To my mom friend:
I see you.
Today is Mother’s Day. Likely someone is already preparing you breakfast. Maybe they’ll even deliver it to your room so that you can nosh while still luxuriating in bed. They might bring you flowers or jewelry. Macaroni and construction paper greetings almost certainly wait for you downstairs. All of those things are wonderful, yes. But they won’t leave you feeling any better at the end of your special day.
I know what you really desire. I will wrap it in this letter so that you may look upon it time and time again, your need to do so almost a certainty. You want someone, anyone, to see what you’re dealing with. How hard it is. You, the strong matriarch, are ready for someone to swoop in and take every available opportunity to make it all better, if even only for a day.
I see you. If no one else does, know that I see you. I can tell you haven’t felt that lately.
We, as women, are taught to make it all look easy, to do what is expected of us with little or no complaint. Meanwhile, our partners are often taught to take things at face value. That makes for an inevitable disconnect, no matter how hard we strive to keep our relationship expectations reasonable. And while motherhood is a gift, there’s the curse that our partners will never fully understand how this mom shit really feels.
A gift. That’s the line we’re supposed to parrot, right? Some days, I know, you want nothing more than to return that gift. Good luck cramming a 4-year-old back in your lady bits, though.
Maybe your partner is the problem this week. You’re so tired, so bone-crushingly tired, and all you want in the world is a nap. So much so that without you really intending to, your body just decided to take one in the middle of a rare day where your partner was home too. And rather than recognizing how desperately you needed that break, that rest, that moment of peaceful silence, your partner was resentful of being left alone with all the work on their “day off.”
I see the disparity between your role and theirs. They show up to a karate lesson and everyone swoons at their level of involvement. Meanwhile, you make one disparaging remark about craving a moment of silence and a cold beer after having spent fifty-two consecutive hours catching vomit between loads of laundry and you’re a bad mother. But I see your brow crinkled with worry. I see how you welcome your feverish child into your bed, knowing full well it will mean yet another set of sheets to launder. And I see you slide over, your arm dangling over the edge so that your partner’s sleeping space need not be sacrificed.
Maybe your parents are the ones causing the frustration lately. Maybe your mother never tires of making snide comments and questioning all your parenting decisions. Perhaps your father continues to show no interest in you or your child. I see your fear, but you are not your parents. You are more. You are better.
Sometimes the urge to hit nearly overpowers you. The rage shakes your joints and lifts your open hand. But you don’t. You never have. You never will. Of course you fear it, but I see the nurtured calm that stays your impulse every time.
It’s okay to hate moments of this mom experience. It’s even okay to occasionally hate your kid. Hate and love can coexist. You know that from dealing with your own mother. But you…you are using that understanding to feed your child’s strength. When your child can pause between rages to scream, “Mom, I love you so much but right now I am very, very mad at you,” you are teaching her to be more too.
I see your shoulders hunched under the pressure of shaping a kind, generous, brave little person. But you must remember, you’re going to fuck up. Over and over again. And your child will see those mistakes. Don’t try to hide them. Teach them. Announce your mistakes and use them to be better. Show your sweet girl how she, too, can grow from her mistakes.
You’re making a mistake right now. Yes, you’re faltering, but that’s not it. You’re berating yourself. Again and again. But here’s the thing you can’t see because you are too close. Your vision is clouded by exhaustion, resentment, and your relationship with your own mother. But I can see it. You and your child already share a bond that your partner can never replicate. You, dear woman, are that child’s truth.
I see you beam with pride as you say, “My kid is amazing.” She is, you know. She truly is. And deep down, you know you did that. I see you in her smile. I see you as she gently picks up the Lego pieces knocked from the table and tries to piece them back together. I see you when she runs to find a Band-Aid for my cut finger. I see you when she offers me her last animal cracker. I see you when she radiates satisfaction dropping in the final piece of a puzzle.
I see what you’re doing. I see how you’re struggling. I see how you keep going anyway. I see how invested you are. I see how consumed you are with making her strong, and resilient, and forgiving, and all the things you want to be. And I see how that leaves so very little for you. And I tell you that you are doing fine. Great. Not just your personal best, but enough by anyone’s standards. Most importantly, enough by her standards.
So sweet friend and fellow mom, my Mother’s Day wish for you is simple: May you have the clarity to see yourself as I see you — enough. And may you fall into a contented sleep safe in that knowledge.
Copyright 2016 Elly Lonon as first published on Sammiches and Psych Meds.