Mothers give birth every day and babies emerge, cry, sleep, burp, feed, babble and grow into adults. But beneath that typical story most every mother detects an intense fragility. We know that in the silence are mothers who have lost their children and babies who have lost their mothers.
I do not see it as pathological that mothers feel unable to let their guard down or, as many mothers tell me, ‘need to see the baby breathe’.
Simultaneously, we must face the challenge of becoming a mother and the mystery that can haunt us: are we up to the task? We know that the motions of day‐to‐day mothering in which we accomplish ‘nothing’ will nonetheless find us emotionally exhausted and physically spent.
Sitting on the steps of my Playcentre, I chat to a mother who I felt sure was not like me. Her baby slept on command, her toddler was independent, her nappy bag organized and her hair styled beautifully. She was funny and so ‘put together’ that I simultaneously wished I could be her while squirreling away criticisms that she must secretly ignore her children for long periods of time. I liked her in spite of myself. Then one day, in the midst of conversation about an upcoming trip, she slipped in a tiny detail. “It’s a good morning if I can manage to have a shower,” she said. “I wish I could figure out how to do what other mothers so clearly can.” I wanted to hug her. I probably should have.
It is not a failing or weakness to worry as a mum. Nor is it a motherly misdemeanor to not have enough time in the day to cook a proper meal, tidy the house while also making a significant contribution toward the environment or world peace. In times like these, when leaders and journalist question how our youth have gone so wrong, why do we stand in criticism of mothers who are vigilant in their desire to carve out a sphere in which their children can flourish?
It is all too easy to forget how hard we are all trying as mothers to get it right. Our mothering will always be imperfect, but the worry is not our imperfection. The world sees the surface of our lives, just as we can only see the trees above the ground. But if the roots are not digging deep there is no survival. Mothers dig deep with many tools. Our worry is one. It is not who we are as mothers, but it unites us in our love. We love our children enough to worry. And that makes the worry part of our strength.
We love our children enough to worry. And that makes the worry part of our strength.
This piece originally appeared in Issue #4 of The Natural Parent Magazine, 2011.