Becoming a mother has for sure been one of the most brilliant things to ever happen to me. I love my three children beyond measure and I am so proud to be their mother. It is the greatest thing I will ever do with my life...but it isn’t the only thing that I will ever do with my life, either. I spent 24 years being Erica before I gave birth to my oldest son and that person still exists. Motherhood enhanced so many parts of me, it has challenged and drained me and filled me up all at once. The one thing it has done, though, is made me even more sure of who I am as an individual separate from my identity as my children’s mom.
For me, it is incredibly important that my children know me as Erica as well as Mom. I want them to see me as a multi-dimensional person with flaws and faults, and someone who has drive and passion and interests. Is it always easy? Or course not. I get lost in my children just like everyone else. I still do my best to set the example, though.
Trying to set yourself up for perfection with this parenting gig is setting yourself up for failure. Even as I write this blog, my words are not the final word in how you should be doing things. I think especially in the society that we live in now, it is really ways for a lot of folks to get caught up in social media and the ideal of what we are ‘supposed’ to be doing, based on what everyone else is doing. You have to look within and figure out what YOUR normal is for you and your family. Even with that, sometimes you are going to fail at it. You have to give yourself the grace to accept that life can be wonderful and it can be great, but stressing out over perfection doesn’t do you any good. I have seen so many lovely people have their whole personality drained because they lost who they were chasing perfection.
It is so important to take time for yourself. Seriously. I know you’re going to say you can’t. I know you’re going to say there are dishes to be done. I know you’re going to say you can’t leave your kids. I know all of the reasons. I was a single mom for a really long time after my first marriage was over and I didn’t have a lot of help, so it isn’t like I could hop in the car and go get a coffee if I didn’t have someone to watch my son. I did sometimes just stand in my kitchen for five minutes and breathe. I did escape to my bathroom and listen to a song that grounded me. When I could, I would take time outside of my home but I think we often get caught up in trying to make moments into these huge events when really taking time doesn’t have to be that way. When I say taking time for yourself, I mean simply being within your own thoughts, thinking about yourself, your needs, your desires. You don’t need to go to Starbucks to do that (even though that is always welcome if you are able).
Sharing your passions with your children opens up so many doors. My littlest ones are a bit young for it to sink in just yet, but my oldest is twelve so I am able to do this in a really full, rich way. I have always shared with him my love of music, of reading, of writing, of cooking. Not only does it open him up to new experiences and could possibly show him things he is interested in (he is a passionate reader like me which makes me so happy), it also shows them that you have your own interests that do not just have to do with them. It shows them a different facet of your personality. I know a lot of folks say you shouldn’t be your children’s friend but I think that term gets twisted a lot. I am my children’s mother, no doubt about it, but I do also want to be their friend. Being their friend doesn’t mean that I let them get away with murder or they don’t have respect for me. I don’t handle my adult friendships that way, so why would I do that with my children who are incredibly precious to me?
Especially because I am raising what appear to be three black sons who will grow up to be black men, I want to show them that their mom was someone who loved them endlessly and would do anything for them, but also was completely herself in a world that doesn’t value black women. By having confidence in myself and my own individuality, I truly believe that I can show my children what they are able to achieve and that they can wear many hats and still be authentically themselves. That is one of the greatest gifts I feel like I can give them.