My daughter is almost 34 and a mother of three small children of her own. It is a time when I get to watch her learning, struggling, achieving and reveling in both the challenges and the absolute joys of parenting and we come to a new understanding of each other. This week we had opportunity to talk about one of the ways in which something significant had happened between us that had really hurt her. It was an incident I don't recall, but she could recollect in minute detail. It was a time when I was not only unable to give her what she needed, but that my response to her caused her pain.
Over the years I have recalled the many times I believed myself a failure as a parent. In some ways I was gentle on myself given that my parenting journey began when I was only 17, and by the time I was 21, I had 2 children to raise on my own for most of their upbringing. I figure I did my best; well the best any woman could do at such an age on her own. However, I used to also feel guilty about my failings. I would carry around this damaging script that said because I was young and single I had to do everything twice as well as other people in order to be considered 'good enough'. My children went to private schools, even when that meant I had to really go without. They were always well dressed, even when that meant I didn't allow them much autonomy in choosing their own clothes. And they always, always had to wear shoes!
As I listened to the woundedness in my adult daughter, I was surprised to find that I wasn't feeling consumed with old familiar guilt. I was very sorry that I couldn't be what she needed at that time and that she was hurt, but mostly I was just very hopeful that she has been able to find other people to help heal the wounds I may have created, or those wounds she couldn't share with me.
I wished that I had known all the time that my children were growing up that I didn't need to carry so much guilt and negativity and that they would have so many other people in their lives to influence them and that everything didn't have to fall on me. I wish that when one of them came to me then, that I could respond as I can now; with compassion and love and hope and without defensiveness and fear of failing.
This week's conversation with my daughter made me realise something new about myself. I realised I am now able to incorporate into my own sense of self many of the philosophies that drive my work and my outlook toward other women; that is that we are not, or should not, be carrying total responsibility for the raising of our children. Our children do much better when they can be surrounded by as many people concerned for their welfare as possible. Our children need more than just their parents to look to for their understanding of the world and their own personal and spiritual growth. No woman should ever feel abandoned, alone, isolated, unsupported, discouraged or guilty on her mothering journey. All women should feel surrounded by helping hands, loving hearts and smiles pointed both toward her and toward her children. We need a village.