I have yet to meet an honest mother who isn’t completely insecure about motherhood. It is the hardest job on this planet. Motherhood targets our triggers. To put it a different way, it brings up everything that scares us to death. For some of us, we are scared more easily than others. Anxiety can be inhibiting when it comes to making sound parenting decisions. But I think the most grounded mothers are insecure at some points.
From the beginning, I have been convinced I am damaging my children in every way. I am too overprotective. I am not watching them closely enough. My discipline is too inconsistent. I am not spending enough time with them. I am not pushing them hard enough. They are not involved in enough extra-curricular activities. I am not feeding them right. I am missing out on their one true calling by not embracing who they are. I am too tired to dress up like a Disney character and run around the house with them, so they will never develop a healthy sense of self.
Of course, there are the deeper concerns. How is being raised by a single mother truly affecting them? I have read the studies stating single mothers are the root of all evil, and those studies are stupid. They are missing one very important point. Single motherhood is not the problem. It’s poverty. And single mothers are set up to be poor in our society. Minimum wage jobs and child care costs don’t mix. Education and single motherhood don’t mix well either. I know. I just did it. I’m pretty willful and the stress almost won.
But I am not poor. I had established a career before the children were born. This is partly because I had children late in my life. It is partly because I had privileges. Despite my horrible upbringing, I was white and middle-class, and there are benefits to that. But it doesn’t stop me from wondering what other damage I might be causing without the familial male role model. What are they learning about the role of men in our society? How will it impact them in their future relationships?
But there is an insecurity which is worse. How is my past impacting them? I was raised in a family of narcissistic sociopaths. And that is being nice. I think I could call my father a psychopath and nobody would argue. Coming from that environment, how do I raise “normal” kids? How do I ensure that my daughter doesn’t lose herself and my son has the respect for women that no man in my family ever had? I know they have to see me stand in my own power. They have to see my confidence in myself. But that’s a tall order for me. I have been taught that confidence is dangerous.
I heard an amazing survivor advocate speak this weekend about her own journey as a mother. Her name is Rebecca Bender. She joked about her own insecurities by stating, “Oh, all kids act this way? It’s not because I am a trafficking survivor?” Everyone laughed. I laughed. But it hit me. For me, it is a question that I ask often. Is my son refusing to eat his dinner because I was trafficked? Is my daughter throwing a temper tantrum over socks because I was sexually abused? I know it sounds silly, but this is the brain on trauma. In reality, all six-year-olds are pushing limits, refusing to eat certain foods and wear certain clothes.
So, I have to take a step back and ask myself, “Am I making up the difference between myself and other parents?” Aren’t all parents insecure? Aren’t all parents lacking confidence when it comes to parenting? Don’t all parents feel incredibly stupid at times? Nobody was raised by perfect parents. We can’t be perfect because we are human.
So maybe I will relax … maybe. Maybe I will stand a little taller knowing that I am not that different from the rest of the parents on this journey. Maybe I will cut myself a little slack. And maybe that will make motherhood a little less scary.
My new 7 Habits of Parents with Complex Trauma workshop is available here.