Being a good mother is like being a good anything. You can strive to attain it, or you can just do it.
From the attainment side, it’s a question of choosing the right rules to follow and living up to them, being consistent. Defining the role and devoting yourself to it. Measuring up. Failure and success. Effort.
And from the inside? Being a good mother is a question of passing on your power. Your hard-won inner light, your confusion, your realness and your boundaries.
Because whatever you do as a mother, the default program, like it or not, is to pass on who you are. No set of rules, which you agree with intellectually, even those chosen with the greatest intelligence and good will, are going to stop you passing on your own denial, confusion, anger, ad infinitum.
All those things you have “ruled out” will sneak in under the radar. The whole message is what children hear, not the carefully chosen words. They hear instinctively, with their bodies, their nervous systems, their emotions and all those interconnections that we bundle up into a thing called intuition.
So if you are trying to be good, for fear of the consequences of being your natural “bad” self, your children will pick up fear and tension. Measuring up. Failure and success. Effort. They will learn how to be good, of course. And how it feels to be good—at best a momentary respite from the constant striving.
They might as well decide that being bad is a more fulfilling option or they might not even discern that option, it might seem impossible. One of the most difficult things about being a mother is coming to terms with the fact that whatever you “give” your children, good or bad, what they make of it is out of your control.
Being a good mother from the inside, then, is about taking care of—or indeed unleashing—your own light and power. This may take a lot of work, not on being a good mother, but being a ‘good you’.
As a result, while sometimes being hurt or confused or inconsistent or all these things at once, you will nonetheless transmit the message that you are able to live all these things, because they are normal, human states, not signs that you are bad or are doing something wrong.
So you won’t be creating extra tension by fighting the “bad stuff,” trying to control it or pretending that it is not there. You will send out a message that it’s basically alright to be how you are, to feel what you feel, that you are more than those transitory states, however devastating they might be at the time.
Children who grow up with this message are not sent off into adulthood with a guarantee of not f**king up.
But they should know in their guts, at the very least, that if their resilience is ever stretched to breaking point, if it ever snaps, if they ever feel unable to love themselves as they are, their mother will, because she knows how.
Sarah Luczaj is a poet, person centred counsellor/therapist and translator from the UK, living in rural Poland, where she runs an online therapy practice and face to face therapy practice (the latter in Polish!). Once a regular writer for the Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life blog, she is now busy focusing, writing a PhD on no-self in therapy, laughing at just about everything and attempting to grow vegetables.
Editor: Sarah Winner
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