Learning To Love Myself Through Motherhood

positive parenting 

By Ashley Patek

Learning To Love Myself Through Motherhood

I sat in bed barely able to look up at my husband. I was doing that ugly cry where your face can’t help but reveal your emotion. 

I’ve always been transparent with my heart, yet opaque with my self-love. 

And perhaps that’s because my self-compassion is often in short supply. 

Any mis-step, mis-take, miss-the-mark, always seems to validate any truths I have about myself, the narrative that runs on replay most days, the one that says, “You aren’t enough.”

I have never called my enoughness into question more than becoming a mother. 

And there, in the middle of my bed, with the covers pulled high, I sat like my child-self used to, replaying affirmations that fed into my negative self-talk. 

I was never a mother who dreamed of being a mother. I was terrified at the thought of raising small humans, of losing myself, and also of finding myself. 

The truth was, I never imagined I would be good at mothering, and, just as much, I feared letting that much love in. 

Now, here I was sitting where so many others have sat before me (and likely many are as I write this): living in my not-enoughness. 

I have been short-tempered. 

Detached. 

Distracted. 

The words slipped past my lips, and there was no going back. “I feel like I am a terrible mother. Like I am failing them.” My heart felt angst. I actually believed what I was saying. 

And then my husband did something unexpected. He kneeled beside me, and instead of trying to fix it or make it better, he just listened. He let me cry. He let me express my pain. He never left me. 

As my tears transitioned to sniffles, I thanked my husband for his support, honestly surprised by his course of action. Emotions and communication are not always his cup of tea. 

Seeing the grateful yet curious look in my eyes, he smiled and replied, “I learned from you. This is what you do for our sons every day. Maybe you can’t see it because you’re so in it, but I see it. You are the exact mom they need.”

There it was, that immense almost-too-much-to-bear love, oozing out of me for my sons. I realized the part I was lacking most wasn’t my mothering skills. It was my self-love, self-compassion, and self-respect that needed polishing. 

I see a little girl in my reflection, the one who felt she had to carry the burden of perfection, who felt she was only worthy if she was at 100%, and I tell her what I needed to hear all those years ago: You are worthy of giving love and being loved.

Many people say that you can’t love another until you fully love all parts of yourself. I actually believe this to be false. Motherhood has taught quite the opposite.  

But I do believe it is challenging to let others love you and to receive that love in its full capacity if you do not love yourself.  

Our kids are resilient. Without conditions. They love with open hearts and see past our mistakes, our shortcomings, and our false narratives. They see us for who we truly are - all parts - and they choose love. 

Somewhere, along the way to adulthood, we often lose that lens. I am finding my way back to my child-self, and loving her, through my children. 

_______

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