On my blogging friend Jen's blog (go here) she issued a challenge to any and all to talk about one fault we recognize in ourselves as mothers, and then what we've done (or are doing) to improve ourselves and overcome. I thought to myself (as probably a lot of us do): Where to start? My days of guiding children who are growing up are over, and now I'm in the early stages of grandchildren. As I look back on those earlier days, I am sometimes overcome with remorse at how poorly I handled certain things, and then, almost in the same instant I can become quite warm and fuzzy over so many good memories: rocking my babies to sleep, the way their little shoulders looked from the back, their sweet smell after a bath, kissing their chubby cheeks and just sinking into them, like pillows. I can remember quite clearly thinking that I would be the best mother in the world. I would sit watching my oldest sleep in his crib. Sometimes I would walk into his room in the middle of the night just to watch him sleeping. It all seemed too good to be true. My daughter arrived, and then another son. They were happy, friendly, funny children who had a good time with each other.
I think the one trait I could single out as my Achilles Heel in mothering was my self esteem. I've always had a hard time making choices or decisions, and knowing they were right and correct for me. I usually felt that others would know better. The children grew, I tried to teach them correct principles, I loved them unconditionally, but I had a hard time being happy with me.
As the years went on, my husband and I began to have problems. I take responsibility for a fair amount of it. As usual, I didn't have the confidence to stick to my guns and insist on certain things. We were struggling financially, and I didn't have the confidence to go out and find a job to help out. I was frankly terrified of doing so. I really didn't think I was much good at anything. The only thing I'd ever done that I loved was be a mother, and here I was mucking that up as well. I'll never forget after one fight, finding my oldest sitting in the dark family room (where he'd taken refuge) and crying. He begged us to stop fighting. It broke my heart, and I felt such shame that I'd done that to someone I loved so much, and who I was supposed to protect.
The inevitable happened - our family fell apart. The two youngest came with me, and my oldest decided he should go with his father. The night he told me of his decision I thought my world would end. But instead of having confidence in myself, and keeping the kids together as I know I should have, I let this boy go - thinking that of course he knew better than me. It was probably the worst decision I never made. I just went with the flow, thinking I didn't really know what I was doing. Things have never been the same between him and the rest of us. He's never said, but I think that he felt abandoned. How could he not? There were mitigating circumstances, of course, but I should have stuck with my gut and done the right thing. Instead, I was weak and I gave up - on him, on myself, on our family.
So what have I learned? The divorce was the worst thing I've ever been through. I don't recommend it to anyone. I was frightened, and I had to figure my life out. Alone. It took years, and there are still unhealed wounds, but I finally found out through many hard knocks that I'm smart, and I'm capable. I can make good decisions. I have talent. I am worthy of love, and a second chance. I still have a tendency to be wishy washy and too much of a pleaser, but I'm trying very hard to be more realistic in my expectations of myself. I am better at setting boundaries and making promises that I'm able to keep. I am slowly learning that the perfect vision of things in my head is just that: a vision, a dream. I'm trying to be happy when life gets in the way and my vision has to be scaled down. Keep it simple. Keep it real. And trust myself and my instincts. Turns out that I'm almost always right when I can trust enough to listen to the little voice that guides me in the right direction, instead of looking to someone else to tell me what to do. And I've been so blessed with children who, when their mother was a mess, became the adults and loved me unconditionally. They continue to make me proud, and I'm grateful for their confidence in, and love for me - as well as their great patience. They are the ones who make me strive each day to do the right thing, to improve myself, to lengthen my stride. I am learning to be happy with me, with my decisions, with my life - which makes me a better and more valuable person to my children, grandchildren, and husband.