My mom died today.
Sigh…so why am I writing to you? I have been thinking about it ever since you started your 40 Days of Grace series. To honor my mom by writing to someone who speaks for moms, to moms. Someone who speaks to broken moms, to tired and weary moms. To those of us who are up in the night comforting our babies, chasing away monsters and kissing hurts. Those of us who love our children with all our heart but just know we are messing them up somehow.
I don’t have an answer, Beth. But I have a perspective. A perspective of a not so perfect mom. One who found herself single with 2 kids and a broken heart. A mom who cried for days, weeks and maybe even months when her husband left. There have been times in my life where I thought that defined her and her ability to parent.
But I was wrong.
Sixteen months ago when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I started reexamining things. Looking at my mom, what kind of mom she was, what she did for me.
What I found…was me.
All the fears I have, all the times I feel I have failed as a parent or yelled at my kids too much or let them go a week without taking a bath. When I let them eat Poptarts and drink soda and watch too much television, I just know I can do better but sometimes it is so hard. That was my mom. Trying so hard to be the best parent she could be but always struggling with feelings of not doing enough.
I am not alone in my journey as a mom, but my mom was. When I think of my mom during that time, I remember her getting up every morning and reading her Bible while she drank coffee. Then she would get ready for the day, make our lunches, get us up and out the door to school. She would then go to work herself. She would come home to a messy house and dinner to fix and kids to help with homework and get them to bed. She did this day after day, and on weekends she got to do the yard work and laundry and grocery shopping. Sometimes she cried through it or yelled through it or got impatient with us. But she did it. Every single day. My mom was there, present and participating in my life. And I knew. I knew I was safe and loved and that she would always be there for me, no matter what.
Your blog speaks to my heart in so many ways. And comments from other moms who are trying to hold it together shows me I am not alone in my struggles.
My mom told me a couple of months ago that she didn’t feel she did enough for me. That she should have been a better mother.
How many times have I thought with this my own children? That I am not doing enough. That I fail them all the time.
But I have had a lot of time over the past 16 months to think about this. And what I was honestly able to answer my mom? I am who I am because of her. Because of her love and sacrifice for me.
So now, when I am in the trenches and I wonder if I am doing any good at all, I think of my mom and I know my kids will be okay. They will be okay because I am okay. They will be okay because I had a mom who taught me how to be a mom. It was messy and hard but she did it.
She wasn’t a perfect mom but that didn’t stop her from being the best.
And I will miss her every day.
I am undone.
This letter is such a gift. And I can truly think of no better way to honor a mama than to release other mamas from the chains of “enoughness” that bind us.
I spent Monday in bed.
I was so tired.
I got the kids off to school and then I looked at my coffee maker and it all was just too much. Too much effort to measure out the coffee. Too much effort to remain upright.
So, even though the dishes were piled to the ceiling and the laundry was even higher and there was writing to do and a shower to take and dinner to plan and kids’ schedules to review and bills to pay and messages to respond to, I went back to bed.
I climbed into bed and I pulled my not-so-clean comforter over my head, and I slept.
I woke up at 10:00, and then I said, “Fuck it,” and went back to sleep.
I woke up at 11:45, and felt panicked and guilty, and went back to sleep.
I woke up at 1:15, and leapt out of bed, ashamed of myself. Fully rested for the first time in weeks, and deeply ashamed.
“You’re a waste of breath today,” I said to myself, and that’s when I caught myself.
Because if any of you had remained in bed for a day, I would have championed you and congratulated you and said, “JOB WELL DONE, mama,” and I would’ve meant it down to the tips of my toes and beyond.
But grace for me? That is much harder to give.
And so I’ve spent these past few days thinking – again – about what it means to be enough. And, geez, I know I am SUCH a broken record about this. It’s just that this illusion of being enough and doing enough and am I mom enough? creeps up on me when I’m not watching. When I’m not keeping active vigil. When I let down my defenses and forget to be a friend to myself. To be kind. To be affirming. To be forgiving. To treat myself like I’m a human being, flawed and fabulous, and worthy of endless love.
My friend, Heidi, put a message on my Facebook wall today. She wrote, “Beth, thank you. Whatever you are dealing with that makes you sometimes wish things were different (as we all do at times), I’m so glad you are exactly you with your exact life because what you are putting out there is GOLD. It is so needed. And it can’t be faked. Thank you for the virtual beer and actual laughs tonight–the divine is pouring through you.”
And after I stopped sitting with my head bowed at my computer, humbled and touched and incredibly grateful for silly people who take the time to be unreasonably kind, I wrote her back. “I’ve been struggling again with “enoughness” lately. Being enough. Doing enough. And I’m especially grateful right now for your reminder to put “enough” aside and recognize, instead, the divine which flows through us all.”
Which is the exact moment that Kristin’s letter pinged in my inbox, and why I fell to pieces, and why I wrote:
I am undone.
I am not here to sell you on God, folks. I know some of you believe in God, and some of you don’t, and I figure it’s God’s job to convince you, not mine. So whatever. But I am totally, completely, unabashedly convinced it’s my job — my calling — to remind us we are, every last one of us, loved. Made in Love’s image. Worthy of abiding Love. Called by Love to be love to one another. And to ourselves.
This is the antidote to the relentless pounding of enoughness; that we allow Love to enter in.
Can we honor Kristin’s mama today by doing that? By allowing Love a way in?
In Loving Memory
August 4, 1944 – February 1, 2014