White-Knuckled Motherhood

white-knuckled motherhood jkmcguire

“…Life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places.” (Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen)

Last night I watched out the window as the boys jumped full-force with both feet into the mud puddles in our backyard. They laughed. They splashed disgusting water everywhere, soaking themselves, and covering everything around them in gross wet. I shook my head and told my inner “they are making a mess” critic to let them play. Later they came pouring onto the deck laughing and shoving each other, their boots leaking yard water all over the planks. I had them strip down to their undies – which in boy-listening meant they stripped down to nothing and came streaking through the house bare-fleshed. I watched them run naked-ass through the house leaving in their wake swamp water all over the hardwood floors. This is white-knuckled motherhood.

Instead of waiting for them to gather their things into the laundry, I did it for them. As they took a shower leaving even more water all over the master bathroom floor because someone forgot to put the inside shower curtain inside the tub, I took their drenched, smelly clothing into my arms and soaked the gross away. I swear our very old washing machine is beginning to smell like soil, wet dog, and boy.

These moments when the sun is setting just right behind the backyard fences casting golden light across faces and puddles, as they jump full-force and flush-faced racing the shadows through the muddy grass – this is when I feel the fullness of motherhood with gratitude.

This is when I feel alive.

motherhood is a piece of the whole of me jessicakmcguire

Every single day I am very aware that I get to be a mother. I no longer consider motherhood a job. This is not my work. You can get fired from a job. You can not get fired from motherhood (well – you can if you are unsafe, but that is a different story).

Motherhood is something that I am. It is a piece of the whole of me.

As I watch them grow, as we add days, weeks, months, and years to our every second together, I gasp for breath. I wonder what I must have done in a previous life to deserve such goodness in the present? If you believe in such things. Or perhaps it all really is luck of the draw?

What about grace? Is motherhood all about grace? I do not deserve it and there is nothing I could ever do that could earn what we have together.

Grace met me along the way –me, a royal mess with but a spark of hope – and she offered to me LIFE.

I grasp it tightly white-knuckled motherhood terrified of what might happen if I let my hands go.

I’ve come so close to losing them and them losing me. I take none of it for granted.

grace met me along the way jessicakmcguire

When Motherhood Hurts

I know Mother’s Day is hard because of all the loss and all the pain and all the unfulfilled wanting. It can be brutal to attend church and watch other mothers stand in honor while you sink lower into the pew. It can be hurtful to have your baby’s daddy not help your child consider… you… again. It can be excruciatingly painful to remember babies or children who should be here, but they are not and no matter how long the time LOSS IS NOT SOMETHING you will ever “GET OVER.” You carry them with you always. How could you not? (Lisa Walters has a beautiful story to tell about motherhood and loss)

It can be desperately lonely to want with all of your being, but despite years of trying still lacking a spouse and/or a child.

It can be difficult when this day reminds you of the mother you have lost and so desperately miss. It hurts.

It can be soul sucking to have to think about the woman who raised you – and hurt you. This is another day to hang a cloud of guilt and shame over how you are living your life not good enough for her, not meeting her where she expects to be met, and she is likely to take today to remind you if you give her the chance. *cough* *MomGuilt* *cough*

Perhaps your child does not call you or recognize you in the manner in which you thought they would as adults and it stings…another Mother’s Day that stings.

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White-Knuckled Motherhood

One of the things my mother often says is that she was not a good mother. There are parts to this particular story she tells that are true. She was perhaps not the best mom or the most emotionally present, but I also think she was the best mother she knew how to be at the time. And she isn’t the same. She grew.

Elizabeth Gilbert says, “When I was growing up, I never learned how to have the kind of emotionally honest (and sometimes terribly frightening) conversations with myself and others that Brene [Brown] teaches us to engage in. The fact that I never learned all those skills as a child is not the fault of my parents; they never learned all those skills from their parents, either. My parents taught me literally everything they knew, but people cannot teach you what they do not know. People cannot give you what they themselves never had.

I write candidly about what I wish my parents and my husband’s parents had been brave enough to be honest about in this article, “I Wish Our Parents Had Been Brave.” Emotional vulnerability, being teachable and ABLE saved my relationship with my parents – I was able to see my mother and my father despite their parenting deficits as human beings capable of immense greatness and immense hurt. I was able to forgive what was and see myself more clearly. They were capable and ABLE to recognize their own flaws and deficits and to change. We were able to move forward in a different way together.

One of the greatest honors I have had as my mother’s daughter is bearing witness to her becoming.

I am not sure why but the age I most vividly remember my mother turning was 28. I would have been about 9 at the time. As I grew I would learn what had happened to her in her life – those things that were completely beyond her control, the things in her control, and why certain aspects of womanhood/motherhood were more difficult for her than others. Along the way she found her heart and her tears again and we discovered a mother we had not previously known, but in glimpses.

All I can ever hope to do and be as a woman and mother is grow too.

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Image: KBK
Image: KBK

All I can ever pray is that I remain ABLE.

  • Able to listen.
  • Able to hear.
  • Able to see.
  • Able to change.
  • Able to be teachable.
  • Able to let go.
  • Able to HOPE.
  • Able to forgive.
  • Able to seek forgiveness.
  • Able to set my pride and need to be right aside.

My own mother has witnessed her children’s white-knuckled grip on life repeatedly. All three of us – my mother, brother, and I – have faced the reality of our own death head on. We haven’t let go – we have fought to stay – because of what we have witnessed in her. A resilience to lean in when it is difficult, to speak truth when it hurts and life bleeds and we lose people we have loved, to accept our deficits and learn from our lack. We have witnessed her reinventing herself and discovering who she is… without apology.

Because of her I have stopped fearing who I am and why…

Because of her I am no longer seeking and needing permissions outside myself.

Because of her I am no longer apologizing for being ME.

Because of her I am a little more able every day.

What about you – what have you witnessed in your mother or in your children or in a woman that you know that has made you ABLE?


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