I see a lot of over-mothering – mothers who willingly, sometimes compulsively, offer their lives for babies and children. Mothering so overcomes them that there is no room for anyone or anything else.
And, it’s fully understandable. The much anticipated (or unanticipated) baby arrives and changes everything.
Babies are very powerful. They deliver many a parent into a promised land of new meaning and purpose.
The power, I have often thought, is inversely proportional to their size – the gravitational pull of Earth on a mother, at a time she is so honestly and purely vulnerable. And, of course, if her life is already subject to pain (and who’s life is not?) she is all the more vulnerable to “solving” her incompleteness in the baby.
Sadly, while the baby restores meaning, purpose, and hope, the child was never deigned to BE (to embody) Purpose, Meaning, and Hope (that’s reserved for Another Baby).
As inviting, seductive, and honorable as it may appear, losing our lives for our children serves no one anything worth having, especially, and with glaring irony, the very children whom we love.
Children were never capable of handling worship and they don’t respond to it very well.
I am, I believe, uniquely (but not singularly) positioned to see this. I am not, of course, a mother, but I come pretty close. I have had the joy of the solo adoption of two babies from birth.
I know, I know, before you fire off angry letters, it is not the same.
My first son’s mother approached me to adopt her unborn son, and my second son came to me in an equally unusual manner. Remarkable women, in my book, women who both carefully calculated that their sons would have something from me that neither could see themselves offering.
My sons are now 19 and 14 and have been with me from hour 1 (I was at his birth as the labor coach) and day eight respectively. Being a solo dad in a bi-racial family in the Mid-west of the USA has held more than a few surprises.
At the news I would adopt, people warned me about the dumbest things: nappies (diapers), three-hour feeding routines, and sleepless nights. They warned me about how my life would change as if children are only an inconvenience. I was informed, on more than a few occasions that my sons are black – as if it were something of which I was thoroughly unaware.
But, no one, absolutely no one warned me that the babies would enter my life and take it, yes, take it from me.
No one warned me about the power of love.
No one warned me that I’d rush to protect my sons when protecting them was, in that instance, not in their highest interest.
No one said that if I was not intentional about maintaining a life of my own I’d dissolve into my sons’ lives.
Yes, Over-Mother. I think I do understand. I think I do understand that you love your child more than your own life. That’s clear. It is my impulse, too. I struggle with this day in and day out.
But, if we really want to empower our sons and daughters, we’d better ourselves live and love as fully now as we hope they will fully love and fully live one day. How else will they learn?