By Ana Rubenstein
Last Sunday, I was pretending to be a dinosaur chasing two cheetahs inside the house. My children and I were having a wonderful time when suddenly my son and my daughter collided. His front teeth managed to hit her face and open a cut that I was scared to look at. I rushed to stop the bleeding and drove to the hospital emergency room where she got 6 stitches.
After my adrenaline settled down, I dove into guilt. I blamed myself for chasing them inside the house. Why was I not more careful? Why were we running inside the house knowing it is not safe? The blame went on as I kept asking myself: “Why did I not predict that could happen? I pointed the finger at myself and said: “You failed!” and all I could think about was a scar on my daughter’s face. Somehow I woke up from the nightmare I was in and noticed how I have been so hard on myself not just on this occasion but so many others in my motherhood journey. How many times I have been my worse enemy?
This time though, I chose to forgive myself for this accident. I went further and forgave myself for all the areas in which I felt that I failed as a mother before. I imagined that this mother that I am right now could travel to the past and meet the mother I was at some point in time to offer her a sincere piece of forgiveness and why not a big hug too?
This week I revisited myself at last Sunday night, looked into my eyes and said: “Ana, you were playing with the kids, you were having fun with them and they bumped into each other just like they would in any other place. It was an accident and I forgive you” I went on saying that Sophia hurt her face and this was not my fault. “I forgive you for not predicting this accident and for not preventing the 6 stitches on her face. I forgive you for not predicting she would pick the stitches a day later and compromise the healing. I forgive you for yelling at her when she did that. I forgive you for not always being positive and patient during this process. I forgive you for not always knowing what to do.
After forgiveness, I then offered myself acknowledgement. I acknowledged myself for playing and having fun with my kids, for going to the ER as fast as I could when I was so scared and not sure of what to do. When my daughter’s face was bleeding I was there to clean the blood, hold the skin together, give her hugs and keep her calm when she was unsure and also scared. I acknowledged myself for holding her hand and supporting her when the doctor was doing the stitches. I acknowledged myself for bringing her to different doctors including a plastic surgeon and making sure she is healing well and staying safe. I acknowledged myself for taking care of her and making her feel loved. I acknowledged myself for teaching her that her body has the power of healing and that it takes its own time.
Now I want to extend the invite to all the mothers here to forgive themselves, to drop the “mother’s guilt” and the expectation of being perfect. I invite you to accept that we will never have all the right answers and stay away from all mistakes in this motherhood game. Why should we keep insisting to focus on the negatives, in what we didn’t do or what we should have done? The accident we wished we prevented or predicted, the patience we have lost, the time we didn’t have to give them more attention, the advice or comfort we were supposed to give and we didn’t know how, the important thing they had to say and I didn’t listen, that day they wanted to play and we were no available, that day we said no and wished we said yes. The list can go on and on, and before it gets bigger, it is time to stop focusing on our failures because they just make us feel so heavy and take away our peace of mind. It is time to change perspective, let the criticism go and start to acknowledge ourselves for all the positive things we do for our children. It is time to learn from mistakes, to use them as an opportunity to create something positive around us. It is time to let the forgiveness and the privilege of motherhood in. It is time to start this practice until we master it.
So next time mom’s guilt strikes you, ask yourself “What I am doing right?” Acknowledge yourself as fast as you can and ask for help if you are having a hard time to see it for yourself. Put a break on self-judgment and criticism. Make a point to learn from every experience and keep mothering with love, the most important ingredient. Cheers to motherhood with imperfections, forgiveness, and peace of mind.