I had only just turned 18 years old when I had my son. The events leading up to the birth of my son were the beginning of a chaotic pathway that I have finally felt free from in the last couple years.
Everyday, he looks older. Everyday, he says something that shakes my roots a bit, in reminding me that his presence in my home will not last forever.
I’ve touched on motherhood before, but today is another day I must release some of my own thoughts in journal form:
Motherhood has been a really rocky journey for me. I loved my pregnancy, but I was 17, and I spent my days reading everything that I could, and dreaming up what it would be like to be a good mother. I consider myself an “unmothered daughter”, and my understanding of what a “good mother” was, came only from my imaginations around some of my friends’ parents. Good mothers were mothers who taught their daughters to love themselves, and not to worry about boys; and to do well in school-because they were driven to, not because you were incompetent if you didn’t. A good mother was a mother who taught her daughter how to dress, and to feel pretty, and to cook and to clean- not for a man, but because they are necessary life skills. A good mother was a mother who held her daughter’s hand and listened when she cried, without turning it into a conversation about herself. Never once in my imaginings did I imagine what being a good mother to a son might look like, or the unique challenges that would arise because I was young, or how to mother myself out of teenage-dom so that I could be a good mom.
When my son was laid on my chest, I was rocked by the reality that I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into. This wasn’t imaginings anymore, this was real life. I was living with a family I didn’t trust, hating my mother for her abuses, and I was left very, very alone. My son’s father was in prison, I was healing from a broken tailbone, struggling with post-partum depression, and my friends were being 18 year olds and had little time for me. And as far as I knew, I had no idea how to raise a baby, because no one had taught me. I was in over my head, and I was afraid.
This is a common theme that I have been seeing on youtube from tarotists I respect, and in general articles lately; perfectly wonderful mothers talking about struggling with the transition into motherhood. For 7 years, I have thought that my ignorance stemmed from my age at the time. I am starting to believe that the ignorance comes from a culture of un-mothered mothers, and the pressure of hushed voices. Our society doesn’t want us to feel proud of being a mother, unless it means that our sons grow up to be successful men. Only then can we be proud.
A successful and driven daughter? That’s good, hopefully she finds a good husband to temper her.
A gay son/daughter? What did you do wrong?
An artistic and sensitive son? You should teach him to man up.
A vocal and expressive child? Teach your child to behave.
You know these phrases, you’ve heard them all before, and they barely scratch the surface.
It took a really long time for me to digest and chew up all of the pressures society was laying on me in my parenting. There are the ones we all deal with, and for me, the hardest to sit with were those that came because of being a young mother.
Today, as I drove my son to school, I was reflecting on the past three years of my life, since I started my career as a nurse. Often, young women my age say to me:
“That must’ve been really hard being so young.”
“What do you do with yourself since you’re raising a kid?”
“I can’t even imagine having to be responsible for that.”
“Why didn’t you just wait?”
“Didn’t you want an abortion?”
“Hopefully you find a guy who is willing to take on your child as his own.”
“Do you feel like you even knew how to parent?”
They are honest statements. But, they are hurtful statements. Up until recently, in casual conversation, I couldn’t bring myself to label myself as a mother, or to bring up my son until I was asked. And then, I felt such deep shame when talking to other women who were also mothers. As if, because I was young, I didn’t get to claim raising my son. That I wasn’t truly allowed to claim the title of “mother”. The shame of still being a fuck up. The shame of being damaged goods, “…and so young, too.” The shame pushed on me by people I loved, who were largely supportive in attaining a career: “Just find a good man to help you.”
I didn’t wait because I was a teenager dealing with mental illness and a mentally abusive home. I didn’t have an abortion, because despite my belief in the freedom to choose; I don’t personally believe in abortion. I didn’t know how to parent, and I made a lot of mistakes, and will continue to- as do ALL MOTHERS. What was hard for me was the fact that no one took me seriously enough as a mother to teach me any skills, or to hear me out when I asked for help. I was just, “too young.” My priorities are not aligned with girls my age, although that changes as more of them do settle down and have their own kids. But, I’ve been there and done that of the baby phase, and I don’t quite align with mothers who are further along in the process.
Even in my mothering, I stand in a liminal place.
And, I am lucky enough to have found a man who loves me and my son, and has taken on my son. The destructive words of needing a man to help me, because god-forbid any woman be a single parent and make it through the bullshit herself- those words crippled me in a time that I needed uplifting from the women around me.
I don’t really know where to go with these words, other than the fact that I sat down today to look at my mothering journey with my cards.
I have learned a lot through the struggles of being placed in the young-mom category; and it has made me be harsh where I should’ve been warm, it made me lost where I should’ve been guiding, it made me cry where I should have been happy- at least a part of the time. And now, the young toddler phase of my son’s life is long gone, and I am looking back on the hardest time of my life, and realizing how many opportunities to be the “good mom” I missed, while I was buried in shame, and fear, and confusion. I grieve the moments lost.
Tarot, as always, is a healing tool. I learned some very valuable lessons by being a part of the turning of my own luck, and have since come forth on the other side of misfortune to realize the blessings I have had. Motherhood, as seen in the Empress is a blessing. I see a lot of women struggling with it, and I have come to think that it’s because society tries to sell us an image of mothering that is just plain wrong. That is hurtful. That is destructive. That is supposed to make us feel ashamed. Like you can never do anything “right”.
What is right in mothering is feeling the abundance that comes from little fingers wrapped around your belly. From little laughter echoing through a room. Through the songs they sing, and the dances they dance, and the bumps they get when they aren’t listening to you, again. From the silly stories they weave, and the excitement over something you totally do not understand (who knew that minecraft was the new “cool” thing). The abundance of their joy in reading, and listening to the same song in the car for the fiftieth time in a row. All of these things that make my heart feel full, deem me MOTHER. I am abundant, and full because I am mother. Not because I wish I wasn’t.
I am mother because society told me to feel ashamed for holding and rocking my baby in my own bed, and I did it anyway until he was 5. I snuggled and held that little boy, knowing that the small elbows in my back would someday be so large as to mean I could no longer carry him. I am mother because society told me to dress my son appropriately for public, but I let him pick his own outfits- even if they are pajamas, because I think teaching children autonomy and individuality is an important thing. I am mother because despite all of the words against me in grocery stores, as “too young” of a girl buying formula, and milk, and cheese with WIC; I still managed to begin a career in which I pay back my debt to society, and never ask for a handout in my life again.
I am mother because I carried life within my womb, and birthed that life into a hospital room where the echoes of all that could’ve been died, and all the doubts and whispers of people older than me tried to climb up inside of me and rot. Instead, I saw his small fingernails, and the weight of responsibility kicked me in the chest, but I felt a love so large that I vowed not to fail; and seven years later, I am proud of how far I’ve come, and how far we have come, and that I know my son has been loved and will continue to be loved.
MOTHER is a word that I am claiming and allowing myself to wear and own and love and feel proud of. So, there world.
If you are a mother yourself, I challenge you when meeting another mom, to ask yourself if your judgments based on age, religion, race, culture, or life-experience are necessary. Because while we all come from different paths, we share something in common: we carried and birthed life, and we are all trying our hardest. Be kind. The community of children that we raise are affected by our own personal choices, and I think we all want our kids to live in a better world.
There is one mother who made all the difference to me in deciding that I could find my way through what felt like pure darkness; the nurse in triage prior to laboring my son. She told me she was a young mom herself, and that she managed to make it through school, and into a career she loved, and had wonderful children. She was the first person, in my entire pregnancy to pat me on the back and tell me: “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can do it.” I will never forget those words.
And just in case you need reminding:
You can do it, because you are mother; hear you roar.