I had recently posted this quote on my Instagram account, with the caption, "Being a mother is my greatest joy and my greatest agony" and a reader questioned how this paradox could be true.
As much as we are grateful for the blessing of being a mother, mothers carry a heavy burden. We love our children from the time they are a mere collection of cells to the time they grow within us and till the day we draw our last breath. It is the most natural, forgiving, generous kind of love.
Yet, with all that unconditional love, we are also tasked with guiding our children to become
Self-loving, but not self-aggrandizing,
Confident but not arrogant,
Helpful but not a pushover,
Respectful but unflappable,
Ambitious but not greedy,
... and the list of contradictions that define a narrow line of becoming a self-aware, kind human being can continue.
Just as children do not come with a manual, mothers do not come with a manual for being a mom to each unique parent child relationship. Generational gaps make past precedence to be interesting reading material at best. We have to evolve with our child, make compromises with our own principles when an irresistible force meets an immovable rock, and learn to shed the ego when their needs demand it. In being a parent, I have better learnt to deal with adults.
If the child is a contrarian, the emotional depths required to guide them with patience can be debilitating.
If the child turns to harmful coping mechanisms, trying to find the right help is like groping in the dark.
If the child suffers pain, standing on the sidelines with little to offer other than a mother's touch is akin to dying while living.
And regardless of what we have conquered today, letting them go into the unknown leaves apprehension like a weight on the soul. What starts with a few hours of separation can transform into years of separation, defined by circumstances, choices, space, time and more.
Much as it is my joy to hold them today and know that the children are finding their independence, and that through our blood, sweat and tears, they will have the tools to thrive, every day a part of me cries knowing that I am only a transient station for them. I will never stop being their mother, but their need for me will morph as we separate.
When death separates us, the path that unfolds is aggrieved but acceptance is easier. The choice has been taken away from us. When fate and choices separate us, marking a physical and emotional distance that remains like a deep chasm between parent and child, knowing that even the mother's presence and touch cannot heal, crushes the soul in ways that is indescribable.
Even if we don't know what the answer is, we want to heal.
Even if we cannot solve the problem, we want to comfort.
Even if we do not understand their tears, we want to fix.
And we want them to want us too.
Being a mother is my toughest job, my deepest joy and my deepest pain. It is only when I became one did I begin to understand that even within her incomprehensible choices, my mother always loved me.
- mh (c) 2020