What Motherhood Teaches Me: Letting Go

You’ve just gone through the marathon of birth, you’re holding your new baby and “it” happens. 

You begin to label this child as “yours,” how could you not? You’ve never loved another human this much and it’s overwhelming. It’s your job to make sure this baby thrives and grows up to be an amazing adult… it’s all up to you. 

“Your child” has now become your main focus and priority in life

You would throw yourself in front of a car or a train to save this kid without a second of hesitation. It seems so natural to protect, claim, fiercely love and hold on to our children with every fiber of our being. Yet, they are not really ours are they?

Fast forward and the child grows up a bit…

They begin to throw fits, to have behaviors that embarrass you. Surely this little heathen is not a reflection of you? If it’s “your” child how can he or she possibly behave this way? Your child was going to be perfect, an angel, a genius, a child so charismatic that everyone would love him. Maybe he’ll even be President someday. 

Who is this wild unrefined creature and how can you tame him into a child you can be proud of? Why is she wearing that revealing outfit? You taught her better than that, this can not be the daughter you raised! These are the moments that happen in parenting, and they are challenging you to let go. 

Holding on and taking ownership of those we love comes pretty innately

When we “love” someone or something it just feels right to keep them close and to lay claim to them in one way or another; and when it comes to our children we also add the presumption that they are a reflection of us, which makes us hold on even tighter. So, how can we love, mold and shape our children without suffocating them or adding the burden of our expectations to their experience of growing up. 

The answer is so simple, and so difficult: We. Let. Go. 

I have been a mother now for almost 24 years. I have 5 children (and one more on the way) which somehow leads people to believe I’m an expert at this mom thing. Well, I’m not. I get asked often what the most difficult part of parenting is. Is it the toddler years? Surely it must be the teenage years? 

For me, the biggest hurdles to move through have been because I’m holding on to something or someone too tightly. The deepest challenges of being a mother for me have been because I’m not letting go.

 I’m going to just make a quick little list here for you of a few of the things I’ve let go of (so far) in my journey of motherhood: 

  • My fantasy of what motherhood would be like
  • What other people think of my children
  • Embarrassment
  • Hopes
  • My need to be right
  • My fears that my child will be hurt
  • My desire to be a perfect mother
  • My own insecurities
  • My own dreams for my life
  • My dreams of what my children would be/do/have
  • My desire to raise exceptional children (because then that means I was an exceptional parent, right?)
  • Others expectations of my children
  • Regular and normal sleep
  • My toned and youthful body
  • Having free and wild sex anytime or anyplace
  • Quiet
  • An organized and clean home 
  • My ideas of who/what God is
  • My desire to “do something more with my life”
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Pride

…the list goes on and on. 

For me, motherhood has been an exercise in the art of letting go

This hasn’t ended with my adult children, trust me; letting go is a continual process. It is something I willingly and openly practice now. In fact, I actually enjoy the freedom that comes with letting go. Now, at 42, I feel like I know less than I ever have in my life, and that my friends, is a whole different kind of freedom. 

I learned the hard lessons of letting go years ago and am now in a place where there is less internal and external struggle. 

I feel a sort of ease with mothering now that I never have. I recognize the importance of guidance without ownership. I see my job now as just helping my children trust who they are and know that they are enough – while also creating opportunities for them to be kind, loving, thoughtful and service-oriented human beings instead of raising them to be goal-oriented. 

What I want for my children is a life full of joy, deep love, and continual learning. I want them to shift, change and experiment with who they are until they find their place of knowing. I want them to learn to let go of their own expectations of themselves and of others. 

If I could gift one thing to my children I would gift them with the Art of Letting Go

Imagine a world where we have all let go of our need to be right?

Just that one thing in and of itself would change the world for the better. I may not be pushing my children to cure cancer, go to an Ivy League college, or win a Nobel prize, but I will always push them to let go of their own ego and to think of others before themselves. I will also push them to find joy and at least a little gratitude every day no matter how shitty or mundane it may seem.

I want to live my life rooted in reality because I think we often hold on to our dreams so tightly that we miss the beauty and joy in the realness of life. 

Letting go for me means that I am able to see myself and my children as beautiful, flawed, messy, real, gifted, talented, ordinary people who don’t need to be or do anything extraordinary to have a purpose. 

Letting go has allowed me to find peace in everyday life and to find deep joy in each of my children simply existing. They exist, what gifts, what joy! 

In order to love ourselves and others deeply we need to also fall in love with the practice of letting go

One of the most challenging things I’m learning to let go of is my desire to do or “be” more than “just a mom.” 

A mentor of mine recently said to me that motherhood is my practice. She is right. I am just now (through this very unplanned pregnancy of my 6th child) deeply seeing and knowing the verity of her words. 

My path is not extraordinary, it is motherhood. 

Motherhood, where my deepest treasures have been revealed and where my most profound gifts have been given. This IS the path to my highest self, it’s been here all along and yet I kept hoping for “more.” 

As I write these words I feel the truth of them coursing through my body. Ok Life, I get it. I am here now, raising my hands and letting go once again. 

How beautiful and how simple.

January 21, 2021