I have a 7-year-old son. From the moment he was born, I have cared for him, worried about him, and not known what to do with him. I can barely take care of myself; and now, I am on this journey to care for another human and teach him how to be productive in society — the pressure.
During these years with A., my mitral valve prolapse (MVP) worsen. As a result I was more depressed, more anxious, less patient, and angrier. Now that the MVP is fixed, things have evened out, though sometimes depression and anxiety creep up on me. These come up when hormones are running amok or when something is going on with A. I swear the kid feeds these emotions.
But he shouldn’t.
And I shouldn’t let him. Though there are times when I find myself looking to him and our interactions for signs that I am a “good mommy,” or for strength to get through the sometimes-difficult task of navigating the playground. There are also the times when I beat myself up about the “bad mommy moments”— a phrase coined by a former co-worker. All of these things play havoc on my psyche and my health. Last week science confirmed it.
Where Moms Draw Their Strength
Arizona State University (ASU) researchers decided to look at what allows mothers to be caregivers for 18 years or more, and maintain their sanity (my words, not theirs). Four factors rose to the surface after the researchers interviewed more than 2,000 well-educated, upper middle-class mothers about what helped them cope with motherhood: Unconditional acceptance, authenticity in relationships, friendship satisfaction, and feeling comforted when needed.
So let’s think about these things:
We give our children unconditional love. “Just as unconditional acceptance is critical for children, so it is critical for mothers who must provide it,” said Suniya Luthar, PhD, one of the authors of the Developmental Psychology study in a prepared statement. “Mothers, like children, benefit greatly when they know they have reliable sources of comfort when in distress.”
For me, my husband provides this. Though the researchers found that marriage was not a necessary component for this, in my case, it is. My husband has the uncanny ability to point out what’s going on truthfully, with humor, and still offer support even when I am in the wrong. This leads to the next factor…
Authenticity in relationships
“The Truth Parrot” is my husband’s alter ego, and there are times when I request to speak to it rather than him. For the obvious reason, sometimes you just need to know the truth. My closest friends are also no B.S. kinds of women. I love that and would not have it any other way.
My friends are great, but I don’t talk to them enough — they are scattered all over the US. This is more because I don’t pick up the phone enough. In addition, I should make more local friends. A definite challenge for me since I am a bit of an introvert. Small talk isn’t my strength…but I am trying.
Feeling comforted when needed
Honestly, this is a hard one for me. I usually feel comfort when I am by myself (It’s my only child upbringing), which is difficult in a small New York apartment. In this study, feeling support was captured by two phrases: “I feel seen and loved for the person I am at my core,” and “When I am deeply distressed, I feel comforted in the way I need it.”
In my case, the former is definitely true, and I need to figure out the latter. Basically, I need to come up with better coping mechanisms then going outside and crying on a bench…winter is coming.