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To Be a Mother

March 19, 2010

Today, as part of the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” series, Christine, from Coffees and Commutes, and I have swapped places. Christine is a working mother from Canada whose honest writing continually pulls at my heartstrings. Today, she’s writing about how her childhood experience affects her as a mother. Enjoy! Then click over to her blog for more!


Jana was so kind to invite me to write as a guest for her blog. I’m thrilled because so often I feel moved and challenged by her writing. I wrote this piece based on her “Spill It” series. 



To Be a Mother
Since the birth of my first child, I’ve naturally spent a great deal of time reflecting on my experience as a mother. When I’m cuddling my boys, I find myself carefully considering the role I play in their lives. I wonder how it feels to them to have a mother to cuddle and love. What kind of security and peace does it bring? You see, I lost my mother at a very young age, I was only four. Though I have a memory or two, no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember how it felt to be held by her. I don’t recognize that special mother-child bond because I never had it. It makes me wonder if it affects how I parent.

A few years after my mother passed, my father was fortunate to meet a wonderful woman who would become the most loving, kind and affectionate step-mother. More than 25 years later, she is a very important person in my life and always will be. I call her mom because she is my mom. However, I don’t believe that the relationship we have is anything like it would be if she were my biological mother. I know this without question because of the intensity of emotion I feel for my sons.

The death of my mother was the single most defining moment of my life. At only four I learned what it was to be an adult, in a way that is difficult for most adults to handle. I experienced death and loss at an age that was much too young. It has affected me in so many ways, defined how I perceive the world and react to the relationships I have. This is of course significant, but not as much as how it has affected me as a mother. I question myself always. Am I doing a good job of mothering? I don’t know, because I have nothing to relate to, not in that primal sense. I fear that I am not the best mother I can be to my boys because I have no frame of reference. I don’t completely understand the mother/child bond because I cannot remember ever feeling it as a child. Does that mean I can’t provide it for my children?

My oldest son is almost four. It isn’t lost on me that at his age, I was living the last year I would ever have with my mother. That scares me. She was 24 when she died; I passed that age a long time ago and dealt with many emotions related to that milestone. Now that I approach this new milestone, I find myself identifying with her in a new way. I CANNOT imagine what it would be like knowing, as she did, that I won’t see my babies grow up. When I think of it, the emotion is more than I can bear. It overpowers me. It gets all connected with the emotion that I feel as a motherless mother and I am overcome with sadness. I’m sad by how much this has defined me and how much I feel I’ve lost because of it. And I know I can never get it back. It was gone before I ever had it, could feel it and know it. 
I look at my boys and hope privately that I will find that feeling through my relationship with them. I look at my boys and sometimes I am jealous that they have a love in their world that I don’t have in mine. 
I believe that who we become is defined by a complete picture and that our relationships with our mothers turn into our relationships as mothers. I don’t have any frame of reference, but I will be the best mom I can to my boys. One day I hope they can tell me how it was and then maybe I will understand.
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