We view motherhood through a prism of what we have experienced as children, and what we experience of our own children. We are aware of how we are viewed culturally, and what expectations surround us in society. There is always so much to think about, to unpick. Most of us want to find a place where we parent in a way that seems authentic to us, without constantly reacting to the things we absolutely do not want to pass onto our children.
Since Ava was born, I am struck, every day, by how separate and whole a person she is. By how damaging it is to assume she, or any of my children, would be an extension of who I am. I often think of one of the best parenting books I’ve read, ‘Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting’, and what the Kabat-Zinns call ‘sovereignty’.
I look at both of my kids, and I see two people who are entirely unique, whose lives belong only to them. It is much easier to find a way to be gentle and respectful when you see children as whole, important people deserving of their own sovereignty. They are not mine to treat as a I wish. They do not belong to me.
‘Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.’
I often heard, growing up, the idea that we owed people for our lives. That we were under constant obligation, driven by guilt of disappointing, or guilt of not being who we were expected to be. Some of us learned to accept being treated in a less than dignified way because our lives didn’t feel like our own, to begin with. It took me 27 years, and the onset of motherhood, to understand that that wasn’t true and certainly not how I wish to treat my own kids.
But I chose to have children. I chose them. They do not owe me. They do not owe me their lives, and nor should they have to live in a way that isn’t right for them, just to please me.
‘You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday’
That means I hold myself accountable for how I act with them. I don’t get a free pass because I’m their mother (a notion I feel strongly goes against everything I believe in). I think I owe them more, not less, than anyone else. They should expect more from me, because I chose to bring them into this world, and now it is up to me to treat them with the love and kindness they deserve.
I chose them, and now they are here, I hope they choose me too. Not out of guilt, or obligation but because I am a person they trust, who brings them joy and who loves them unconditionally.
(Quotes from ‘On Children’ by Kahlil Gibran)