There is a fundamental belief we have as children- that mum is the person who can never be broken. Our hearts may break, and we feel lost and confused- but when we need strength we go to mum. She will fix me, help me and love me through the hurt. My mother was this for me- I thought her strength was endless.
When I was about seventeen, this belief was shaken to the core when she became seriously unwell. Underneath the worry and concern we all felt, I had a terror in me that burned- what if mum wasn’t okay? What would happen to our family, our home? Would I be called on to mother my three siblings, to look after the house on my own? Could I do the things I wanted to if that happened? Who would give us the wisdom she had, who would stand strong and buffet us from the raw realities of life? Could she recover from this?
I had watched her faint at home. Watched my father deal with her with unaccustomed gentleness. Spending weeks in bed, so much that after school my sister and brothers and I would sit on her bed for afternoon tea- well, actually, any time we were home. Surgery and time spent in hospital with her. I would make little jokes to lighten the atmosphere, but there was one question that terrified me more than anything.
What if she was as broken as me?
That was many years ago now. As an adult I know my mother was broken. She had flaws and fears, disappointed hopes and unmet expectations. She was human. She was loving and wise, disorganised, fun and ferociously loving. She was no less an amazing woman because of her brokenness.
When I became a mother I was completely terrified. I wasn’t particularly a baby person, I didn’t have much experience with them, to be honest. This little bundle looked up at me trusting me to not to let him die (yes, I am the dramatic sort) and he must have thought I had all the answers! Good grief, was he mistaken. He’s now a strapping thirteen year old, so he survived quite nicely.
There is that same loss of innocence coming for my children as it did to me. At some point in life they will all figure out that I’m broken too. That I am scared, and don’t have control over everything. We’ve had moments where they have seen me in weaker places, and it’s hard on all of us. I couldn’t shelter them from losing their grandparents, from our family experiencing depression and financial troubles, and from me being unable to pull myself together.
As much as I want to fight that, I need to teach my children that we can live life through brokenness. We are all broken- we have baggage, and even in a perfect family (which we are NOT) things just happen. We don’t have to be perfect, don’t have to know everything. We don’t need to apologise for finding life hard- it is hard. It teaches us to be strong, builds resistance. I learned to do hard things, to push through where I can. To not isolate myself, to ask for help when I’m drowning. To tell my children honestly that I don’t have all the answers, and let them know that when I don’t, that we will figure it out as a family. I don’t hide our family’s weak spots from our children, but we make it a point to tell them where we get strength from- from faith, from the people around us that love us.
If this resonates with you, in place of the hug I would give, please know it’s okay, even when everything isn’t okay. I can’t offer all the wisdom in the world, all I can say is that we’re allowed to be human. Release the expectation from yourself that you have to be perfect, that you have to have it all together. Motherhood isn’t about boxes that are ticked, it’s about the precious kids we created and love so desperately. Children are more resilient than we know, and we can teach them resiliency when we can say “It’s hard and we’re hurting; but we’re doing this together.”
If I could offer any advice, I would say this: don’t isolate yourself to get yourself together. Talk to those you trust, spend time with people that can make you smile again. Go easy on your expectations for yourself- there are seasons where we need to give ourselves a break, like we would if it was someone else! Use that graciousness on yourself.
Brokenness can be a blessing, even if it’s sometimes in camouflage gear. Brokenness gives us compassion and humility, and when we are honest about it others get the chance to help us- closer friendships are born though these times. Some of the most broken times I have experienced have allowed me to see the true beauty in others as they reached out to myself and my family.
Brokenness doesn’t mean we have failed, it means that we are human. As mothers, let’s lose the fear that it rules us out, that it could harm our children. It really won’t. They will be okay, and they will learn to not fear it themselves.
You are enough, as you are.