Transitions and mother guilt
I have a close friend of twenty plus years, and we have traveled through many parenting stages, challenges and joys together. Whenever we begin to criticize or beat ourselves up in front of the other, we have a code phrase – “mother guilt”. The listener speaks those two words, we smile and laugh together and then move on realizing that we are never going to be perfect, we are doing the best that we can and there is grace in the journey. We have been saying this to each other for over twenty years.
In light of our recent move, I have experienced more than a few moments of mother guilt. Phrases such as, “it would have been easier on our children (those currently living with us as well as those who spent most of their childhood in one home) if we had just stayed where we were”, “what were we thinking when we decided to do this?” have at times rolled through my heart and mind. To be completely honest, I have also had my fair share of “I am so glad we are doing this in our 50’s and not our 70’s” moments as well – especially as we have dealt with choosing what is stuff to share and what is treasure to keep for a bit longer.
No one in our family now enjoys going into our staged and sterile house that was once so full of real life and mess and joy. As we travel back and forth between the old and new home, I have realized that we need to do something tangible to mark this transition. It would help each of us to acknowledge and deal with the various emotions coursing through us during this time. Together our girls and I decided we would take a brick from our old house, paint it and place it in a special place in our new home. I have also chosen a special gift for each family member to commemorate our 23 years together in that place. Physical markers of such a transition can be helpful as we move through it and make peace with our new place.
On a recent walk with a thirty year plus dear friend and in the midst of one of my “I’m not so sure this was a good idea” moments, she spoke life and grace to me. I wasn’t mindfully expressing mother guilt, but somehow she accurately picked up the vibe. She said something like, “I was thinking the other day that this time of moving and transition will be truly good and healthy for your girls. It will be like a mini, practice college type transition”. My therapist confirmed the truth and wisdom of these words.
In adoptive parenting literature, it is often communicated that leaving home for college or elsewhere can be a particularly stressful, triggering and difficult time for many adoptees. I know that this launching out into the world passage can be challenging for all parents and children. Transitions are a time to stretch and grow and learn and prepare for what might be down the road. We all need to practice. I am most grateful for people in my life who speak truth, love and grace into my heart and mind. Back off mother guilt!