Written by Girl Birthday Gift
I have been reflecting on this topic for multiple weeks now. The thoughts and words are constantly jumbling around in my head, and I haven't taken the time to sit down and nail them down into a concrete viewpoint or opinion until now. Perhaps it is because I am afraid of what will flow out of my fingertips and be revealed about my own issues and shortcomings as a parent. Writing has a funny way of telling me the truth — it's like the gateway of my subconscious coming to the cognitive surface.
Here is the golden question I've been asking myself: am I a codependent mom?
For the past two years my world has been full of tiny humans who legitimately need me to take care of them and rely on my presence and ability to provide them with food, care, nurture, and comfort. I've found great happiness in providing these needs, and I still do. However, there is a new awareness I've discovered that I don't need to to be there 100% of the time, but I can't seem to pull myself away. After all they need me, right? Or is it that I need them to fill some other void that is missing in my life?
You probably already know this, but in the off chance you don't, I am a Mormon. I also consider myself to be what we call an observer, or a people watcher. I am fascinated by behavior and witnessing how people in the world around me interact and conduct themselves. Combine the two and I've been observing Mormons practically my whole life. Since I am currently in the motherhood phase of life, my attention naturally gravitates to observing Mormon mothers. Mormon mothers in my family, Mormon mother friends and acquaintances, and Mormon mothers via blogs and social media. The takeaway? Mormon moms spend a lot of time with their children. It makes sense, considering the culture heavily emphasizes the importance of a mother's role, especially within the home. That makes for a boat load of stay-at-home moms, and I proudly fill one of those seats. But are we all encouraging a community (Mormon and non-Mormon alike) of overly attached, dare I even say codependent mothers?
I understand the whole idea that motherhood is the ultimate form of charity and selflessness. I completely agree with and stand by that notion, however I feel like that label can easily become a mother's identity, especially when that pressure emanates from the Mormon mommy subculture. Her whole entire world is to be there constantly, providing entertainment, shelter, and comfort in a sweetly wrapped bundle of joyful life experiences. But do you know what happens? In the mix of it all, she ironically loses her identity. Not regularly showering becomes a "normal" rite of passage, hobbies get thrown into the attic to collect dust, and guilt walks side by side with a firm grasp in the hand not being occupied by a toddler.
That there is an adequate description of myself. Me, the proud babywearing, co-sleeping mom, is at that crossroad in motherhood where I find myself asking, "am I doing this totally wrong?"
I still fully believe in the bonding affects of babywearing, co-sleeping or really any type of "attachment" style parenting with infants, but I am beginning to find that the older Luke gets that I need to teach him his own sense of autonomy, and that it is healthy and essential to have separate time. You know, finding the mythical "balance" or whatever you want to call it, and that different parenting styles most likely work for different phases of life. I have a tendency to live on the extreme end of things, so this is all such a huge, educational process for me. My opinions on motherhood and parenthood are constantly changing. Turns out I truly don't think having kids is for everyone. Seriously. It is hard stuff, and I think certain people are absolutely not emotionally or mentally cut out for it, and I actually applaud them for knowing their limits. (But then again, that opinion might change as time goes on, too.) And it turns out Luke won't be emotionally traumatized if I let him throw tantrums and work it out himself now that he is a toddler. It's just that making the shift from being literally attached at the hip to existing as distinct individuals has been tough for me. Where do I draw the line of what is too much time with my kids, and too much "me" time?
I know plenty of wonderful mothers who do not fall under this net of borderline codependency — they have their own businesses, careers and keep their sense of self and independence, all while maintaining incredibly adoring and healthy relationships with their children. I greatly admire it, and am vigorously taking notes. However, I suppose the moral of this story always ends the same way it always does. I don't know all of the nitty gritty details of everybody's life; I don't know each and every one of their weaknesses and struggles, and I just need to focus on what works for me, Matt and our boys. Sure, I may be overly dependent in finding all of my worth and esteem in my role as "Mom" to Luke and Wes, but I am working on maintaining and progressing as plain, old Abbey. And once again, I am tossing that pesky guilt to the wayside. (What is it with that ever-looming guilt in motherhood?)
Motherhood keeps kicking my trash, but I really like the person it is turning me into. I've faced more uncomfortable truths about myself in the past two years than I ever have in my whole life, and I just keep picking up the pieces and putting them into the places they actually belong. And even though I have moments where I am sure I hate my children (not really, but you know those moments I speak of!), I am overwhelmingly grateful for this beautiful season in my life, I love those boys fiercely, and I know the mom gig is one that was intended for me.
"Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials." -Meryl Streep
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