I always imagined I’d be a better mother than my mum.
I’d make them my whole world, and they’d feel how adored and precious each is to me. In return for my unending love, my kids would hold me in a special place in their hearts.
When two of my adult children chose not to include me in their lives after an ugly divorce from their father, I got the cosmic giggle!
My kids had judged me harshly and erased me from their lives as I did to my mother when I was around their age.
For years, I watched from the sidelines never included in those significant moments that fill a mother and nanny’s life with joy and a sense of contentment.
I missed holding and hugging grandbabies, celebrating their birth, christenings, 1st birthdays, and school recitals. And I wasn’t invited to sit around the table with all my family at Christmas.
Not being allowed to uphold my place in the family as a beloved mother and nanny splintered my heart into a million pieces.
Rather than repeat past trauma just because the actions of loved ones had hurt and continued to hurt me, I chose to see it all as a profound lesson in love.
I cannot remember my mother hugging me or letting me sit on her knee. In the years that mattered to me, she never said “I love you” or “I’m so proud of you”. I yearned for her approval, a hug or a gentle word, for her to see me. But it never came.
I parented from a lack of self-love. My brand of mothering compensated for all the love I imagined I didn’t receive growing up. Relationships with my three children were rooted in co-dependency.
I ended my long marriage so their father could go live with the woman he said he loved. I never left my kids. I left their father. At the height of my own grief and loss, I stayed close to help my children and grandchildren heal.
What generational karma was I doomed to repeat?
I was guided back to my mother. How come she parented me the way she did? What was it like for her growing up? I allow mum to share with me her story in the hope I might better understand my own.
I learned how not having a mother in her life seriously distorted mum’s view of the world — and herself. How at 18 months old, she was placed back in the family to be raised by her grandparents. Mum was devastated she was shipped off to boarding school as a young girl. Her two unmarried aunts raised her after mum’s grandparents died. Her missing parents never came to claim her.
These old maid aunts, who lived relatively sheltered lives growing up in the family home, became my grandparents.
Mum shared that she missed out on loving cuddles, feeling wanted, being treated tenderly growing up. Locked inside of her was a wounded, abandoned child who, in many ways, was incapable of the kind of love I needed. And that wasn’t her fault!
For all her inability to show demonstrative love, mum stood by me (with dad), never withdrawing her love when I turned my back on her. When I felt she was not the mum I needed or deserved, mum waited and held space for me to grow.
I understand now. Mum was always trying to be the best mother she knew how. She never allowed bitterness to poison her love for her seven children, no matter how heartbroken she might have been. I realise that mum’s been my lighthouse. And I love her for it.
Perhaps my children will in time see me in the same light. A flawed woman and mother who loves them with all her heart.
I needed to close the circle.
So I picked my moment to sit with mum, hold her hand, and say sorry. To own my part in her suffering and beg her forgiveness. Mum gave it without hesitation. I took the lead and told mum I loved her. That I am blessed to have her in my life. For the first time I can remember, she voiced how she loved me back. We held hands and let our tears dissolve years of suffering.
This inner healing work of self-forgiveness and reconciliation with my mother allowed me to build bridges with my son and two daughters. I got to meet and hug all nine of my grandchildren, with whom I now stay connected. I want to think we are on the way to rebuilding healthy, loving relationships.
A wise OB/GYN doctor delivering my firstborn in California in the early 80s passed on a nugget of wisdom that’s stayed with me through the years. While stitching me up after a distressingly long and painful forceps delivery, he said, “You know Mrs R, pushing that baby out was the easy part!”
I didn’t know the truth of those words then. But I do now.
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Love, light & laughter