Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | May 27, 2016

Redefining Motherhood

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Want to know something?

I went to Peru for two weeks at the end of April.  On a spiritual trip.

I didn’t tell many people that I was going.  I was ashamed that I was leaving my two young children for two whole weeks.  I cried the entire week before the trip in anticipation of what I believed to be the inevitable:  emotionally scarring my six and ten year old daughters by leaving them for two weeks.  I was picturing them as 20-somethings lying on couches in their therapists’ offices, weeping as they remembered their mother abandoning them to go to Peru in 2016.  

But do you know what?  My kids were fine.  They actually had a really good time with their very capable dad and the awesome team of sitters I assembled to care for them while I was gone.

And I had an amazing, life-changing experience in Peru.

Not surprisingly my biggest lessons revolved around one my favorite topics:  motherhood!  My fear about leaving my children (and being a “bad mother”) turned out to be one of the biggest reasons that I needed to go on the trip.  Lean into your fears, ladies!   

Here is what I learned in Peru:  over the past ten years (of motherhood), I have given away my power.  I have been so busy trying to be a perfect mother by meeting my children’s every need and protecting them from every difficulty, that I’ve stepped out of my power.  I’ve lost touch with myself…who I really am.  My big energy can overwhelm others and I’ve felt that I needed to stuff down my power in order to fit into the small role our culture has carved out for mothers.  We’ve been taught that a mother is supposed to put the needs of her family before her own.  A mother is supposed to sacrifice herself in favor of serving her children, her family, and her community.  And what is the end result of this sacrifice?  Disempowered, incredibly unhappy mothers.  How is this good for our families?  For our communities?  For ourselves? 

For me, part of this process of finding myself has to do with laying down my need to not be like my mother.  Now, of course, I do not want to emulate my mother’s mothering!  But I’ve gone so far to the opposite extreme!  I’ve raised the bar for myself to absolute perfection.  I hold myself to an unattainable standard:  If I am not perfect, I am like my mother.  And in my attempt to achieve this impossible goal, I have whittled the scope of my life down to only motherhood.  In essence, I have become so obsessed with not being like my mother, that I haven’t been able to settle into being myself.  I haven’t defined motherhood on my own terms. 

I have only been home for a short while, but the transition home has been an incredibly difficult one.  I opened so wide in Peru and I came home to see just how small of a life I’ve carved out for myself at home.  I have chiseled my life down into one that revolves around meeting the needs of my children.  That is not a whole life.  My children cannot be the sole purpose of my life.  Rather, my two beautiful girls are these amazing gifts.  These beautiful souls have helped me to resolve my own childhood wounds.  They show me the personal work I’ve yet to do and they model joy and unconditional, boundless love to me everyday.  I love them more than words can convey.  

While mothering young children is a beautiful season in a woman’s life, we cannot lose sight of ourselves during this time.  We cannot fade into the background in favor of caretaking our families.  We mamas hurt ourselves and those around us when we make ourselves small and live through our children.  We are supposed to live these huge lives that fill us with meaning and purpose and our children are along with us the amazing journey.  They are with us to witness our fullness and to learn from our love of life and to find their own calling along the way.  And that is my challenge…my next step…to learn what it is that fill me up.  And to work towards my own inner fullness, my own happiness and to bring that light into my family…into my community…and into the world.   

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