This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Some women seem to know the terrain of motherhood by heart. I am not one of those women. As a motherless mother, I have always felt like a foreigner in this land of mothers, desperate to learn the language, adopt the customs, and cultivate my maternal instincts.
Throughout my life, I sought a mother guardian to take me in hand and show me how to live my life as a female. I continually looked to other women who were doing what I longed to be doing and tried to imitate their behavior in a way I was never able to do with my own mother. This pattern encompassed all aspects of my life and gained momentum around my own role as a mother. No matter how much I educated myself on the domain of mothering and child development, I felt a sharp internal distinction between what was learned and what was known.
So lovely is this world of mothering but so much of it I did not fundamentally understand. With no personal landmarks or reference points, no memories of songs or stories, gestures of comfort or delight, I have not been touched firsthand by its magical force. My childhood was defined by not having a mother. It was a life of secrets and things being taken, of being captive and despised, of chaos and emotional starvation. Though I fully believed that I would avoid the world of mother as I had known it, I wasn't clear on how to develop an unwavering faith in my capabilities. I was anxious to find my way and convinced myself that as someone with no solid mothering background, I needed guidance. Perhaps I had been told too often that I was incompetent as a girl, but by the time I was ready to give birth, I was certain I needed someone to teach me the specifics.
The woman who filled that position in my life in the weeks following my son's birth, became a surrogate mother for me, and a wonderful one at that, but in giving myself over to her like a child following a mother's lantern through the dark night, I forfeited something. In those first months, I saw myself as an apprentice mother, a mother in training, not the one who set the course and lived the life with this child swaddled to my breast. In the end, it was not the instruction or the assistance that was costly, it was that I allowed my bond with my son to be shaped by others because I did not trust myself. And this was a route I would follow again and again, looking for some elusive law of mother rather than living my mother life. It took months for me to define the intimate space that belongs to myself and my child without constantly measuring everything that I did against someone else's philosophy. To form myself as a mother, I had to break apart and reform. I am a new creation and I am evolving.
So when I first saw the topic for this month's carnival dealing with how I have been or would like to be a role model for other mothers, I was despondent. As much as I wish that I could point to something I have done as a mother that has inspired someone around me, I did not see myself as an outspoken advocate on mothering by my words or by actions. Though I have a graduate degree in psychology and education, and consider myself not only well-read but obsessively read, I was not and am not an expert on breast feeding, or baby wearing strategies, or home cooked baby foods, or holistic remedies, or elimination communication, or any of the missions of natural parenting, though I now have some experience with all of them.
To even consider myself as a role model for other mothers made me anxious; the thought of trying to write about it seemed impossible. What business then did I have to even enter any writing this month? I didn't, or thought I didn't, until an old friend visited me this weekend. She spoke at some length about the themes on my blog and how much she felt I had grown as a woman and as a mother over the course of this year. She shared that she was inspired as she read my posts by how much joy I find in life, despite my complicated history and my complex present with a young son and a husband undergoing chemotherapy in preparation for a stem cell transplant. She said that my stories motivated her to look deeply at her life and her desires.
In many ways my life is not what other women would want--years of struggle to become a mother because of my husband's life threatening illness and now a new mother with a life in jeopardy because of this same illness. I am in an unenviable position and because of this I often feel separated from other mothers. I know that people see darkness when they look at my life and yet this is what I have right now to offer up as an example---my life and what I make of it--and though it is not what I had in mind for reasons too numerous to list, I can and will see beyond the difficulties to a world of many colors. I am under pressure right now, on a journey the magnitude of which I would never choose, and it would be dishonest to claim that I am not weighed down many days with doubts and heavy hopes.
This was not the life I desired for my child. I hoped for perfect security with everything in place. Instead we have ever shifting pieces and concerns, but I remind myself regularly that we don't have to be adrift. I can anchor us. Our life can be brilliant while it mends. We can be in this moment and listen to music and splash in the water and read a wonderful book and still frequent the hospital and have days of fear and worry that do not touch our child's appreciation for walking barefoot in the grass for the first time. My life is a gift even though some days it breaks my heart. It is a delicate life, but a beautiful one.
Though I cannot provide a road map for other mothers facing obstacles whether from their past, their present or their future, is it possible that in following my tracks on this path on which I swiftly walk that I can offer up something of value? It may not be instruction and it may not be an example for everyone, but can I aspire to show a woman who is thriving as a mother despite some difficult circumstances and in doing so, give hope to those who need it? Can I put my experience, both personal and professional, to best use so that someone else can get their bearings on this often challenging motherhood journey? In making my spiritual path as a woman and a mother visible, can I provide a framework for people in similar situations or even not so similar situations that may ease whatever burdens they face? Can I inspire people to find beauty in what they have? Can I show that even if you wound up where you are without desiring it, you can still make it work? Can I illustrate how a mother can come to mothering in a way not at all how she predicted and still have it be amazing? Or how a mother can come to mothering with little mothering in her own life and step outside of the skin of her childhood and also claim that skin and make that skin fit comfortably once again?
Despite all of my starts and stops, I am falling into a rhythm as I continue down this road. I hope to show that one can have an unimpressive start on all fronts and still grow in ways you never imagined. I have spent years guiding people on how to live an authentic and inspired life as a therapist and coach, and though I have attempted to do the same with my own life, I have not always succeeded. This round, I plan to go further than I have before. I want to show endurance in the face of danger and maintain joy and beauty for my child and my family and friends. I will to continue to extend roots into a community of parents despite my need to put my energy toward my family's survival. I want to grow and deepen in color, to provide beauty and shelter for those who need it, become a destination for those who aren't sure where to go.
Right at this moment, I am taking root and pushing out new growth--limbs, leaves and petals for all to see. I am an example of mothering on the edge and in the center. I own what is mine. I see it for what is is and am willing to share it. At this moment, I believe I can know without knowing everything.
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Woman Seeking Inspiration — Seeking Mother's struggles and joys to find her own path in motherhood have inspired others — to her surprise! (@seekingmother )
- Paving the Way — Jessica at This is Worthwhile makes a conscious effort every day to be a role model. (@tisworthwhile )
- No Rules Without Reason — The Recovering Procrastinator wants to inspire her husband to discipline their children gently. (@jenwestpfahl)
- Creating a Culture of Positive Parenting Role Models — Michelle at The Parent Vortex shows parents at the playground how to do a front wrap cross carry and tells nurses about her successful home births, as a way of modeling natural parenting in public. (@TheParentVortex)
- Making A Difference for Mamas — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest took an embarrassing pumping incident at work and turned it into an opportunity for all the employees who breastfeed.
- Inspiring Snowflakes — Joni Rae at Tales of Kitchen Witch Momma is a role model for the most important people: her children. (@kitchenwitch)
- Paying it Forward — Amber at Strocel.com inspires new (and often scared) mamas with these simple words: "It will be OK." (@AmberStrocel)
- A SAHD's View on Parenting Role Models — Chris at Stay At Home Dad in Lansing doesn't have many role models as a SAHD — but hopes to be one to his daughter. (@tessasdad)
- Am I a Role Model? A Review — Deb at Science@home brings attachment parenting out of the baby age and shows how it applies (with science fun!) to parenting through all of childhood. (@ScienceMum)
- Say Something Good — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick reminds women that it is within our right to be proud of ourselves without apology. (@RaisingBoychick)
- Try, Try Again — Thomasin at Propson Palingenesis wants to inspire like the Little Engine that Could.
- I'm a Parenting Inspiration, Who Knew? — Sarah at OneStarryNight has received several beautiful comments about just what an inspiration she has been, if not in real life then definitely online. (@starrymom)
- That Little Thing — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing demonstrates the ripple effect, one status update at a time. (@BlkWmnDoBF)
- How Has Your Day Been? — mrs green @ littlegreenblog inspired her friend to be an active listener for her children. (@myzerowaste)
- No, Thank You! — If you are reading Maman A Droit's post, you've probably inspired her. (@MamanADroit)
- My Top 3 Natural Parenting Principles — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now describes how her family's natural and Montessori principles inspired others. (@DebChitwood)
- My Hope for a Better Life — Mandy at Living Peacefully With Children hopes her choices inspire her children toward a better life.
- Natural Parenting Felt Natural — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes didn't plan on natural parenting — but her son led her there. (@sheryljesin)
- Rest. Is it even possible? — Janet at where birth and feminism intersect has found that even role models need rest — and that there are ways to fit it into everyday parenting life. (@feministbirther)
- May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model — Lauren at Hobo Mama was the fortunate recipient of a seed of inspiration, and has been privileged to plant some of those seeds herself, though she didn't know it at the time. (@Hobo_Mama)
- crunchspiration — the grumbles at grumbles and grunts wants to inspire others to parent from their heart. (@thegrumbles)
- No Extra Inspiration Required — Zoey at Good Goog doesn't think she inspires anyone and wasn't inspired by anyone in return — except by her daughter. (@zoeyspeak)
- Upstream Parenting — Luschka at Diary of a First Child blogs for that one mother in one hundred who will find her words helpful. (@diaryfirstchild)
- Parenting Advice for the Girl from Outer Space — If Mommy Soup at Cream of Mommy Soup could give one piece of inspirational advice to new parents, it would be to parent with kindness. (@MommySoup)
- Natural Parenting Carnival — Role Model — Sarah at Consider Eden feels the pressure at trying — and failing — to live up to her role models. (@ConsiderEden)
- May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role Model — Dionna at Code Name: Mama encourages natural parenting mamas to take joy in the fact that they are touching lives and making a difference to children every day. (@CodeNameMama)
- Inspiration Goes Both Ways — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! is flustered that people consider her a breastfeeding role model — but the lovely comments she's received prove it's so. (@bfmom)
- My Seven — Danielle at born.in.japan has identified seven role models in her life who brought her to natural parenting. Who are your seven? (@borninjp)
- A Quiet Example — Alison at BluebirdMama was one of the first parents in her group of friends — and has come to see almost all those friends follow in her natural birthing footsteps, whether intentionally or not.
- Gentle Discipline Warrior — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries has inspired a gentle discipline movement — join her! (@babydust)
- Change The World... One Parent At A Time — Mamapoekie is more comfortable inspiring parents online than she is in real life. (@mamapoekie)
- Inspirational Parenting — pchanner at A Mom's Fresh Start has intentionally tried to be a role model but was unprepared for how soon someone would take notice. (@pchanner)
- My Inspiration — Erin at A Beatnik's Beat on Life has written thank-you letters to everyone who's inspired her to become the lactivist and natural parenting advocate she is today. (@babybeatnik)