Removing the Red Cape: Reflections on Motherhood Part 2 (Mother’s Day Series)

Removing the Red Cape:

Reflections on Motherhood Part 2

Mother’s Day Series

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

I must confess that for this particular Mother’s Day, I feel somewhat guilty. A day set apart to honour mothers, (myself, now included) comes with it an expectation that the honour you receive, you receive because you’ve earned it (and sometimes this just isn’t the case).

But, before you can even answer to it, you must first be able to recognize what it is that you’re supposed to fulfill. And so, Mother’s Day, is especially for me, a time of introspection, a tally, a measuring-up of “Mommy character,”—essentially a secret inventory of a job well done—or not so.

And I have felt more towards the polarity of the “not so” end of the metaphorical measuring stick. And trust me on this; this isn’t my form of self-deprecation in order to gain sympathy votes, second-hand compliments, or coerced empathy. I know I can be a much better mother than I am right now.

The ideology of motherhood is often times antiquated with sainthood or heroism, and rightly so, on many counts—but a far cry from the reality of the “Mommy”-everyday- experience.

An image of the Virgin Mary

One’s own failings in motherhood is a taboo subject; the underbelly of hushed tones, secret guilt, regret and anxiety. One that isn’t openly discussed unless in a private confessional between a most trusted friend or partner.

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But, this post is not about bashing mothers or “poor” motherhood skills—especially on Mother’s Day. It’s a sober reminder to myself and others that motherhood is more than an honour badge we wear alongside our stretch marks, adoption papers, or personal commitments to be the primary caregivers to the child or children in our lives.

It’s a daily act of love, discipline, role modelling, and sacrifice—one that we, as mothers know innately by experience, rather than the often-idealized media coverage that permeates our social and subconscious understanding.

I wasn’t born with a natural red cape that enables me to zoom heroically from one parent interview to the next soccer game, nor from the kitchen to whip up an extravagant breakfast menu to the grocery store to battle inflated product prices or egos in a perpetual line-up.

Supergirl

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Nor was I born with special telepathic powers to decipher my children’s encoded baby language or his or her complicated “demands.” And no, even though there are countless “guidebooks” on parenting, I have yet to read them all or retain the diversity of their opinions and advice especially when faced with the all-time infamous questions:

“Okay, what do I do now? What’s the best approach? How should I handle this?”

So, minus the red cape, the telepathic powers, and the guidebooks, I’ve pretty much learned from scratch and “on-the-job.”

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Here are the top five things I try to keep in mind when a red cape, telepathic powers, or a guidebook is especially needed:

1. My children are unique. I shouldn’t compare them to others.

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Children “measuring their height.”

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Milestones are wonderfully time-stamped into our memories, but not necessarily with a time-stamp guarantee. I often hear from relatives or others, “Well, you know, so-and-so? They already started crawling/walking/talking/going to the potty…,” etc., when my child is deemed a “late bloomer.” The mistake here would be to take this into account and over-analyze your child’s milestone record, subjugating yourself and your child to unnecessary pressure.

2. Motherhood is not a competition. “My way” is not better than another’s.

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Mothers racing to the “Best Mommy” Finish Line.

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Female friends and relatives who are also mothers tend to give us advice when they see we might be having a little “Mommy” trouble in effective parenting whether we ask for it or not. And sometimes this exchange can get a little heated if your parenting philosophy differs from somebody else’s. And sometimes it borderlines a sense of parenting rivalry rather than friendly and useful advice. When this happens, I remind myself that motherhood is not a competition. I don’t need to be a “better” mother than someone else. I’d much rather be the best kind of mother I can be for my children.

If this happens, just shake that competition chip off your shoulder and understand that motherhood is an honourable and diverse tradition, one that should be celebrated with one another. Relax, you’re doing a good job.

3. Model the behaviour you’d like to see in your children.

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It’s really that simple. They see, they hear, they learn—and they do. And they’ll do as you do. If there are particular things you would rather not see your child do, best not to give them the personal first-hand lesson by doing it yourself. Integrity is an important foundation of character. It can be learned. But it can also be better enforced when it has a living example.

4. Motherhood is not sainthood. Don’t be a martyr.

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Remember the red cape? Yes, we don’t have one, nor should we. There are times when our energy will be low, when we need to renew and return to more than who we are as mothers and remind ourselves that being a mother is only one facet that encompasses the entirety and complexity of being a woman. Rest. Relax. Return to things, interests, and relationships that rejuvenate who you are outside of being a mother.

5. Enjoy your children and your relationship with them.

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My two little ones playing in the backyard. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The younger your children, the more dependent they are on you as a mother. Sometimes this dependency can feel burdensome (especially when you’re tired). Or when you’re swept by the flurry of a busy and active life and plans in spending “quality time” with your children get conveniently pushed further down your agenda calendar or your “To Do List”—until you realize you’ve missed a great opportunity in knowing and spending time with them.

My son is seven-years-old and my daughter is two. They won’t always be. And before I know it, they’ll be leaving the “nest” and I’ll be yearning for the past, their youth, and our time together as it could have been or was. This is a fatal mistake. Our children never stop being our children by relation—but they do eventually grow up and leave.

Best to pause, re-think that schedule, and re-prioritize your time with your children. Your influence in their lives is integral to who they become later. But, apart from that, the joy of sharing a life with your children can never be re-lived, imitated, or compensated for. Do what you should and can now-–and continue beyond the empty nest. You won’t regret it and neither will they.

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And since The Bibliotaphe’s Closet is home to book lovers, here are a few book suggestions that celebrate motherhood in celebration of Mother’s Day:

Are You my Mother?

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My Mother Is Mine

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Stay Close to Mama

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On Mother’s Lap

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Where’s My Mommy?

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Someday

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If you’re a mother and/or parent, what advice do you give yourself when you don’t have a red cape to wear in times you need to “come to the rescue?”

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Because of Mother’s Day, be sure to check out this upcoming week’s feature on Children’s Books with Asian themes in correspondence to The Asian Heritage Month Blog Event.

To read more on the Mother’s Day Series, you can visit here.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Let’s honour our children and our mothers today!

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