On Monday, I asked my female friends about their mother’s day. When they reciprocated, I found myself torn between telling the truth or sugar-coating it. The truth is that it was one Sunday I’d like to forget. I was not feeling well, to begin with. My husband was sweet and reserved a lunch time beforehand and bought me a nice gift. My kids’s acknowledgment of the day was not so wonderful. Sure, my son gave me a card he made in school and my daughter crafted a heart out of Legos (which was cool!). These are lovely gestures, but I had expectations. I wanted my kids to tell me how much they loved and appreciated me. I wanted them to wake me up with hugs and kisses. I wanted to feel that all my hard work in trying to be a great parent was recognized.
IT WAS NOT!
At first, I was grumpy and upset, even a bit resentful. In truth, I felt sorry for myself. As I viewed people’s Facebook posts, my sense of disappointment increased. Look at all these pictures of moms with their happy children. They write about their children being amazing and how lucky they are to be their mother.
I posted nothing and felt even more pity for myself. I began questioning my parental efficacy and even my own gratefulness. I thought, I am committed to cultivating compassion, kindness and gratitude, but my kids didn’t show any of this to me on this special day. I should have publicized my gratitude for being a mother. I am a crappy mother and a horrible compassion teacher.
And so the evil inner critic was released from her cell.
It took me until this morning to remember how my children are my greatest teachers. Parenting, being a mother, challenges us in ways I never wanted to be challenged. Yet, I am so grateful for it now that I have begun a compassion cultivation practice. Norman Rosenberg, the founder of Non-Violent Communication, states, “It’s possible to understand all unskillful behavior as a tragic expression of an unmet need.” My disappointment in not being celebrated in the way I wanted had little to do with my children’s appreciation for me. It had to do with my deep sense of unworthiness and the seeking of it’s eradication by receiving adulation from my children. That’s a huge expectation to put on children, or anyone. Yet, this is a common unmet need and even more common unskillful response. I know there are other moms out there who have experienced this and I hope they know they are not alone.
Now, I could have easily let my inner critic hijack my relationship with this experience. In the past I would have allowed her to fuel the untruth that I was a terrible parent and that I do not deserve appreciation. I would have judged myself harshly especially by comparing myself to others who I perceived as having these easy going relationships with their children. The story I would have written may sound very familiar. Instead, I was able to quiet her voice through self-compassion and put my experience in perspective (albeit it took a couple of days).
I still have a life long journey in eradicating my sense of unworthiness, but self-compassion is a powerful practice that helps me open gently to my unmet needs and find ways to skillfully meet these needs. This does not mean I won’t experience this same exact type of day again, but I was reminded (thank you children!) that this practice helps me to move through this experience quicker and less painfully. Mother’s Day showed me that as I open to understanding my relationship to my experiences with non-judgement and tenderness that I cultivate self-love and self-acceptance.
Even though my Mother’s Day was not picturesque, it has now become one to remember. In varying ways, we all struggle with motherhood, with believing we are enough. I want Mother’s Day to become a day where we celebrate our common humanity and cultivate a compassionate tribe of moms. Who’s with me?