Celebrating the “Mom Within”


Mothers Day is a wonderful opportunity to honor the caregivers who devoted their time, energy, and love to us in big and small ways throughout the years. But beyond the rituals of brunch and flowers, what are we affirming when we celebrate motherhood each May? Are we spotlighting the traditional “feminine virtues” of nurturing, support, patience and compassion? What about the more “masculine” values of responsibility, loyalty, pride, and protection? When you think about it, these are all qualities shared equally by the best mothers and fathers, as well as our favorite friends and relatives who may not be parents. It takes all of these attributes in abundance to help a little one grow into an adult capable of meeting his or her own needs while maintaining healthy relationships with others

The easy sentiments of Hallmark Cards notwithstanding, the realities of parenting can be tough; even the best parents drop the ball on occasion. Fortunately, psychologists tend to agree that parents don’t have to be perfect – just “good enough.” Moms and Dads usually do the best they can with the emotional, physical, and material resources they have at the time. Unfortunately, even when parents are good enough, kids often believe that they are to blame when their needs are not being met.

Whether your own caregivers were more June Cleaver or Joan Crawford, a big part of growing up is recognizing your parents’ constraints and how they might have impacted your relationships and sense of self-worth. This stage involves letting go of the need for your parents to provide the approval, love, or structure you didn’t get enough of as a kid.

The next stage of growth occurs when you take responsibility for your adult self by becoming your own best “parent.” First, notice how you talk to yourself: Are you loving, encouraging, and forgiving, or critical and angry? Do you notice and attend to your emotional and physical needs in a proactive way, or wait until you’re about to fall apart? If you find that you sometimes abuse your “inner child,” don’t panic…there are ways to develop those desirable parenting qualities mentioned earlier. Two of my favorites are affirmations and “resourcing.”

Affirmations are simply positive statements that, when repeated regularly, create new beliefs. Great affirmations are short and sweet, such as: “I deserve love and acceptance,” or “I recognize and attend to my needs each day.”

Resourcing is a sort of advanced fake-it-till-you-make-it. If there are certain characteristics you’d like for yourself that you didn’t get from your own caregivers, you can “borrow” them from other mentors, role-models, spiritual figures, or even fictional characters. Borrow Joan of Arc’s courage and your Aunt Sally’s ability to find the humor in a tough situation. Humans learn about relationships through modeling – watching and imitating. The great thing about being grown-up is that you can choose your models.

Finally, remember to show yourself plenty of patience and compassion, loyalty and pride as you learn the ropes of self-parenting. Just as children grow in stages, so do great parents. It’s a process of trial and error where there’s always another chance because the relationship you’re working on is with yourself. So, while you celebrate your mother this mother’s day, take a moment to practice the principles of good parenting and honor your own “inner mom.”

Article by Claire Mauer

Originally published in the Kendall & Kendall newsletter — May, 2010