When You’re Mothering From Scratch (Coping With Absentee Mothers)

I popped into Sally Loo’s this morning (espresso con panna + molasses spice cookie = happy mama), before I headed into the iFixit office, and the place was crawling with babies and toddlers. Makes me wish I had Ellie with me, so she could meet some kiddos, and I could have an easy transition to talk to other coffee-loving parents, but I digress.

There was a woman in front of me, presumably about my age, with a little girl on her hip who looked to be about 12 months. Judging by the still-matted patch of hair on the back of the little one’s head, and her lack of desire to be put down, I’d guess she’s not a proficient walker, so maybe she was younger than 12 months. Regardless, the little girl was adorable. Bright blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and tiny little fingers that unconsciously swirled themselves in her mama’s hair. As she rested her chin on her mama’s shoulder, we had a staring contest. She won, on account that I smiled first. (Couldn’t help it.)

After a minute or two of us making eyes at each other, the little girl’s nana walked up, and gave her rapid-fire smootchies on her big soft cheeks, and the little girl giggled. It was too cute. Shifting the little girl to her other hip, the mama looked over at the nana, and asked “ya want a cappuccino? I know how you love ’em.” Nana nods her head, but never loses the little girl’s gaze, now playing tickle on her tiny palms. “Ooooohhh, I just wanna eat you up,” coos Nana, again with the rapid-fire smootchies.

It’s a perfectly normal, perfectly natural interaction, and I’m sure I’ve seen many like it in recent weeks, but for some reason this particular exchange stung me. My throat got tight, and my eyes began to well up, and I ditched my spot in line in favor of the privacy of the restroom.

———-

It’s harder, some days than others, coping with the absence of my mother. Most days I recognize her absence the way one recognizes a blank wall in their home, knowing that there should be a photograph, or a piece of art in that spot, but not having a vision for what it might look like exactly. But other days–days like today–I see a completeness, and a love that I know I don’t have, and I feel envious.

I’m not kidding myself into thinking that if my mother were in my life, that our relationship would be as warm, or as familiar, as the two that I saw in the coffee shop today. I’m not idealizing the relationship. But I want the chance to know what our relationship would look like, if it were healthy. I’m 29 years old, and to this day, I do not know what that feels like. I suppose it’s okay to respect those feelings, even if they hurt, in order to grieve properly, so long as I’m not wallowing. I have very little patience for wallowing.

———-

In so many ways, I feel as if I’m doing this mothering-thing from scratch. Seeing three generations of women all together really pushes that button for me, I guess.

I wonder, does having an active and involved mother of one’s own give one more confidence as a mother? Does having that support, and that wealth of knowledge and experience equip women better for their marriages, and for raising their children? Does everyone else have resources, and support, and knowledge that I don’t have? (That’s my insecurity speaking.)

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but it’s rare that I spontaneously cry in public, so I figure maybe I needed to get that off my chest. And hey, silver lining: I’m not wearing makeup today, so no scary mascara tears!

Some of you have shared having similar relationships with your mother. Do you experience “flare-ups” the way I did today? What triggers them? How do you cope?

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Let’s be friends!

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Beyond Tired: How Exhaustion Effects Everything

As I sit here, I’m in a sort of funk. Have you ever felt completely wrung-out? Just tired on every level? Well that’s where I am today. (But I’m not here to moan and groan, I promise.) Even though this is a lesson I’ve already learned, sometimes it takes re-living it to give the lesson new meaning, and deeper truth. The lesson is simple enough: It’s really hard to remain joyful when you’re exhausted.

I’d call myself a typically optimistic person, except that’s not giving credit where the credit is truly due. My “optimism” (which a lot of my friends and acquaintances find naively endearing) isn’t so much an inherent trait, but rather an all-or-nothing trust I have in the joy and promises given to me by our heavenly father. In my mind’s eye, I read “they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength…” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…” and so many other words and verses, shining like tiny little gems, and hidden away in my heart. And those words sustain me throughout my days, and into my long, late nights. In a way, they’re old friends that I can call on at any hour of the day, for a reminder of what is true.

But something happens to me when I’m tired. And not sleepy-tired, but wrung-out tired. Emotionally raw and sensitive. It’s as if my body knows there’s no rest in sight, so it instinctively reallocates resources to maintain its basic operations. I draw into myself, and those warm familiar words in my mind’s eye grow dim, and disappear. And it’s at that moment that I’m the most vulnerable. It’s at that moment that I lose sight of joy, and of the peace that’s being continually offered to me. And that darkness–that sort of brief, spiritual death–is terrifying.

Not to mention that when I’m that tired, all of my flaws and nasty traits flare up: I become judgmental, short-tempered, impatient, anxious, I eat too much/too little, my stomach hurts, and I usually catch a cold. It’s very Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde, and I’m not proud of it.

So knowing all of this, I feel pretty dense for allowing it to happen. But I’m sure I’m not alone. Most of us (women especially) have bitten off way more than we can chew, continually say “yes” to responsibilities when we should say “no,” and overwork ourselves to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. What I didn’t realize, until this time around, was how much my being exhausted all the time effected me, spiritually.

Can I really offer my family, and offer God, the best of myself, when I’m this tired? Or are they getting what’s left over after all the work is done? And what kind of message am I sending to my daughter about what a grown woman’s life looks like?  I don’t like these questions much, because they poke me in a sore spot, but maybe you guys can relate? Do you have any habits for refreshing yourself throughout the day that you’d like to share? I’ll try them all. 🙂

xoxo,

mj

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Lessons From My 20s: Motherhood is Not Necessarily a Lifetime Commitment

via

I celebrated my 29th birthday on Saturday (the 1st), and because I’m the introspective type, I’ve been thinking a lot about my 20s.

I kind of can’t wait to put some more distance between today-me, and 20 year old me. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that the first half of my 20s was turbulent, and dramatic, and full of questionable decisions and behavior (whose wasn’t?), and the more distance that I have from that season of my life, the more my perspective has improved. And the more I can cut young-me some slack. (She was a hot-mess, for sure.)

The second half of my 20s has been absolutely amazing. It’s been a season of growth, and discovery, and renewal. For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in who I am, and who I’m becoming. Not that it has been easy. I’ve been working harder in the past 4 years than I ever have, and it never lets up. Only now I’m working for me, and I’m investing my time in things that bring me ultimate gratification, namely my family.

On Family

Speaking of family, I’ve learned some lessons about family, too. In early 2011, my mom quit speaking to me. (It’s a longish story as to why, but she has her reasons.) Dealing with the loss of my mother was (and continues to be) really difficult. I’ve experienced loss as a result of death before, but loss of a person that is alive and well is a totally different thing. Grieving the loss of a relationship with someone who is still alive, but chooses to be out of your life, comes with its own set of issues. Especially when that person is your mother. But here’s what that’s taught me about family, specifically mothers and daughters: my mother does not owe me anything. Just because I have an idea in my head of the kind of relationship I’d like to have with my mother, doesn’t mean that my actual mother is the person who is going to fill that need for me. Just because she is my biological mother, doesn’t mean she will mother me, if that makes sense. Just like many fathers don’t actually father their children, mothers can be the same way, and it’s selfish of me to expect that from my mother, just because I was born to her. Motherhood, evidently, is not necessarily a lifetime commitment.

In the same way, it’s conceivable that one day, Ellie (my daughter) might not want a relationship with me. I hate to imagine that, but it’s certainly a possibility. Knowing that she isn’t bound to me for life, I cherish our time together even more. Don’t get me wrong: I hope and pray that we’ll grow closer and closer as we both age, and I want to be active in her life until the day I die, but I know now that she doesn’t owe me a relationship, just because she was born to me. I’d be obliterated if she cut herself off from me one day, but recognizing her agency as an individual has helped me appreciate her as a person with her own identity. I cannot control what kind of person she will become, or what kind of life she will choose for herself, but I can ensure that she will always feel loved and cherished by her mother.

Going Forward

So as I kick-off year 29, I’m reflecting a bit on how I can best communicate to Ellie and Mike that they are ultimately loved, and that they will always have me, both as a mother, and as a wife. No, there’s no law in place saying I have to continue loving and mothering my daughter, or loving my husband, but those are two things that I commit to doing for the rest of my life, not just because it comes naturally, but because it’s my choice. It’s the great joy of my life to love my family, and I’m so blessed to go into my 29th year with the two of them by my side.

On a parting note, did any of you church-folks ever sing that song “His Banner Over Me is Love”? I didn’t grow up in church, so the first time I heard it was in a Sunday School class I was leading. Our speakers weren’t working, so we didn’t have any music for worship. One of the other leaders taught the song to the kids, and I learned it right along with them. I kind of want to paint something for our living room, inspired by that scripture. (Song of Solomon, 2:4: “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.”) If I come up with something I’m not too embarrassed by, I’ll share it with you guys when I’m finished. 🙂

I’ll be back Wednesday to announce a giveaway for a thing that I LOVE so much. I can’t wait!

xoxo, mj

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Let’s be friends!

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Today Was Ordinary

Today I watered the vegetable garden while Ellie trailed behind, “watering can mama. Ellie water!” So I filled Ellie’s watering can, and she watered some radishes, and then her feet. Mostly her feet.

Ellie Bean GodseyToday, we sat at the park and watched a man driving an excavator dump a huge pile of sand into a trench. Ellie was fascinated. “Scoop mama! Biiiiiig scoop. LOUD scoop!” Then Ellie fed me “soup” (sand) out of a “spoon” (dirty old plastic shovel). She climbed into my lap, said “kiss! smooch!” and gave me the biggest, longest, sandiest smooch. Then she took an amazing photo of herself, which I promptly Instagramed.

Today me and Ellie played “chase” all the way home. “Chase” isn’t about hiding or seeking, or even catching. Just chasing.

Today it got too too hot inside the house, so I filled the bathtub with cool water, and we got in and splashed each other and laughed for a good thirty minutes straight. Until our feet shriveled up and got super wrinkly. Then she ran around the house yelling “nakeeeed! naked naked naked!”

Today was so full of those moments where you breathe deeply and realize that you couldn’t be any happier than you are right now, and that you are so darn grateful to be alive. So grateful for today. I can’t believe how blessed I am, not just for today, but for having so many days like today. Every single day is better than the one before it, and what did I ever do to deserve that? I’m humbled at the thought of how little I deserve, yet how richly and abundantly I’m blessed.

Here’s to hoping that your tomorrow is even better than your today. 🙂

Spring Breaking, Shell Beach Style

Now, personally, I haven’t had a “spring break” since the last semester I spent at community college, and even back then it wasn’t anything special. In those days I worked in a bookstore, and if I would have asked for a week off, they would have laughed in my face. So I didn’t want to sacrifice my discount (or book-checkout-privelages) by asking for a vacation, so I never really had the “typical” college spring break. Body-shots in Cancun? How about kicking off my shoes and rereading Pride and Prejudice on my lunch breaks, down by the creek? That’s right. I know how to par-tay.

Fast-forward to nowadays: I’m married to a school teacher and have the most precious little kiddo you ever did see. Since my husband gets two weeks “off” (if you don’t count all of the schoolwork he has to do at home over the break, which, actually, is kind of a lot) for spring break, we get to do wonderful things together as a family, like go on walks! And eat muffins! And play at the park! Forget Christmas, Spring Break is the most wonderful time of the year. Days like today make me so so happy to be alive, and awe-inspiringly grateful to be living the life I’m living. I s’pose it helps that the weather in Shell Beach lately has been fricking exquisite. It smells like happiness and rainbows and sunshine, no joke.

So, in the spirit of celebrating good things, here are some choice photos from today, our first spring-breaky kind of day:

I Am Not a Mom-A-Tron

Something that’s become particularly clear to me this past week, is how easy it is to fall into the maternal trap of trading one’s individuality– that is, the very qualities that make one unique– for the quest of becoming the very best mother one can be. I advised a friend via email recently to give no consequence to his feeling “too old” to attend certain concerts, because “some of us are, by circumstance, made too old to attend” I knew, even then, that I was projecting my sense of loss onto him. (But I still find mine to be sound advice.)

But then I considered: what good does it do Elliott to have a mother who divorces herself from herself? Or for Mike to watch me slowly shape-shift into a single-minded Mom-A-Tron? (He did, after all, marry me, not Mom-A-Tron. Although the more I say it, the more awesome Mom-A-Tron sounds. Like a badass mommy-robot.)

My realization isn’t anything novel or groundbreaking, I’m sure, but here it is: Elliott and I were matched together as mother and daughter (and to Mike as father and daughter), because we are the individuals that we are, and because of the unique inclinations of Elliott’s heart that neither Mike nor myself are even privy to yet. I have to believe that my likes and desires are shaping me uniquely as Elliott’s mother, and that the relationship that Elliott and I are cultivating will be enhanced by those details.

The Happiest Baby

Gratuitous photo of The Bean. Sigh. Feel that? That's your heart swelling full of happiness.

I want Elliott to love me as her mother, but I also want her to know me as an individual that exists in roles in addition to my primary role as her mother. And rather than knowing Elliott singularly as my daughter, I look forward to knowing her as a person, gaining insight into her character, and watching her grow into the many roles that she will play.

I guess that’s all to say that it will not irreparably tarnish my relationship with my daughter if she watches her mother go to a Metric concert with her friends, continues indulging her fascination with haute shades of nail polish, or falls further into the vintage rabbit-hole, sartorially.

And, as usual, I’m not really sure about any of what I just said. But it feels right. As Walter Sobchak asks, “Am I wrong?”

(Polish en ce moment: Essie’s Mint Candy Apple)

Essie's Mint Candy Apple

  • About the Author

    Melissa Jenna Godsey

    I’m a wife, mother, accidental entrepreneur, wisdom seeker, and truth lover. We're trying really hard not to keep up with the Joneses. Click through for the whole story.

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