On this Mother’s Day weekend I have already posted two articles in honor of that very special day and of those very special ladies.
As a retired military I naturally gravitate to “all things military,” thus both articles are about “military Moms.”
Yesterday, however, I read a touching article about Mothers, period.
Moreover, it is written by a mother who has experienced all the joys and all the pains and grief of motherhood — including the loss of her daughter, Katie, who died at age 29 in July 1999, after a 10-year battle with pediatric brain cancer.
I have quoted Mary Jane Hurley Brant several times here at TMV. For example, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with suggestions on how we all might help comfort the survivors of that tragedy. More recently — not being the “mushy” kind — I used Mary Jane’s writing “as a Proxy for My Valentine’s Day Wishes.”
So here is Mary Jane Hurley’s “Happy Mother’s Day to Every ‘Good-Enough Mother’”
For many of us, Mother’s Day stirs something deeply loving. For others, ambivalent feelings abide. You see, after thirty-three years in the counseling field and drying the tears off many faces, I can accurately say that not every woman feels she had, was or is the “good-enough mother.”
So, exactly what is the “good-enough mother”? English pediatrician, Donald Winnicott, M.D. – an influential object-relations psychoanalyst – believed this type of mother was a different kind of mom because she didn’t hold perfectionism as her model. Good on you, Doc Winnicott; that’s “a like” button over here for sure. Honestly, I never realized that perfectionism in motherhood was even a possibility. Maybe it’s a new app.
I loved being a “good-enough mother.” I use the past tense now because the needs of my children have changed: my precious daughter, Katie, is in heaven with her Creator and my ever-humorous son, Richard, is happily raising his own sweet family. Each would laugh at my memories, my deep thoughts, my recollections.
For instance, in those first weeks of motherhood, if anyone even mentioned my new baby daughter’s name, my breasts would gush like the Trevi Fountain. Thank you Mother Nature.
And we all know that babies need things like diapers – lots of them. No designer Pampers for this mother either; both children were allergic to the plastic coating. Plus, my mindset was allergic to the idea of doing something easy when I could do it the hard way. The folding was nothing, but the trip to the Laundromat? Now that was an outing because we had no washer or dryer and owned one car. Besides, somebody had to make a living. (Yes, my husband’s name was “Somebody.”) Oh, the things we women do to economize saving for a house. And I really did work within a budget – absolutely resisted the purchase of a stackable washer/dryer combo for the apartment – even though “Somebody” thinks I only scrunched my nose up at the word “budget.”
~ I smile remembering days in the sun watching my toddlers splash around in a plastic pool with pictures of fish and waves on the side or pointing to my cheek for a kiss whenever the urge fell upon me.
~ I smile remembering pre-adolescence when buying a dozen donuts after Mass and eating three because “the kids like donuts.”
~ I smile remembering all those checkups and my favorite pediatrician (who happened to look like Antonio Banderas) saying to me on one I can barely stand I’m so tired mornings, “I can’t understand why your son isn’t sleeping through the night at four months.” Then he narrowed his eyes and leaned in, “You’re not playing with him when he wakes up are you?” When I didn’t immediately respond he tilted his head, pursed his lips and continued in a considerably louder voice, “Who wouldn’t want to wake up, have a little nuzzle and play? Next time, just give that baby boy water and he’ll never wake up again in the middle of the night!” Ladies, I think there’s a lesson for us in there somewhere!
So to the young moms out there, don’t worry so much about how things look or who has what. Don’t worry about making every kid’s game, every practice, while hurrying to work, cleaning up after the dog, cooking from scratch for your mate -Yikes! It’s simply too much for any woman, any mother! Instead, take a deep breath, book a facial for yourself and just do the best you can being the loving and devoted, dare I say it, “good-enough mother.”
Happy Mother’s Day, dear Moms.
Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP, is a practicing Human Relations Counselor, a Certified Group Psychotherapist and a Clinical Member of The American Group Psychotherapy Association.
After her daughter’s death, Brant — always a letter writer — continued writing to her daughter and, eventually, she compiled those letters into a book, “When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life.”
In her book, Brant tells of the efforts she and Katie made to maintain their joy and passion for life while struggling against the devastating disease, but she also hopes the book will help other grieving parents and she includes advice on accepting unimaginable loss.