The Long Hard Road Called “Motherhood”

I had to heal my own wounds in order to be a good mother. But is that even possible?

I’m currently in the process of healing from childhood. 

It’s funny. I thought I’d done this work already. The hilarious jokes I’d told in high school and college about my childhood struggles made me believe I had healed. 

I buried a lot of that pain during my twenties, when I was busy being newly married and trying to raise two children who were 18 months apart and quite a handful on a young mom. But in my thirties, when old issues began to resurface, I really tried to do the work. I faced the reality of some past memories, I reached out and talked about them with my parents and sibling, and I really thought I forgave and moved on. 

As a Young Mama with My Little Girl

And I think I did, at least, as much as I could during that time. Because my older two were only preteens, and my younger two were just small children, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t fully seen the depth and breadth of what my scars had done to my kids. 

It wasn’t until only recently, now that my older two are “grown” that I’ve come to understand some childhood issues not only get passed down but have to be healed from again and again. 

The biggest issue I’ve had to face in the last few years is setting boundaries. 

Externally, I know exactly why I struggle with boundaries: I was never taught to have them. 

Internally, however, I can’t quite seem to shake the feeling that setting boundaries is wrong. 

For example, I overshare (one could say writing a blog is oversharing in and of itself, and I guess that’s true). I’m an “air filler,” as Dr. Nicole Le Pera calls them in her book, How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from your Past and Create Your Self. (I picked up this book on my Kindle Unlimited because it was the first book that showed up in the feed, and I am so glad I did! Perfect timing!) 

An air filler is someone who is uncomfortable by silence. I didn’t realize this until only recently, but silence to me represents judgment. It brings back memories of childhood and my parents giving each other the silent treatment for long stretches of time. It represents my father giving me the cold shoulder whenever I wouldn’t follow what he wanted me to do, or the stares of children at school who were judging my cigarette-smoked filled clothing or hair. 

Silence = insecurity, and insecurity = fear. Fear of being unloved, unseen, unheard. 

Fear of rejection. 

Air filling naturally leads to oversharing. And something I’ve learned over the last few years is that not everyone should get the privilege of hearing your story. 

I’ve also learned that your story shouldn’t be used as an excuse, a crutch or a way to make others see you as some sort of overcomer. 

I’ve been trying to keep more of my story to myself lately, and, I’ll be honest, it’s hard. Being quiet is not my nature. I’m a performer, a people-pleaser and a screamer. I long to be seen and heard. It makes me feel safe and in control. 

Except when it doesn’t. 

A couple of years ago, the people-pleasing, performing, need to be seen and heard side of me had a breakdown. 

It happened after the pandemic, when I came down with a bad case of Covid on the same day we discovered my nephew had died by suicide

I was already in the throes of reexamining my life because of the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

But three issues at once? Too much. 

Three, I’ve come to realize, is an important number in Hebrew tradition, of which my belief-system comes from. 

According to biblestudy.org:

The number 3 conveys the meaning of completeness, though to a lesser degree than 7. It appears 467 times in God’s word. It derives its symbolism from the fact that it is the first of four spiritually perfect numerals (the others being 7, 10 and 12). The 3 righteous patriarchs before the flood were Abel, Enoch and Noah. After the deluge, there was the three righteous “fathers” of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (later renamed Israel).

There are 27 books in the New Testament, which is 3 cubed, or completeness to the third power.

Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. He was placed on the cross at the 3rd hour of the day (9 a.m.) and died at the 9th hour. There were 3 hours of darkness that covered the land while Jesus was suffering on the cross from the 6th hour to the 9th hour. This is the number of resurrection. Christ was dead for three full days and nights, a total of 72 hours, before being resurrected on Saturday, April 8, just before sunset.

“Meaning of the Number 3” 

Completeness. Are we ever really complete?

That’s something I’m struggling with as we speak. I’m going through a season of great change, not bad, not good, but different.

My belief-system isn’t what it used to be. The old me believed that God was a wrathful, vengeful, punishing God who tolerated us but didn’t really love us. He had to send Jesus to deal with our sinful, wicked awful behavior. 

The new me believes in a God who loves, values and delights in His Creation. He foreknew that He would wrap Himself in flesh to come to Earth and heal our habits, hurts and hangups forever on a Cross so that we could live forever with Him in eternity. 

I will quit teaching in May. I will miss teaching because I love my students, my school, and my routine. The old me believed I had to move my children to another school in order for them to be x, y, or z. The new me isn’t trying to make my children be anything other than what God has created them to be. 

My kids are growing up– hard for a mama who has loved raising them; rewarding for a mama who knows they’ve grown up well. The old me has felt the need to blur boundaries in order to control. Pretending to be their “future best friend,” giving them unnecessary advice, oversharing details about my childhood and marriage, begging to know every last thought and feeling they were having. The new me is learning that, as adults, these children have a right to their own feelings about their childhood and future, a need to break free, and a desire to form new lives where I am not at the center. 

Same Angel, Now Older

For a gal who grew up having the rug pulled out from under her, losing my “center,” my family of six, is a daily struggle in picking up a “cross” and walking into a new land where I am no longer the one who rules the roost, and that’s okay. 

Motherhood is odd. You spend eighteen or so years doing every little thing you can to make a strong, close and safe family. 

And then, bam, you let go. They’re released, and they make their way through the world, pulling away a little more each day, which is exactly as it should be. 

As I walk this long, hard road called motherhood, I find how much it’s healing the little girl who never quite understood her own mom. 

She had her own set of struggles, her own thoughts, her own fears. 

Now that I’m grown and healing, I picture the little girl in me placing my hand on my mother’s heart, looking into her eyes…and healing. 

See you soon,

Toni

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