Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Art of Mothering

Fellow blogger and kindred spirit, Claire wrote a short post today containing quotes about motherhood. I really loved the following quote, because it fits perfectly with the concept I've tried to put into words about what I feel a mother's job is:

The art of living is to function in society without doing violence to one's own needs or to the needs of others. The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.
- Elaine Heffner

I have told DH things like this:

A mother's job is to teach her children how to be in the world. And being pertains to how they relate to other people in their interpersonal relationships, how they see and feel about themselves, and how they can achieve happiness.

I am sad for Claire who, like so many other ACoNs and children who have been abused, never knew what it was like to have a loving mother. Motherhood, by its very nature, is a powerful thing. Like many people do in positions of power, mothers can abuse the power they have been given.

I strive everyday to be the best mother I can be, and I know that my mothering skills can always improve. I want to show my children how to be in the world, I want them to live, learn, and love. I want them to know true happiness and be able to work through all the struggles that life will occasionally throw at them. I was given a great start in life because I had a wonderful mother, one who is as loving and devoted as they come. Is she perfect? No, of course not. But she is one of the few people on this earth who I know I could trust without any doubts, who I can turn to when I'm in need, who taught me that truth and sincerity are the only policies by which to live. I know depth because of what my parents showed me. They are not responsible for who I am or what becomes of me, but they were responsible for making me feel loved, nurtured, and appreciated as a little Jonsi. They did their jobs.

Now, it's my turn.


  1. One of the things I struggle with to this day, and I am middle-aged, is the ability to let go and completely trust another person. Even with my wonderful DH, who is my ideal of what a husband should be, I have trouble bearing my soul and relinquishing my control over myself.

    From a very early age, my mother betrayed me. She would twist things around and tell stories to embarrass me. Or reveal confidential information, no matter who was the audience, never caring how their revelations would affect me. By the time I was a teenager, I stopped confiding in her. I told her very superficial things, just enough to keep her from probing. I told her things that if she "had a slip of the tongue", I didn't care. Years later when I was an adult she complained that she. "didn't really know me" - translation - "I know nothing about you that I can use against you." I told her that she was right and that she only had herself to blame. She never got it - never changed.

    The one thing I can say about my own parenting is that my kids know I am a vault. They can tell me ANYTHING and I will never betray them. They actually have to say to me that its okay to tell their Dad. LOL

  2. Cindi - As always, I'm saddened to hear about how terrible it was for you as a child, having a mother who you could not confide in and trust. I think that is so, so important: the two people in life that our kids should be able to trust the most, without a doubt, forever and always, is their parents. It's so sad to see that many people didn't have that experience!

    What you wrote about how your mother treated your confidences sounds so much like my husband. In my experience with narcs, it is so true that you HAVE to keep things superficial if you are to maintain any sort of relationship with them, because as you said, if you give them ANYTHING more, it will only be used against you. Good things, bad things, it doesn't matter, they just hurt you with the "deep" stuff they know about you. And what the heck kind of relationship is that? Not a good one.

    It's good to hear that your children can trust you without a doubt. I think that is so important.

  3. Yes, Cindi, my NM did that, too, still does. Jonsi is right: You have to keep things superficial. I took to heart the idea: Anything you say can and will be used against you at a later date when it will do as much damage as possible. My NM also complains that she doesn't know me. Her loss, and not my responsibility to correct. It is my responsibility to take care of myself physically and emotionally.

    Bless all the chainbreakers, who make a different choice for themselves and their children.

  4. I'm not a parent so am reluctant to comment. The quote struck me as a little negative. I'd like to see more about improving the situation rather than just fitting in.

  5. Evan - You present an interesting perspective. I can see what you mean concerning the quote being about fitting in, instead of making the world around us a better place. (By "the world" I mean anything from society, at large to their own family unit).

    I liked the quote because I saw it as being relevant to what I think part of mothering means - that is, teaching our children how to love and be loved within the world around them.

    And, for the record, I think your opinion is still worthwhile, even though you don't have children of your own. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Evan, I can see where you're coming from. I saw "functioning in society" not as "fitting in" but as being able to relate to other people, being able to have healthy relationships that are productive and nurturing. So much of parenting is teaching kids how to figure out what their needs are and communicate and meet them without trampling on the rights/needs of others.

    Judy, you've made me think of a beatitudes for ACONs: "Blessed are the chainbreakers, for they shall..." hmm, what shall they inherit?

    Jonsi, thanks once again. I'm sad for me, too. Sometimes I want to scream IT'S NOT FAIR! Every child should be wanted, loved, and treated with kindness.

  7. Jonsi, You always amaze me with your ability as a nonACON to see the dynamics so very, very clearly. I had long ago given up on trying to explain to others the hell I grew up in...
    Thanks so very much! Your DH and kids are so fortunate. I firmly believe I would have been much better off to have been raised by wolves than my narcmother. At least they don't torture and attempt to kill their off-spring. They teach their off-spring well and send them off with all they need to live in this world.
    Which is far more than we got.

  8. Claire - It ISN'T fair. Not at all. But I do believe that we have the power to change our own futures. Through our choices, we can shape what becomes of our lives and make different paths for ourselves, other than the unhealthy ones that others might have chosen for us. You are already on a far different path than the one your NM wanted for you.

    Anon - Someday I'll get to do some posting in regards to the relationships I had with narcissists - much of my enlightenment about narcissism I owe to personal experience. Sad, but neither are experiences that I would take back now, even if I had the power to do so. I learned far too much and I feel the knowledge I gained from those relationships has helped me help my husband. I suffered through some terrible times with narcissists but managed to see my way out of them.

    I'm glad that you can benefit from my experiences, even if it's just gaining a sense that there are more people out there who understand your plight.

  9. Your blog has also helped me so much this past year. Thank you Jonsi, and Happy New Year! xx

  10. You're welcome, Nyssa! Happy New Year and thanks for reading!