When my father was alive he was a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. So much so that he often asked me one question again and again:
“Kiddo, if you could do something with no fear of failure, how would you live today? What would you attempt?”
While I was reading the truly inspiring book “Purple Leaves, Red Cherries” by Tania Elfersy and Andrea Katzman I kept those words in mind. The short stories, confessions and heart pouring of other moms include stories on topics from going back to work to how their sex lives were forever changed. From the small frustrations and the great big victories they offered me small scoops of understanding until my empty plate was full.
The simple truth is that if I could be assured I would never fail I wouldn’t have any of my own stories of light bulb moments in my own journey through my new life as a mom. While I worry, fret, question and complain about the complex nature of raising children, it’s in those moments that I have seen my true self emerge and felt assured about my rightful place among the motherhood of this space and time.
When I was struggling through infertility, I often made assumptions and predictions about the kind of mother I would be. It was easy when the children of my dreams were just that. I could talk about them in an abstract manner, never accounting for the personality traits they would come into my life with. I don’t think I ever thought of them with their own expectations. Instead I focused on my own and decided long before I held them that “Oh I would never do that!” and “Of course I’ll never be that kind of mom,” plus the self righteousness of the statement, “NOT my children!”
I think in those moments I took the words of my father a bit too seriously, honestly believing that I could take my own past and rewrite it, take my own opinions and somehow pour them into the minds of the children I bore and not fail at the enormous job of parenting.
Plus I had watched my own mother work, finish undergrad and grad school, teach and raise us in my mind without giving anything up. Our house was clean, our mouths were fed, our chores were many but at the helm of it was this strong, capable woman I looked up to and aspired to be.
When I talk to my mom today, however, she is quick to tell me how she wishes she had been with us more, had spent more time with her family and been more “mom” than career woman.
In my mind I was conflicted, since her own expectations of herself were what set her apart from the other moms of my peers and I looked upon that with pride and admiration.
It wasn’t until I was a mother myself that I saw the reflection and the challenges of trying to do it all, trying to be so much more than a mom. Where every day it seems you fail at one part of your life – if you are giving to your family, your work may suffer. If you give it all to your work your children miss the sound of your voice. If you immerse yourself in child rearing your marriage might feel the sting. There comes a place where the right answers become the ones that are simply right for you in your own life and in your own moments.
I often think about how I would answer my dad if he challenged me by offering me the chance to never fail. There are many places in my work, writing and marriage that would benefit from that kind of gift. Yet if I was always assured of always making the right decisions or never having to look back on my actions as a regret or mistake, I know I would always choose to never disappoint my children. I would pray for the strength, patience and wisdom to always get it “right” for them.
Even while I am sure that some of those failing moments are the ones that might teach me the most.
As a mother I guess I am always going to be a work in progress, each day asking (praying) for one more chance to “get it right” on my own terms.
Just.Be.Enough. is collaborating this week with Tania Elfersy, author of “Purple Leaves, Red Cherries,” to write three days of “inspired by” posts. While JBE is not a site that does reviews, we felt strongly that this book so beautifully aligned with our mission that we wanted to showcase it here. Some JBE team members received a personal copy of the book for the purpose of review. No compensation was received. All opinions are our own.