Guest Post by Nikki Klein
I believe the journey of any parent is inherently one of ongoing transformation. For mothers, there are outward physical changes that occur during the months of pregnancy. However, for me the most profound changes took root emotionally and mentally in the period after my first son was born.
Growing up I was always the one at family gatherings holding the babies and playing with little kids. Family members would say to me, “You are so good with kids” and “You are going to make a great mom someday” and I would feel proud and excited. Then as I grew older, and the weight of society’s often negative view toward mothers settled on me, these statements would make me cringe. I decided I needed to focus on education and career and kids would likely just get in the way of that path. I wanted to be something more than what I wrongly perceived as “just someone’s mom”.
Fast forward to the point in life where I felt like I had made it by the world’s (my own?) standards. My formal education was complete, and I started a challenging and fulfilling job. My husband and I had the discussion many times centered around how we enjoyed our current life but maybe there was something more we were missing? I was now open to the possibility of children but still uncomfortable and uncertain about what it meant to be a mother. After some more time when my son was born, I have this distinct memory of holding him during a late-night feeding in the dark and whispering, “I’m your mom”, with tears rolling down my face at how ill equipped I felt assuming that role.
I started to look for advice and direction on how to be the best parent. I wanted to approach parenting like I had other areas of my life with the external validation that I was doing it right, looking for a gold star each step of the way. I started to follow what I call “mom pages” on social media. One day amidst a lot of unhelpful advice, I came across a quote from Brene Brown on parenting that felt like it cracked a door open:
“I think the single most important thing I learned from my research is this: We can NOT give our children what we don’t have. If we want our children to have courage, compassion and connection, we must practice these things in our daily lives. If we want them to love and accept who they are, our job is to love and accept who we are.”
This statement played over and over in my head as I realized I have spent most of my life not loving and accepting who I am. Even as I was not being “burdened” by family life and being fulfilled in my marriage and career, I was always trying to fit someone else’s mold. I certainly didn’t want my son to do this someday. As the quote describes, it became clear that the most impactful way to ensure he doesn’t is to begin the work on myself.
I now consider being a mother a privilege and gift. Possibly the greatest gift is the motivation to begin a lifelong journey of self-acceptance and transformation that I hope will carry on in my children, something that no amount of education or career growth could provide.