Tuesday, April 6, 2010


There's nothing like becoming a parent to smack you out of your status quo mindset bordering on reverie and force a state of attention as everything you knew becomes something else and your worldview must, of necessity, shift.

Or at least, that's how it has felt to me. Some days, it's a great thing to be reckoned with in this manner. It's wonderful and humbling and challenging to peel away layers I thought set in stone and find I am capable of becoming a new person. Capable of initiating and mastering intense levels of adaptation and reinvention.

Of course, some days it feels raw and naked and painful too. Like undergoing interrogation with a halogen bulb millimeters from your skin, searching every inch of your inner and outer being for telltale spots of decay.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the balance between self as individual and self as parent. Of course, in the process of separating and naming them, I am displaying my attachments and therein lies part of the difficulty. But that's where I am...

I find the things I want to do or don't want to do as an individual sometimes conflict with the things I feel I ought to do or ought not to do as a parent. What is best for my daughter sometimes requires a certain level of transformation or letting go in terms of who I am or what I choose to do.

And I have realized lately this is the conundrum of all parents. It's one of the core cruxes of choosing to build a family and enter a lifestyle different from whatever was prior. Everyone hits this wall (perhaps repeatedly), and everyone makes some form of decision somewhere along the spectrum of change nothing to change everything.

Change nothing and you create as situation wherein your child becomes the parent, or has to raise-love-nuture him/herself, or misses out on the shaky but formidable lessons inherent in "responsibility," "obligation," "duty," and "sacrifice."

Change everything and you create a situation wherein the parent is a martyr... refusing moments of joy or self-focus in lieu of a mountain of shoulds. The child senses regret, remorse, or - perhaps worst - resentment and lives with a sense of guilt in the wake of their caregiver's inner and outer dissonance.

Oddly enough, all of this musing comes in the wake of noticing my recent reluctance to "be better" about making friends with other parents so my daughter can have playdates and get-togethers with kids her age. It also comes on the heels of a decision about this year's birthday and whether or not to throw any kind of party, who to invite, what to do, and when to do it. And, at the forefront this week, what kind of treat to bring in to preschool. Cookies? Cupcakes? Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes?

I am an introvert by nature, and this new level of engagement with a world that is both my own and not my own feels foreign and overwhelming at times. I struggle to find an anchor of authenticity in the role of mother I am forever in the process of defining. Meanwhile, I step forward and try on new aspects of self in an effort to engage in right action connected to the life of myself, my daughter, and my family.

What is truthful? What is compassionate? What is comfortable? What is acceptable? What is needed? What is loving? What is good parenting? What is enough, good enough, or not enough?

It's stupid and important at the same time - this sense of seeking in the unfamiliar territory of mommyhood - simultaneously frivolous and ripe with opportunity. Not just for my own evolution, but also for the work that becomes the backbone of my daughter's life... the choices that help to shape her childhood, young adulthood, and potential eventual mothering.

Buddha said, "He is able who thinks he is able." Buddha didn't talk about mothers very often, but maybe he should have. This quote could just as easily speak to a mountain of mothers poised on the edge of expectation and guilt and all manner of striving:

She is able who thinks she is able.

And then, Buddha might have added something about patience and forgiveness and throw in a reminder about compassion and how it starts with oneself. Maybe something about how cultivation of compassion is anchored in the core of the self... and then spreads outward like dancing seeds of milkweed onto an open ocean of waiting earth.

Maybe. Hard to say and thankfully there are some modern female Buddhists who fill in that area quite wonderfully and help the rough or lost or naked days feel much, much better.

So... I'm off to make cupcakes. I think they'll have sprinkles. And chocolate frosting. That's something my daughter and I wholeheartedly agree on.

May you find balance within the many roles of your life. May you always remember you are able.

1 comment:

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