My mother lives 2856.2 miles away.  I looked it up on Mapquest.  I found it strangely comforting that there were only 29 steps in the directions, even though some of them involved staying on roads for 500 miles or so.  The map that accompanied the directions, though, made me a little sad, since it showed the entire continent with a red line across it indicating the driving route.  Only 43 hours and 23 minutes to drive there, assuming you don’t sleep or eat…

In spite of the 2856.2 miles, my mother and I are very close.  We talk on the phone every night.  Sometimes we Skype, although that’s mostly so she can see her grandson.  We see each other at least twice a year, usually for several weeks at a time.  She has been there for me through some very difficult periods in my life.  Whether I go to visit her or she comes to visit me, she takes care of me.  Now that I have a husband and child, she takes care of all of us.

The other day, we were talking about my recent realization that I need to be kinder to myself.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  When I wrote about it before, my focus was on appreciating my own efforts more, and letting go of the self-criticism that I often fall into.  She agreed that this was important, but added that I also need to start taking better care of myself physically.  She pointed out that I often don’t get enough sleep or eat well enough.  Then she said, “You need to start being your own mother.”

My first reaction to this sentence is to think of things like “nurturing your inner child.”  Blech.  Not my style.  But when I get past the “blech” reaction, I find myself with an image of a divided self – a rebellious toddler on the one hand, and a strict, overly-critical, disciplinarian parent on the other.  Strange, since this isn’t the kind of mother I actually have.  The rebellious toddler thing, though, might be more on the money.  Sometimes I have trouble being a grownup.

I do know some things about mothering, though.  I have a beautiful son.  He is not even two years old yet, so there’s still a lot about mothering that I haven’t experienced yet.  But I do understand mother love.  More than anything in the world, I want my child to be healthy and happy.

There are a lot of things that I do for my son that I don’t do for myself.  He eats a very healthy diet, abundant in fruits and vegetables.  He has special bedtime and naptime routines that send him off to sleep happy and comforted.  Aren’t these things I could also do for myself?  Couldn’t I join my son every day in his afternoon fruit-and-yogurt snack, or pile vegetables onto my plate the way I do onto his?  And how much better would my life be if I went to bed at a reasonable time and created rituals that made going to sleep a peaceful and happy experience?

I’m not a perfect mother, so naturally there are areas where I feel I could do better by my son.  These are also things that would benefit me.  It would be better for both of us to get more exercise, and to see people more instead of staying in the house.  It would also be good for us to have a wider selection of low-maintenance activities on the days when I’m just not feeling well enough to go out and do those things.  Even on the lowest-energy days, I could choose to lie in a lounge chair on the patio instead of on my couch, so my son could at least get some fresh air and sunshine while he plays with his trucks. 

So maybe it’s not really about finding some mythical “inner parent” to take care of my “inner child.”  Maybe it’s just about focusing on the kind of real mother I want to be to my real child, and then extending that kind of care to myself.  Somehow, when I think about my son, things become much clearer and simpler.

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  1. WarmSocks says:

    Young kids are a lot of work, there’s just no way around that. However, you do need to take care of yourself so that you’ll be able to take care of your family. Everyone needs to find the right balance for their family. I think you have it figured out:” focusing on the kind of real mother I want to be to my real child, and then extending that kind of care to myself.

  2. Helen says:

    I think you’re right.

    Sometimes it’s easier to be good to others – and I’m sure it’s especially easy to be good to your own child – than it is to be good to ourselves. We all need those reminders to be gentle and kind to ourselves.

  3. Cathy says:

    What a touching post. I read it yesterday morning and thought about it again last night as my mother called to check on me. She has fibromyalsia and tends to worry about everyone else and maybe a little mothering of herself is what she needs too. Thanks for sharing.

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