Generations of Motherhood, Generations of Pain
Let me tell you about the great-great grandmother I met recently. Let me tell you about her graceful elegance and quiet demeanor. Let me tell you about her 11 kids, 30+ grandkids and her ever growing number of great-great grandkids. And let me tell you about how she wanted to kill herself when she was a young mom.
First, it is incumbent on me to say that although I openly acknowledge all the difficulties and drastic changes that happen to us as mothers, I fully believe that motherhood is a beautiful journey that changes us as women. Makes us stronger. And, I believe, can even make us whole. Still, motherhood is not for the faint of heart and the trials and tribulations of becoming a mother are a reality for many. Unfortunately, many do not seek or find the healing they need from some of the traumas that motherhood can bring. And sadly, this can hold them back from experiencing all the joy that motherhood can bring.
That brings me back to my new friend. This strong, yet fragile woman stood in front of me, seemingly so put together. Her tightly curled, grey hair perfectly quaffed. Her slacks and blouse perfectly pressed. A sparkle in her eyes and a subtle smile on her face as we spoke.
So, when she told me she wanted to kill herself, I was stunned.
Softly, she told me about the times she daydreamed about “crashing her car into a light pole,” because she felt she was failing every day as a mother. She told me how she felt she couldn’t handle motherhood and how she felt her kids would be better off with out her. She dreamed about dying.
Decades later, as she recounted the memories to me, my heart broke.
And she has not been the only one to break my heart in this way. After speaking to hundreds of mothers from all walks of life and all different generations over the past several months, many older moms have cried to me about their motherhood hurts and sadly, the fact that they still haven't healed from those traumas.
Many times we believe generations that came before had it easier than us. Moms were not expected to do as much, they had less technology and resources. Less information. Less pressure.
Or maybe we assume women of generations past were just stronger than us. “Back then they could just grin and bear it.” Or “She raised three kids on her own without complaining.”
But that simply isn't true.
Expectations may have changed, but the same pressure remains.
Sure, today, we moms have a TON of pressure on us. We are expected to raise perfect kids, cook healthy meals from scratch, keep a Pinterest-perfect house and Instagram-perfect body and (often) also provide an income. But sometimes we forget the pressures our foremothers had to be the perfect mother, the perfect homemaker, the perfect chef, and a perfectly polite lady, often while being expected not to work. Not to chase their dreams. Not to take time for themselves.
After meeting this remarkable great-great Grandmother, her face and words lingered in my thoughts for weeks. And this is my takeaway:
Motherhood is full of joy. And it’s full of challenges. Pressure is pressure, and guilt is constant. It doesn’t matter if you have tons of resources or very little, motherhood is hard.
All we can do is support each other and do our best to give ourselves, and each other, grace. We may not be perfect, but our kids don’t need perfect. They just need us.
So if you meet a grandmother, or a great-grandmother, take a minute to listen to her story. Show her some love and give her the gift of “me too.”
Then, try your absolute hardest to love yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for your kids and the generations of moms to come, not to mention the best thing you can do for you.