I did not grow up in the ideal home, with two loving parents still married and both present daily in my lives. There were custody battles, weekend visits, shared holidays, and mistakes made. I grew up torn between two families who both loved me equally, but separately. Since I lived most of my childhood with a single mother often times still figuring the right path herself, sometimes we struggled together.
In those times I learned from her the value of asking for help — the value of our mental health to improve our lives.
I learned that asking for help was not a sign of weakness, but of strength. It is strength to admit that we are weak, not hiding behind a pretend mask of Super Woman. It is strength to admit that we desperately want to change ourselves, change our situation, and need help getting there. Over the years I've been in and out of counseling for one reason or another, and I'm not ashamed to say that, thanks to my Mom. She taught me that bettering one’s self is a good thing. As a child she brought me there to better the relationship between us, as a teen it was to work through and heal from an unplanned pregnancy-turned-adoption plan, and as an adult counseling again was my help as I battled through postpartum depression and anxiety. She taught me to recognize my limits of what I can and cannot do on my own. She taught me that it is okay to find an outside perspective to a situation, to humble myself and let others look at the messy parts that make up me. I look back on all the seasons of life where I felt at my lowest with fond memories now. Why? Because it yielded to a more refined person within me, thanks to some help. It created a renewed outlook on my life and a new confidence in myself.
Her lesson on help does not just apply to counseling, but to daily life as well. She taught me it is okay to not be Super Woman. I don't have to be perfect for my five children. I don't have to be and do everything for them. Gesh, what a weight that is on a mom's shoulders! There is freedom in creating a village of help around us. Babysitters to trade with, someone to share carpool with, someone to watch out for your children at the playground while you nurse the baby, someone to just be your friend and let you know that you aren't alone. She taught me to take off my Super Woman mask and ask for help when I needed it. She taught me it is okay to not pretend anymore that all is well in my world. And, she taught me that it won’t last forever, and when that time comes to be a help to others.
The truth is she made mistakes and was not the perfect mom. But, I see where she and I are today, and it is good. Yes, we both had struggles as I grew up and at times we still do, both separately and together as a mother and daughter. I see hope in that, though. I see hope in how she raised me and knowing that I don't have to be perfect for my children to turn out to be healthy, thriving adults. She often tells me how proud she is of me, that I'm wise beyond my years in comparison to her. The truth is I would not be who and where I am today without her showing me the way to ask for help and always seek to better myself.
May all your days be filled with appreciation for your mother and the values she taught you — and thanks for being that person in your own children's lives. They may not appreciate us in the way we wished now, but it seems that deep appreciation comes with age and a rearview mirror.