Happy Mother’s Day!
When a woman bears children is she ever truly prepared to be a mother? I really don’t think anything will prepare any woman for motherhood. It’s often one of those roles we assume because it has to be done and like real troopers, we go out and do it as best we can. Granted, many women march into that battlefield with no idea what the outcome will be, no idea how long the battle might drag on, no idea what it’s really about, or if it even is a battle at all. Motherhood is an adventure into the great unknown, a new land with borders undefined, where you have no idea who or what you will encounter. No matter how much you prepare yourself, you are never really prepared for everything that will come your way. No amount of wisdom from the mothers that were and the mothers that be is enough to deal with the strangers who push themselves into your life kicking and screaming, or the strangers they pull into your life as they make their way through this world. In the end, although we think we know them more than anyone else in the world, we are sometimes the most surprised to learn we know very little about them and still we leave our arms and hearts open to them regardless of what they bring to us. When we have reached that stage, we know without a shred of doubt that we are mothers.
In a lighter mood, mothers are a favorite subject in many a verse and their virtues are extolled by their literary progeny. When we are faced with all the twists and turns and surprises of mothering, it helps to smile, no matter how wry the reason. As Emily Dickinson puts it:
I’m sure, at many a whim
Of Her eccentric Family —
Is She so much to blame?
This is not to say mothers are paragons of virtue. We all carry an image of the ideal mother in the backs of our minds yet it is no guarantee that any woman who bears a child lives up to that ideal. More often than not women become the mothers they are exposed to, based on the mother-daughter relationships they experience or strive to achieve. Sometimes, women try to compensate for a relationship they never had, try to be the mother they wanted rather than the mother they had. More often, though, women end up becoming their mothers. I think this is true mostly when girls have no other mother-figures in their lives as they grow up and decide how to live their lives. This brings me to wonder how many women actually decided what kind of mother they would be when they did become mothers. I suspect most women simply grow up, bear children, and default to whatever practices they learned from their mothers, whatever practices they experienced. This is all well and good if they grew up in a healthy relationship with their mothers if their mothers were the ideal mothers they believe in. What happens if their mothers were not at all ideal? In the same way nobody is perfect, we will be sorely challenged to find the perfect mother. I would argue, however, that what is ideal is not necessarily perfect. What is ideal is what is best for a specific situation. In that way, your ideal mother might not be the same as my ideal mother, even if they might have several similar traits. It is those traits we probably all seek, and those same traits women who want to be good mothers should strive towards. I don’t imagine the traits I believe the ideal mother should have are any different from most people: nurturing, loving unconditionally, supportive, encouraging, enabling, patient, kind, open-minded, warm, generous. If all mothers possessed these traits, I imagine we would have a lot fewer problems in this world.