This month we celebrate mothers. We celebrate every person who fulfils the role of mothering – the role of loving, caring and nurturing children. Often a thankless and sacrificial role, sometimes unnoticed and unappreciated, it is also a role that is fundamental to our society. Mothering can be an endless giving of everything you have.
One of the most important lessons for me about mothering has been about boundaries – not about boundaries for my children, which are crucial for their development, but setting my boundaries with them for my own wellbeing. I came to motherhood with a picture of the selfless, sacrificial mother as the ideal. Given my desire for harmony, this translated into a continual giving of everything I had. It led to a tolerance of impossible demands and an abuse of my kindness. It left me exhausted, financially stressed, resentful, and irritable. It wasn’t a good situation for anyone in my life.
It was a situation that was harmful to my children too. My lack of boundaries taught them to be selfish and disrespectful. It prevented them from taking responsibility for their lives. It may even have caused lasting damage to their feelings of financial security because we did not set boundaries around responsible spending.
Thankfully, I became conscious of my unhelpful picture of motherhood, and my lack of boundaries. I had to rethink my picture. I realised that the best gift to my children was a present and happy mother. I had to draw lines around tolerable behaviour and reasonable requests. I had to set reasonable financial limits for their spending.
To do that, I had to value my needs as much as theirs. I still struggle with this. It doesn’t come naturally to me. For other mothers, the struggle might be the opposite – they may struggle to be more lenient, accommodating, or generous. It is about the balance of needs between those who mother and those who are being mothered. It isn’t possible to maintain this balance daily, but over time, there should be energy, funds, time, and opportunities for a mother’s needs to be met.
So often in my work, I see how mothers sacrifice their own financial security for their children. Whether they choose their child’s education over their own financial security or allow their adult children to abuse their charity, these choices have lasting consequences for mothers and children.
If you are the recipient of motherly love or a mother’s partner, help her to ensure that she is taken care of too. It is the best way to thank her. Not just on Mother’s Day but throughout the year.
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