A Reflection on Motherhood
| by Katie Maxwell |
For every generation, I believe motherhood largely feels the same. It changes you. It is physical. It is metaphysical. The bond and love you have for your children vastly outweighs anything you ever believed to be important in your life before motherhood. Yet for each of us, the experience is entirely unique, molded by our individual life experiences and the mothers in our family who came before us.
This has been a tough year for me – professionally, personally, and physically. Through sickness and stress, I have been challenged as a mother to be the strong, supportive, fun and energetic woman my children have come to expect, and sometimes I have failed. For the second time in my adult life, I am experiencing an invisible physical condition that has rocked my world yet this time it’s entirely different because I am a mother. As I have reflected on the strength I have conjured to care for my family while dealing with what feels like blow after blow, I also feel a deep, break-my-heart-wide-open kind of gratitude for my mother, my most enduring and reliable pillar of strength who has always been my example of fierce love. Because of her, and her example, I am finding ways to balance the sickness with strength, to be the best mom and version of myself I can be. This is motherhood.
I started thinking about the women who came before my own mom, and how their life experiences and example molded my mom to be who she is. I think we all can look at the long line of mothers in our families and find influence handed down through the generations. This Mother’s Day, I wanted to honor my mother by sharing this reflection on what motherhood means in our family, and encourage other women to examine how motherhood is uniquely defined and exemplified in their own families.
Throughout her own parenthood, my mother has endured incredible challenges including the death of my oldest sister, her firstborn daughter at the age of 18, and two international moves with two teenage daughters. She handled it all with authenticity, humility, and an indescribable stubborn strength that seems to course through our intergenerational bloodline. She has never stopped being a force in the lives of her children and grandchildren, her support is unwavering, her enthusiasm and laughter infectious, her love for all of us core deep. She is beautiful. She is a teacher. She is clever and compassionate. She sings (most of the time). She relishes in the small meaningful moments. To us, this is motherhood.
Then of course there is my beautiful grandmother Margaret, my mother’s mother who passed away a couple of years ago who was adored by her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She too endured a lifetime of challenges that molded her into a strong woman, a mother, a patient nurturer. My grandmother also a worrier had to find ways to distract and busy her mind. She would do anything for her children and grandchildren. When I was down for months with a traumatic brain injury, my 82 year-old grandmother arrived with dusting supplies in hand. Because we were both neat freaks, she knew lying on the couch seeing cobwebs and dust would torment me. On hands and knees she cleaned everything, down to sieving dust from between the slats of chairs. She knew me and knew instinctively how to help. She, like my mother, was always moving, was energetic, kind and patient. She was beautifully (and sometimes comically) stubborn. Like my mother, she was strong and independent, active and fun. She had a bright and beautiful smile. She found joy through song. She loved to cook for and feed her family. She laughed easily. To us, this is motherhood.
Going back one generation more, my great grandmother Celia was yet another example of independence and strength. She left an unhappy and abusive marriage, even though divorce was frowned upon in the early 1900’s. She, along with her sister, raised my six year-old grandmother in a three-room house. This was during the Depression, and both women were fortunate to have steady employment and worked 12-hour days. This meant extra responsibilities at home for my young grandmother. I believe it was in this household the bond between women, and strength and tenacity of our female bloodline was first formed. My great grandmother was obstinate and easy going. She loved to celebrate family with elaborate meals. She taught us to feel wealth and abundance through a fully stocked refrigerator. She was wise and kind. She loved bright colors, patterns, and, to the delight of her granddaughters, she always wore sparkly costume jewelry. She had a deep hearty laugh and a very sweet tooth. She loved to dance and sing. To us, this is motherhood.
I look now at my mother, my sister, and myself and who we are as women and mothers. While we shared many of the same life experiences, we are unique in how this impacted us and what we took with us into motherhood. While we are each our own person, I can see in the three of us a set of traits passed down from our grandmothers: strength, concern, fierce love, strong willed and stubborn, resourceful, playful, active, nurturing, knowing, life-loving, dancing, and singing. All these traits still exist. They are divided differently amongst us, but it’s all there. I find such beauty in this. To us, this is motherhood.