“I can’t leave my child/children and go to lunch.”
“My child/children take all of my time. I’m exhausted at the end of the day. There is no way I could do something for me.”
“I chose to have children. When they are grown, then I’ll figure out what I want to do with my life.”
“I’ve got just a couple of years left before all of my children are gone. I have no idea what I’ll do then…”
Perhaps you have heard these statements from mothers before. Maybe you’ve even said them yourself. Several months ago my daughter sent me a picture of a page in a book she was reading by Glennon Doyle. I reread it this week and was struck once again by its truth.
As I looked deep into my own eyes, the woman in the mirror and I had a reckoning.
I asked myself: is the decision to continue abandoning yourself really what your children need from you?
Mothers have martyred themselves in their children’s names since the beginning of time. We have lived as if she who disappears the most, loves the most. We have been conditioned to prove our love by slowly ceasing to exist.
What a terrible burden for children to bear – to know that they are the reason their mother stopped living. What a terrible burden for our daughters to bear – to know that if they choose to become mothers, this will be their fate, too. Because if we show them that being a martyr is the highest form of love, that is what they will become. They will feel obligated to love as well as their mothers loved, after all. They will believe they have permission to live only as fully as their mothers allowed themselves to live.
If we keep passing down the legacy of martyrdom to our daughters, with whom does it end? Which woman ever gets to live? And when does the death sentence begin? At the wedding altar? In the delivery room? Whose delivery room – our children’s or our own? When we call martyrdom love we teach our children that when love begins, life ends. This is why Jung suggested: there is no greater burden on a child than the unlived life of a parent.
What if love is not the process of disappearing for the beloved but of emerging for the beloved? What if a mother’s responsibility is teaching her children that love does not lock the lover away but frees her? What if a responsible mother is not one who shows her children how to slowly die but how to stay wildly alive until the day she dies? What if the call of motherhood is not to be a martyr but to be a model?
What if you and I modeled motherhood as the greatest adventure to becoming? What if you and I modeled motherhood as a beautiful journey of appearing...not disappearing.
pic from graphicriver.net