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The Meaning of Mother’s Day – Beyond Breakfast in Bed

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | May 9, 2014

Breakfast in bed is lovely, but what does it actually mean to be a mother? It’s much more than taking care of the kids — it’s also how we see and feel about ourselves. My oldest child just became a teenager. As a result, this Mother’s Day I’m reflecting on how my identity as a mother changes as my children grow.

Becoming a mother is one of the most powerful, defining moments in our lives. It’s much more profound than we could have imagined beforehand. When I was pregnant with my first, I envisioned myself blissfully pushing a stroller through the supermarket, sweetly snuggling an infant back to sleep by the soft glow of the night-light, and proudly documenting our daughter’s “firsts” in a custom scrap book. The reality was starkly different. Diaper “blowouts” and all-nighters with a colicky baby aside, I felt like I had been hit by a tsunami. Parenting was simply much more difficult than I had ever imagined. Consequently, my sense of who I was – my identity – was turned completely upside-down as well. Everything I was, and everything I thought I would be, changed on that morning when our daughter was born. The depth of vulnerability, protectiveness, and love I never knew existed, rolled in like a tidal wave and changed my life forever. As my husband said, “Now we’ll wear our hearts outside our bodies for the rest of our lives.”

Now that my daughter is 13, I marvel at the changes in her – and in myself. Being her mother has made me more patient, flexible, joyous, and appreciative of the miracle of life.  As my daughter’s needs change over time, it demands a change in my response. Throughout my 13 years of being a mother, I have truly learned an extremely valuable lesson. Parents and children help each other evolve and grow.

Here are some ideas to help you connect with what it means to YOU to be a mother, on this Mother’s Day. Use a journal to track your thoughts:

  • When did you first imagine becoming a mother? What were your hopes (and fears) about becoming a Mom?
  • When you were expecting your first child, how did you imagine motherhood would be?
  • How is real-life motherhood different than you thought it would be?
  • What is your ideal balance of family, self, work, and play? How can you get there?
  • How would you like your identity as a mother to evolve over the next year?