It’s long been assumed that motherhood brings meaning to our lives. We guide, love, nurture and support our offspring and sometimes feel appreciated in return — all elements that can fuel our connectedness and satisfaction in the world. It’s easy to find meaningful moments as a mom, but it’s when things are tough that it seems we don’t know how to interpret what meaning is. What if the greatest reward and meaning of being a mother is the growth our children force us to do?
Being a parent is a very hard job no matter how you slice it, but to further the true blessing that children are is to work equally hard on being conscious and mindful of the growth our kids call forth in us. Perhaps your patience needs work or your critical side needs to be quieted or you need to learn compassion or you could stand to give up some perfectionism. Parenting in a kind and loving way can only come if we face these issues in ourselves. Maybe this is the true meaning behind being in relationship with these souls.
There is no greater hot button for me than feeling rendered irrelevant or ineffective. Not being able to calm and fussy baby or now, a pre-teen who is convinced they are unpopular and therefore unworthy of living are circumstances that can set me off into an irrational frustration that usually results in an ugly scene. I might yell or let something come out of my mouth that is less than constructive. Shame follows instantly but it has taken years to massage this issue into a submissive state where I can stay reasonably conscious and restrain from acting out of a lower consciousness. (i.e. dysfunctional behavior)
I know better. I teach people how to communicate more effectively, I teach spiritual concepts, I have practiced yoga and meditation. Why is this still hard? Because this is the real work. These children (I have a total of three) make me face my own demons, my own feelings of helplessness or unworthiness. It is only as I work through them that I can really be free and present for them. It is only through their presence refining me, the grain sand in the oyster, that a pearl will emerge. A pearl that brightens things for everyone once the work is done.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about mom being perfect before she can parent. It’s about the path that dishes out its bumps and makes us better because of them. Our children are part of those bumps. Their problems are our problems, their personalities hand picked to iron out the wrinkles in our being, their triumphs ours to hope we had something to do with.
Each of my children shines a spotlight on the places where my capacity for love can stand to grow. Of course, they are all talented and beautiful and I love them more than anything, but they also grow me. And growth is often painful or at least uncomfortable. They are here FOR us — to grow us — they don’t come to us to just be lovely adornments to our life who exist to make us happy.
My fussy baby/pre-teen is very sensitive and TLC from mom is often not effective. I am still working on the patience and bandwidth needed to find an entry to his psyche that allows comfort and connection. It comes often but it’s an unpredictable series of attempts through the maze of his wiring to open him back to breathing at ease with the flow of life. It’s work and it’s a testament to love that we hang in there together to get back to it.
My middle child can be petulant and needs to be right at all costs. ARGH! Despite being beautiful, caring and talented in many creative ways, her resistance is a common stumbling block to discipline, cooperation and negotiation. Our relationship causes me to be confronted with my own need to be right. It took me a couple of years to learn that a power struggle was not going to be the answer.
I had to give up the fight to be right and learn not to be hooked by the pull of that game. I found a way to stay above the fray like a mature adult should (if they didn’t have their own wounds) and guide her to her own answers that often show her how very mistaken her logic is! Of course, I don’t gloat but I have finally learned to unhook from the drama that she is so good at creating.
My youngest has introduced me to the world of having a child with special needs. He’s had a seizure disorder and we’ve entered the world of special education. After four years, we have suddenly gone into remission and are hoping to be pronounced cured soon. The growth being asked of me through this child has been about trusting my judgment before that of experts and advocating for my child medically and education-wise. He has grown me into a warrior. Not a barbaric warrior, but rather a force to reckoned with who will draw on whatever strength I may not have even known I had to do right by him. Despite doubt, worry and sleepless nights, the challenge has been to remain mentally strong enough to keep looking for solutions and believe in my son’s ability to heal. Trying to stay in love instead of in fear. This has been part of my personal journey and what I work with clients on and here, it has been tested more and more.
Meaningful connections as mothers? Certainly! Always a sunny, easy ride? Hardly ever! Our children are in reality ministers to our soul’s growth. They have a higher calling then whatever their careers turn out to be. We have to let our little ministers to their very big work. Even if we, their mothers, are the greatest work they came to transform.
©2009 Laura Berman Fortgang, author of The Little Book on Meaning
Laura Berman Fortgang, author of The Little Book on Meaning: Why We Crave It, How We Create It, is a nationally renowned speaker and life coach, helping individuals, small businesses, and corporations forge new directions and weather change. Recently ordained as an interfaith minister, she lives in Montclair, New Jersey.