His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Guilt is a real part of being a mother. The background noise of our hearts- my weaknesses are hurting my kids, if not physically, then most definitely spiritually and emotionally. What they will be at 18, 24, 35, and beyond has everything to do with what happened to them at 5, yesterday, that time when I lost it. And that’s on me- their past is my making. I am their mother for goodness sake, and this casts me as the protagonist. I am the cause and effect of their little lives, and this is terrifying.
Because I am a hot mess- that’s why. I am a serious risk. How can I be responsible for the way things turn out? I am NOT good- not near enough.
This good enough nightmare wakes me up at night, haunts me at the kitchen sink, sneaks up on me at holidays, invades my space when I am snuggling a toddler, steals my memories, blurs our family photos, drowns out the giggles and stories, and feels me with fear on lazy Sunday afternoons.
Good enough- what did I do- what did I not do- what do I need to do?
Like the disciples, I need to know why, why are my children not perfectly happy, and well… perfect? The malignant voice in my head replies, you did it to them, it’s your fault.
This is my experience.
But not my mother, which used to make me angry, until I began to try and understand how and why my mother does not cast herself as the protagonist of my childhood. At first I judged this to be a lack of enlightenment, we millennium moms know better. I am older now, five kids deep- 21 to 8, married for 25 years, and I would say that most days I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew. And who do I call in need of rescue- my mother- the one who knows how to write herself out of the script.
Moms in times past seem to have a laid back vibe that is impossible to pull of these days. Because maybe they were not laid back. Maybe our moms weren’t these aloof, free spirit, self-centered gurus that are portrayed in throwback sitcoms. Maybe our moms were silent doers. Always engaged without being the center of attention. My mom was not the center of my existence because she did not cast herself in that role. She let me play that part. This is the reason I believe my mom does not experience mom-guilt.
My story is not her story.
What I do becomes what I did, and if that becomes what will be, then for me this is hopeless and terrifying. Because I am only good enough as I reflect on what I should have done. In real time I am no saint. In the now, I am not good enough to prevent the the horrific future I imagine will happen if I am not good enough- yet, I know I am not good enough. Yet, I try. I fail. I try again. And I fail and flounder in fear and guilt; whining, emotional, always scrounging for sage advice and remedies. And this is psychological terror.
But what if I have it all wrong? What if all this roaming about in the caves of my motherhood consciousness is not necessary? Not the path? Not the way?
What if we as mothers, as scary and radical as it might be, just write ourselves out of the script? Can this even be done without becoming inattentive and in-affectionate? A bad mom?
Yes. And the thought of being okay with how things are, makes giving this a try worth the risk. I think we can be free of the psychological torment of modern motherhood. And we should… because behind the curtain of perfection, what we experience is a lack of meaning and despair. Being a mother is not fulfilling or desirable when we live in constant fear- the fear of not being perfect and the implications we imagine our weaknesses will have on our children.
One of the most peculiar realities of growing older as a mother is that time has a way of eroding my sense of knowing. Things fall apart, without notice, maybe over time, but eventually things just get messy in parenting. When all my kids were little it was easier to do all the things, control all the things, be all the things, say all the things. Now, it seems I find myself out of steam before the track ends. And who is there to make up the difference, take up the slack?
My kids! They are the real protagonists. Not me.
I am prideful. It was pride that tormented me all those years.
But not Mary, not my Mom. Not mothers who work diligently behind the scenes; cooking, cleaning, praying, instructing, loving, pondering, and being perfect by not being obsessed with being perfect.
My Mom says something beautiful to me ever so often, especially in times when I am struggling with the guilty mom virus, “I was not a perfect mother, but I loved you perfectly.” What a treasure she is to me.
The works of God are displayed in the broken- even not perfect kids and not perfect mothers.