The Gift of an Imperfect Mother.

“Momma, I feel sad and I don’t know why.”

Startled to find my daughter so upset, I walked to her bed and put her on my lap. She nuzzled her head in to the crook of my neck and cried. I pulled her away a bit so that I could see her face. There it was. Pale lips and dark circles under her eyes. She was just tired. I told her to take a few deep breathes with me, close her eyes, and I rubbed her back until I heard that familiar rhythm in her breathe. I kissed her cheek and headed downstairs.

My daughter is so much like me. An old soul full of heart and fury. She digs deep to find the funny in life, but easily trips over frustration. I watch her get stuck on sad and overwhelmed when she’s angry. She loves deeply. She is persistently after a purpose. She is all or nothing. A trait that I know first hand can break you, if you never learn how to bend.

I walked from room to room, picking up toys and clothes and dishes. I couldn’t stop thinking about the very real possibility that my children will be at battle with their emotions and thoughts the way I have always been. Mental illness and trauma run rampant through my blood line. I am a product of generational dysfunctions, mental illness and addictive personalities. Raised on a foundation like that, how can I not fear that my children will feel a ripple effect.

Truth is, I’m scared as hell. Of myself. That I am only going to encourage the ripple, simply by being me. That my faulted inner dialogue will start to become theirs. I am damaged goods, and it’s only a matter of time before I wear off on them.

The weight of thinking this way pushes the air right out of me. It’s so familiar. A usual game-over for me, to which I fall defeated in to a funk. However, there is something different about this moment. I’m am less accepting of this way of thinking. This scenario that has played out in my head over and over seems to have lost some of its power.

imperfect mom

Maybe it is because of my inherent broken pieces, my sorrow, my personal fight, that I am the mother that they need. If and/or when that ripple reaches them, I’ll notice. They won’t get lost in a wave of unbalanced chemicals like I did. I see invisible red flags everywhere I go, because I’ve been the one waving them. I know how to keep my children from being vulnerable to the real predators. I know the importance of trusting my gut and can teach my children to do the same.

I understand the value of validating a child’s words and actions, because mine never were. I know how dangerous it is to neglect a child’s mental health. I have the scars to prove it. It’s because of those invisible scars that I can love, nurture and protect my children with empathy. I have to remember that although wounded, I have succeeded at breaking a cycle. I did that. That holds more power than any cracks in my or my children’s foundation.

Embracing our imperfections for what they are and what they are not is the only way to ease this kind of fear. We can’t change the building blocks our children have been given, but we can accept them with grace. We don’t have all the answers but what we do know, they will be better off for it. We need to stop tearing ourselves apart and harboring so much unnecessary guilt. Most of us would never advise a friend the way we advise ourselves. So why do we value others self worth more than our own?

Isn’t this true for most parents? That we all have these self doubts and moments of “not good enough”. The reasons are different but I truly believe it is because we just want to get this one job, raising our children, right.

Perhaps these imperfections are my tools, gifts really, that allow me to raise, protect and love in a way that fits my children’s mold. We all want the next generation to do a little better than we did. We have to be in tuned with our own glitches in order to make that happen. If we never accept and examine the glitches, we may never see them for what they really are–advantages.

My children may turn out like me, but they are not me. I can only hope that it is the best parts of me that they absorb. They will benefit from what I’ve been through, hopefully without ever having to experience it. But if in fact they do grow to have demons that knock on their own door, they will be equipped with the most perfect, imperfect tools I can give them…and they will thrive.

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12 thoughts on “The Gift of an Imperfect Mother.

  1. I think your kids will turn out to be fantastic. You’re so determined and doing absolutley everything to look out for them. Every single person I’ve met seems ‘normal’ and then after a while they start to show their true colours. Without making light of your demons, as you call them, I think lots of people have issues, large and small. It makes us who we are, unique and fascinating individuals. Your kids will be stronger just for having you as their mother. Xx 😉

    • You totally hit on something I really discovered while writing this. We all have “issues-large and small”. It doesn’t matter what they are…we can all identify the feelings that go along with having them. Especially when it comes to parenting. Thanks for the encouraging words, Olivia. I think my kids are turning out pretty damn fantastic as well. But I’m not biased or anything 😉

    • Thank you, Patricia. Gorgeous?! It’s one of those pictures I looked at and all I saw were the “life” lines around and under my eyes. I have no make up on and I had been outside with the kids so it’s about as real as you can get. I almost didn’t use it and then I thought, Well isn’t that what this post is really about?? Looking deeper than the surface. So I did end up using it and your comment/compliment was greatly appreciated 😉

  2. I LOVE the profound thought behind this post and the sensitive and insightful execution. This phrase in particular: “It’s because of those invisible scars that I can love, nurture and protect my children with empathy. ” and the paragraph it’s quoted from just took my breath away. I haven’t been here (or anywhere in the blogosphere for that matter) in a while, but I feel like this is one of your best ones.

    • Katia, this post haunted me for two weeks no lie. Every time i sat to write, i was at a loss for how to approach the idea. It drove me a bit crazy if I’m being honest. So to read your comment.. Lets just say it put a big smile on my face! The idea behind this ended up being way bigger than I imagined. Whether this one gets read or not, it has led to great conversation and personal insight. Pretty gratifying stuff. I really do hope you and yours are well. I’ll be joining you back in the workforce pretty soon…bittersweet. Kind of feels like the end of an era…if i want to be as dramatic about it as possible. Lol Thanks for checking out this post, and for such a wonderful comment.

  3. Dawn, I think your kids will turn out just fine. None of us are perfect parents and so many of us come from brokenness of one kind or another. At the risk of sounding flippant, sometimes that makes us stronger parents and better role models for our kids. IF we are working to be stronger parents and better role models for our kids. I work every day to break the cycle of addiction and self destruction in my kids. I didn’t succeed very well with my oldest but I figure as long as she’s breathing, there is still a chance. Her story is almost identical to mine right down to the age we made our choice to live. You are doing amazing things for your kids every single day just by being who you are and doing what you do. Keep on going!

    • Thanks, Sandy. I have no doubt the kids will be just fine. They have me convinced that nothing will stand in the their way. I think the worries I have really are universal. That’s what writing this and talking to girlfriends about this topic really taught me. Thanks for reading and for the encouraging words. 😉 I agree, at the risk of sounding flippant, that those of us with “issue” do make pretty awesome parents 😉

  4. oh my god, I can’t believe what I am reading! It is exactly me and how I feel. With a history of childhood sexual abuse and mental health issues – depression post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, I worry every day how it effects my two children, particularly my sensitive little boy who worries greatly about me and who is very sensitive to the world around him. thank you for your articles. Louise

    • Louise, I’m right there with you. Your comment has become so familiar to me because every time this article starts to get movement again, I receive comments that read JUST LIKE YOURS. No one talks about this and since I started, I’ve realized how many moms and dads are out there like us. Stay strong, and know you aren’t alone. I hope you will join our FB community where we parenting survivors connect and support one another. Much love, Dawn

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