All of us want to be seen in a good (sometimes perfect) light, and that desire can be particularly strong for moms. I admit, I used to be guilty of painting unblemished portraits of myself for my four daughters. I wanted to protect them from my flaws, pain and embarrassment while pushing them to thrive and achieve.
I gave my girls the impression that their mother never made mistakes and had never been heartbroken. But in using silence, keeping secrets and (occasionally) offering up lies to create a flawless image of myself, I wasn’t showing them the complete picture of me.
This realization only struck me three years ago, upon my own mother’s passing. While reflecting on her life, I noticed emotional gaps in her time line. Her major life events (birth, schooling, work history) were evident. But I was clueless about her deepest feelings and failures. Did she have unfulfilled dreams? What regrets had she pushed to the bottom of her heart? I didn’t ask. And she didn’t tell.
Even though my daughters tune me out sometimes, I now have open conversations—without shame or blame—with them. And I encourage you to do the same. Listen for questions and speak answers with an honest heart. Encourage curiosity about your life. And don’t let the fear of revealing your whole self disrupt a legacy of love and understanding.
Missing mom? If Mother's Day triggers feelings of loss, don't run from your grief—just be with it. Take a deep breath, think about postive memories and know you're not alone in your pain.
A mother of four, Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.
Illustration by Jessie Ford