The Mother of all Guilt is the Mother Guilt

A couple of years before our firstborn entered this world and changed our lives forever, I had a compelling dream. I dreamt of a little girl who needed rescuing. I don’t recall the setting of the dream, but I recall the feeling. I was chasing after this little girl in a dress, with dark hair in her eyes, and I whisked her away from danger. She clung closely to my shoulders and snuggled into my neck. She didn’t call me mommy or anything, really. But I remember the ferocity of the determination I felt to save her, to keep her safe, to let the world’s pain slip off her shoulders like water off silken paper.

Years later, after our Lily was born, it was only then that I realized I dreamt this beautiful little baby girl up. She was the girl in my dreams. I am not a religious person, but I am spiritual and I’d like to believe that I am at least somewhat in tuned with the universe. Somehow, I always knew I was going to be a mom to a girl. At least one girl. Now I am blessed with two.

I understood from afar the complexities of being a parent. A mother. A woman parent. I understood that the responsibility is grand beyond all other measures of life. More so than being a good daughter, it is weighed heavily on women to be good mothers. I unreasonably and naively thought that this would be easy to do. I know what kind of mother I’ve always wanted, and the kind I was given sometimes felt like I was given the short end of the stick. I knew then that I would work harder, try better, at being more than what I was given.

No one could have prepared me for the mind craze that comes with motherhood. In all actuality, motherhood means living with guilt, fear, pain, and a tremendous amount of incredible and unequivocal love that feels like your chest will rip open right in front of you. It doesn’t feel real some days. It feels miraculous and frightening. Most days, I run through my life doing my absolute best but never quite my absolute perfect. By the end of the day, I sleep exhausted and mind numb with feelings of guilt and shortcomings. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, and I cannot rid the guilt I feel because of this.

It is easy to tell a parent to “do their best” and be okay with it. There is nothing more to give outside of your “best.” There are many days I wish I can be more than I am. There are still many days I know I cannot be more than I am. The mind already knows the impossible task I set myself to, yet the heart and the soul refuse to give up. Because really, at the end of the day, at the end of eternity, these girls chose me to be their mother. They chose me. And I can’t help but feel that they’ve made a terrible choice in the matter. They could have chosen someone much more patient, much more worthy, much kinder and more intelligent. They could have chosen someone with so much more to give, yet they chose me. And on my worst days, when I grow impatient and my temper just falls short of beautiful, I wonder if the damage I am doing to their esteem means they will one day regret ever choosing me at all.

For a mother of daughters, there is much to do. There is much to teach simultaneously. To teach confidence and humility. To teach patience and strength. To instill in them the ever-flowing capacity for kindness and the silent yet firm hand of character. To give them grace and will power. To role model strength and power in the midst of fear and weakness. To be okay with fear and weakness while striving for strength and power. It is a task not made for the weak of heart or the tender of character.

Raising daughters is a delicate task. We belong to a sisterhood of love and competition. Sometimes our cruelest friends are the ones we love the most. Sometimes our biggest teachers are the ones we call enemies. More often than not, we learn best from our vulnerable moments and we grow from the tenderness of our love and the strength of our tears. We fall into the hands of those who make us rage and we take comfort on the shoulders of those who let us cry. And somewhere in the middle of all of that, in the beauty of the light of day and the glory of night, I should know how to teach all these things as a mother. But I don’t even know how to gracefully walk it as a woman half the time.

I hope that somehow, I am teaching them grace in my shortcomings. I hope that somehow, when I am at my worst, I am teaching imperfections and acceptance. I hope that somehow, when I am giving examples of what not to be, I also show them that I am vulnerable when I am at my worst, and they get all of me. They get all of me. Even when I don’t want them to, they still get all of me. My relationship with them is something beautiful and terrifying. The motherhood of the story of my life is the most beautiful because it is the most vulnerable.

I hope that in my own imperfect way, I am protecting them and keeping them safe.

What does it feel like?

What does it feel like when your insides turn and toil, twist and tumble? Through the world’s pain, and your own, there really isn’t any difference between the two. I wander the roads of my mind like a lost tourist, not able to grasp what should be home. Struggle, they say, makes us stronger, and pain makes us more resilient. But after having tasted the triumph of surety and completeness, I am not sure — in fact, I know that I don’t — want to hear the sounds of defeat or taste the bitterness of the war inside my mind.

What does it feel like when your gut wavers and wanders, without the champion of the soft and gentle cushion of what you thought were facts? No one loves or revels in the stuff that anxiety is made of, but do we ever really rid of it? Do we ever really free it from our hungry grasps when we are most weak? I would love to hold onto a piece of unwavering belief. I thought I had that, but now I am not so sure.

What does it feel like when you weep when the world weeps? When the flesh on your skin begins to dance with goosebumps and pain every time you see someone else in pain? There has been a lot of loss lately. I don’t know how to make sense of this. I see it everywhere I turn. I see mothers losing babies. I see sisters losing brothers. I see sons losing mothers. I see wives losing husbands. Sometimes the deaths come slow like grinding nails against sandpaper. Sometimes they come quick and fleeting, like a firm and harsh slap against the face when you’re looking the other way. But in the end, the result is the same: you lose, you grieve, you maybe accept for just a brief blissful moment in your life, and then you grieve again as if you’re losing all over again.

What does it feel like?

Hello this world of ours

It is a Friday evening, and the kids are in bed. There is a stream of tiny little thoughts invading my mind. It is time I start writing again, though it feels like it has been so long now that I don’t remember how the words used to flow so easily through me and onto the screen.

The best time to write for me has been in the car while driving. That is when my thoughts start being dissected and start transforming into images of words inside my head. Of course, that is the worst time for me to write, since I’m, y’know, driving and all. It has been years since I’ve felt at ease with the pen — or rather, the keyboard. It has been years since the images in my mind turned into images on the screen, curved with letters and formed into words that color others’ eyes. I wonder if this gift that used to come so prevalent can make its way home again.

Home. Home has always been where the words are. Before I was a therapist, I was a writer. Before I was a mother, I was writer. Before I was a photographer, I was a writer. I met my husband through words. And now, for years it seems, I have abandoned home.

Let’s come home together, these thoughts of mine. It is time again that I start rebuilding my legacy through words.