I’m Winging Motherhood Imperfectly

Every year Mother’s Day stirs up different types of emotions in me as I enter different stages and seasons of motherhood.

I’m missing my mom in different ways now because I identify and understand more facets of her the older I get.

I find myself with more questions about her than answers and no way to resolve or reconcile them. She is no longer a call away and hasn’t been for almost 20 years.

Big milestones and little ones in my life and my kid’s lives get me too because my mom isn’t here to share any of them with us and she would have loved it so much.

Losing a parent isn’t something you ever get over, it’s something you get through.

I lost my mom to breast cancer when I was 26. I got married young at 20 and that season was about trying to figure out married life, jobs, bills, and motherhood a few years later.

Mother and sons at Bryce Canyon

We moved out of state for a few years and unknowingly moved back during the last year of my mom’s life.

It was one of the toughest years of my life as we tried to balance the demands of being in youth ministry in a church undergoing a lot of transition at the time.

At her funeral, I remember being a bit stoic holding back big emotions and trying to be strong for my dad. Of course, no one in attendance would have thought that I wasn’t strong if I cried and visibly mourned over my mom… because that’s a normal reaction.

But this wasn’t my first funeral of an immediate family member and I think parts of feeling alone as a middle schooler have carried with me into adulthood. My only sibling with special needs died in April during my 6th grade year of middle school.

He was non-verbal, had a feeding tube, and was confined to a wheelchair. When he died I didn’t have another sibling to process the trauma with. I had to figure it out and walk through it on my own.

I remember how I dreaded coming back to school after the funeral because I didn’t want to face the awkward attention or pity from other students who knew he died.

That week I was either avoided because it was awkward and they didn’t want to say the wrong thing or it was awkward because they said something and I felt their pity.

There was a part of me that wanted to acknowledge it and a part of me that just wanted to feel normal in that moment and talk about normal middle school things.

My parents were supportive but there was no way to prepare for those moments I had to walk through alone.

And that takes me back to looking at my mom’s casket at the burial site for her gravesite service after her funeral service at the church. I remember staring at a bit of dust on one side of the coffin that was all I could focus on while the pastor was speaking.

A tiny little detail like that would have bothered my mom when she was living and I had to immediately wipe it once everyone dispersed.

It seems like such a silly thing but little things like that would have bothered her because she was such a detailed oriented person.

Back when my brother could go to school she would send extra sets of clothes for my brother that always matched whatever he was wearing that day. She didn’t want him to look mismatched at school if he had an accident from spitting up or in his diaper.

She cared about the details in the art she created, her caregiving, and how she kept her house because acts of service were how she showed love.

I’m reminded of how alone I felt as I tried to process my feelings about her death. My dad and I shared grief but he was grieving his spouse and I was grieving my mom.

And there are parts of me that went back to what I knew from middle school.

I had to be strong on my own. Cry by myself. Suck it up in awkward social situations, where people ignore you or say awkward things.

It’s human nature to only truly understand what you’ve personally experienced.

If you’ve lost a parent, especially when you were younger, there is a kindred understanding of the grief and loss that goes beyond words.

Our individual circumstances and relationship dynamics could be different but there is still a part of us missing regardless.

We try to figure out how to deal with the tension of that void in a variety of ways whether it’s attempting to suppress the emotions whenever we feel them rise up or trying to piece together how the past shapes us today and the stories we tell ourselves, that may not always be true.

I’ve come to terms with missing out on the one person who always had empathy for my situation but I also recognize that having a mom like that was a gift in itself.

It’s not to say that my dad hasn’t but there is something different about a mom who gets it. She knew the unique emotions and challenges of being a woman and motherhood.

And she was the one person who could see if I was stressed or needed to take care of myself.

I didn’t grow up with my mom’s relatives living in the same city and I’ve just had to figure stuff out with the absence of nurture.

When it comes to motherhood I’m winging it imperfectly.

I only had the guidebook modeled by my mom until I was 26. My oldest son was 2 and a half years old when she died and my youngest son never met her.

As I reflect on motherhood in my mid-forties I know that there are things I’ve done well and plenty of areas where I’ve missed the mark.

I’m evaluating mindsets and challenging stories I’ve told myself since I was a kid.

My hope for my kids is that the good hopefully outweighs the stings of the bad from my imperfect parenting.

I think of my mom and the wounds she carried into adulthood from when she was a hurt little girl inside and I have a different empathy for her that I couldn’t understand when I was younger.

I see a bigger generational picture and how all of those pieces come into play from her parents and generations before them.

I know all of us have wounds from our childhood that we carry with us into adulthood. We’re imperfect people who are parenting imperfectly trying to get it right and praying we don’t screw things up for our kids too bad in the process.

It’s important to remember that we don’t have to be alone in this even when we feel like no one else can understand.

My favorite friends lead with vulnerability. It’s always like a breath of fresh air where you feel you can let your guard down. No need to protect the facade of having it all together because no one does.

Having someone say I get it, I see you, is everything, especially during those times when you feel like you’re barely keeping things afloat.

One of the gifts of going through hard things is that you can recognize it when you see someone else in their journey.

My encouragement to you and to myself is to help someone know that they aren’t alone in their tough season.

Each one of us has been through really HARD situations and circumstances. The reality is that in life there are probably multiple things you could write down on that list.

We can uniquely give understanding, encouragement, and empathy to someone who needs it on the other side, whether our story of hardship is relational, financial, emotional, spiritual, or physical…but it starts with vulnerability,

Vulnerability is part of our healing and healing for others.

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