How to Parenting: Facing my Shadows.

2 November 2016

Dear Baby Liam,

as motherhood comes closer every day, with all the expectations and ideas of parenting that exist out there, I have been asking myself what else there is I can do to mentally prepare for you.

I write these lines as I am leaning back on the terrace of the Southeastern Turkish Riviera, enjoying the luxury of a local Hotel and Spa and some rays of sun before diving back into the cold and colorful Northern German autumn.

My good old friend, the self-blaming thought machine, would like to apologize and to justify reasons I am here relaxing, but I am just too physically and emotionally exhausted to give her much of a space to express herself. What a wonder is it that we are able to constantly work and endure life, but when we then actually do take the break we need, our body tends to respond and release all the exhaustion that has been accumulated over the past weeks and months. This time, I consciously allow the exhaustion to kick in, and shamelessly relax in a typical, touristic package holiday setting.

I brought a book with me, one that has captured my interest because I found so many of the characteristics within myself along the read – it is about Women who love too much. How could that be, in the literal sense, you mean? Well, it is not the real, energetic kind of love that is meant in the reading, but rather an addictive kind of obsession, which is commonly being portrayed as love in cultural media.

As I mentioned to you, in all honesty, I found my correspondence to a lot of the characteristics that these women have. Most of the women I encountered in the book were coming from dysfunctional homes and spent most of their adult lives unconsciously recreating similar situations to those traumas of their childhoods in a drive to gain mastery over them. Some  unconsciously chose emotionally unavailable men, in a subtle and desperate attempt to win the struggle to be loved and respected by their own father. Others were attracted to the kind of man who was needy, who had to be changed through her love, because that was the pattern she had learned during childhood, when she was pushed into the role of nurturer while her parents had collapsed. Many of them have critically low levels of self esteem, because their feelings and opinions had never been given chances of expression, let alone validation. Maybe they are subconsciously addicted to emotional pain, because they have learned it this way. And I am no exception.

I have thought about my own family, and the hardships of multiple generations. From my grandmother to my mother and her sisters, all the way to my sisters, cousins and me – all of us have struggled with critically low self esteem. We were taught to constantly prove our worth through over-achievement, beauty, sacrifice and the very bitter notion of enduring. To endure all it takes to keep a marriage intact, my mother almost saw us involved in a car accident because our father had been drinking and she lacked sleep in an effort to stop him from doing so.

Sure, as a mother in progress of becoming, I don’t want you to grow up in a dysfunctional home. I don’t want you to grow up in a family where alcohol abuse or compulsive behaviors (compulsive eating, working, cleaning, gambling, spending, dieting, exercising…) are at work. These practices are addictive behaviors, with the effect to prevent honest, authentic contact and intimacy in a family. They are supposed to help us in avoiding to feel, to relate, to be vulnerable. But eventually, they reinforce the pain they were supposed to numb, and multiply it exponentially. I am well aware of my biochemical predisposition to addictive behaviors. My father was an addict, and so was his father. I also abused alcohol, I suffered from an eating disorder and then frantically turned my longing for security away from the control over my body to my relationship with your daddy.

I don’t want you to spend your adult life recovering from your childhood. No parent in this world actually does. And yet, it happens, all around the world. As I spent my past days reflecting upon my own childhood and the results that I am trying  to handle, I am asking myself what actually can I do to create a home for you where you won’t be traumatized? A childhood you don’t have to spend the rest of your life recovering from?

I feel what I am doing now is a step into the right direction. Facing my shadows. Facing the truth, no matter how painful it is and how strongly it triggers the old patterns of addiction, neediness and control. Knowing that I am not inevitably conditioned this way. Committing to work through my own childhood traumas. Allowing me and you to be vulnerable, to be full of flaws and imperfections, and loving ourselves for our mistakes with an open heart. As Brene Brown puts it, I want you to internalize that “you are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging”. And I want that for me too.

So, contrary to my need to overall control, which makes me want to plan every step of parenting, read the best books, and extract the wisdom that will supposedly be in your best interest, I start here. I start with myself and the compassion, the love and the validation that my inner child had lacked for a while. In making peace with myself, I can at least love you the way I would wish for you to be loved – with all my flaws, honest and naked as I am, in an effort to accept and validate your perceptions and feelings as you enter this world through me. And my boy, I will fail, at least more than once, knowing that you will forgive me, just as I will forgive myself, too.

This is the journey of a peacemaking mother. While there is no recipe to creating a safe and stable home for you, my little angel, I intuitively feel that the best step I can take now is in building a foundation that is honest and authentic. It means working on myself, embracing my own childhood shadows that might still condition me, and patiently letting go of old patterns that were unhealthy, destructive and toxic for me. Who knows – maybe you will like this place where we can simply be and be loved, and eventually decide to build your home here, on a solid rock bottom.

Love you,

Your Mum

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