I’ve been thinking a lot about why people decide to have children; why I decided to have children. I’d like to think that I had the best of intentions when my husband and I started our journey to become parents. We wanted to raise a child to be an active contributor to society, to do good in this world and make it better through his/her example. But really, I think a lot of my decision had to do with satisfying my ego.
A BLACK HOLE OF SELF-LOATHING
I’ve been confronted again and again with the idea that my entry into motherhood is requisitely bound to my ego. There have been so many instances where my ego ended up bruised or jilted through everyday interactions with my son. As a colicky newborn Ben cried incessantly with none of my efforts to soothe him resulting in success; or as my willful toddler throws himself to the floor when I ask him to brush his teeth, my mind makes me feel like a complete failure. And this sense of failure ends up spilling over to other aspects of my life. When I fail at calming Ben my mind sometimes spirals into a black hole of self-loathing, making me feel like a failure in all things. When I’m in this headspace all I can see are examples of how I’ve failed in my career, my creative aspirations, and my relationships. How I’ve let people down, let myself down, and would only continue to do so.
I realize the pathology of such thinking. My regrettably complicated medical history includes clinical depression among other things. So the normal daily struggles of child-rearing can easily become an avalanche of melancholy if I’m not careful. My monkey-mind is programmed to do what it’s been trained to do for so many years. To be sad. To ruminate on the past. To be hard on myself. To be self-hating. With good but unconscious intentions, what was meant to scaffold my ego and enable me to gain a sense of mastery and joy through my creation – my son, proves again and again to be a wrecking ball to my self-concept, dismantling my ego over and over again.
MAKING SPACE FOR HUMILITY
As painful and confusing as this time has been, perhaps this is a necessary exercise. Perhaps, this was aptly planned in my journey towards wellness. Perhaps I need to make my Self small, to make room for something else. For humility. For self-love. For worthiness and enthusiasm. For presence.
There have been and will be countless times that I am completely useless at lulling my emotional boy. He is a powerful communicator and expresses his emotions passionately. It can be overwhelming for me to manage this on a daily basis. But I am also grateful to have a boy who feels things deeply. I look forward to him learning words to express these feelings, and witnessing him navigate these feelings through his relationships and life experiences. I am grateful that he feels love and joy as intensely as he feels disappointment and frustration; and I’m humbled as I watch him express this love and joy towards his friends, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents, and to me and his Dad with such fervor.
THERE IS NO PERFECTION
I only have the power to do what I can do – and when Ben’s upset one thing I can do is hold him and love him while he vents his frustrations, or tell him “I understand” when I’m not quite sure I do. As my ego emerges needing to find a solution, to fix the problem; when it needs to feel successful and capable; when it aspires to be the perfect mother, I must remind myself: There is no perfection – in parenting or otherwise.
The only perfect that exists is in our imperfection. We are all flawed and meant to be that way. If perfection was possible, in the way my imagination tells me it is, where would growth live? Where would learning happen? What would life be if I already knew all the answers? If I alone was able to create the infinite conditions of this Universe, why would I need anyone at all? What would be the point of Relationship, People, Love?
PRACTICED COPING STRATEGIES
My ego strives for perfection and defaults to despair. This is my psychic drama, my daily delusion. It takes practice to accept what-is and I find that I’m most successful when I aim to be present – like all the spiritual books I’ve been reading encourage me to be. When I engage with what-is, there is no choice but to accept it. So when Ben cries until his face turns purple, or when he throws himself backwards and kicks me in my chest, I tell myself:
“Hold him. Talk to him. Encourage him to breathe. Take a breath yourself. Tell him that you love him forever.”
And when outside thoughts arise about what should-be, or what this means, or how this is just another example of (insert self-hating thought), I tell myself: Let go, ego. There’s no room for that here.
Photo Credit: Esther Schwartz