappointments. They each have their own way of expressing love, anger, sadness, disappointment and joy. They each have their own unique talents, points of view, strengths and weaknesses. Some of their traits are familiar to me, I recognize them and I’m comfortable with them. Other traits I see are foreign and scary to me, but Mum is not allowed to show fear, so I will push through and figure out how to help each of them make the most of their innate gifts, talents, personality traits and abilities. Acceptance of each of them, and myself, where and as we sit (stand, run, jump, scream, laugh) is an absolute requirement. But it’s not enough to accept. It is necessary to help them to KNOW and truly FEEL that they are accepted – just the way they are.
And I need to do this while also trying to figure out how to live an authentic, meaningful life that isn’t about appearances and chores and meeting the expectations of others, but rather about kindness, love, joy and honesty.
Wish me luck and please offer any advice, words of wisdom or warnings. If there is one thing that I have learned over the past twenty years of parenting is that the more that I’m sure I know the less I actually know.
P.S. My spell check must be on vacation, because the only things in this post that it objects to are the #hashtags in the first paragraph. Further evidence that my spell check is a broken, illiterate asshole because there is NO WAY that this post is spelled correctly nor that it is grammatically sound.
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