So it's no secret between us, I have talked of my internal critic before. She's not nice. No one likes her, least of all me. Mother's day is one of the days she usually rears her head loud and proud. Mothers day is usually a day that I don't pay very much attention to, except for the two wonderful women in my life that I call my mothers.
It's never been a day that I have looked forward to as, to be honest, it's a day that I haven't ever really felt that I deserved. I don't even really remember my first Mother's Day. Actually I don't remember it at all. That's just how much of a non-event I made sure it was.
From the moment I became a mother the first time around, I was incredibly critical of myself and my ability. I saw all these women that seemed to have it together. They made motherhood look easy! They had time for their kids, time for their partner, time for themselves and some how they still had time for everyone else. That wasn't me.
I had time for Jack, no time for myself, and certainly no time for Pat. I had to call one of my mothers to come over and watch him so that I could shower. I was, in my mind... a mess. But we made do. with what we had.
Then I had Ruby. From that point on I never wanted to celebrate being a parent again. I felt that I had failed her in such a monumental way that I didn't deserve to be acknowledged for the 'wonderful job' I was doing.
I met someone yesterday, an 83 year old woman that has found a place in an incredibly large part of my heart. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. After dropping the boys off at school, I made my usual trip to the office. While checking for traffic I noticed this incredible woman walking up the street towards me, and then I saw her fall. I don't even know what I was thinking, I just reacted. I pulled the car to a stop and ran to her.
As she sat up and looked at me and the others that had run to her aide, she was determined that she didn't need any help. I insisted that she wouldn't go anywhere on her own and drove her to her doctors appointment. While in the car, I had asked her if there was anyone I could call, she'd said there wasn't. After ensuring she made it to the doctors and was safely inside, I left and kept going to the office.
She didn't leave my mind all day. I rang the doctors surgery not long after to make sure that she was ok. I also asked whether there was anyone listed as her next of kin as she'd said that there was no one I could call for her. I was told that there wasn't and that she was a veterans widow. She was on her own.
As I sat at my desk and cried for her, I promised myself and silently to her, that I would be there for her.
I visited her last night. I wanted to make sure she was ok. I was incredibly surprised to find that she had a daughter there with her. All be it pleasantly. I had written a card for this dear woman that had my phone number inside it and told both her and her daughter that if they ever needed anything, they only had to call me. I did not expect to ever hear from them again, and I went home feeling better knowing that beautiful Eileen had someone looking after her.
Here's where the story kicks in. Eileen called me this morning, she invited me to afternoon tea at her house so that I could meet her family. I accepted straight away, I had made a promise to be there for her, but I would be lying if I said I felt entirely comfortable about it.
This afternoon came around quickly and before I knew it, I was pulling up outside of her house. Last night the street was empty, as was her driveway. Today I struggled to park the car. I got out of the car, looked around and saw three other car loads of people walking towards Eileen's house. What I walked into was nothing short of incredible.
Th e woman I had met yesterday and felt an instant connection towards was not alone at all. She had a family the size of small country school. Eileen has 9 children, 25 Great Grandchildren and soon to be 5 great grandchildren. I couldn't believe my eyes as I watched her family spill into her house, accepting me, a complete stranger into their presence.
Once I calmed my nerves and managed to find 5 minutes to breathe, I watched Eileen. She was busy cooking and ensuring that her family had enough of her famous sausage rolls and scones to eat. She busied herself in the kitchen, with flour on her face and a smile on her mouth. Knees still bandaged she had only one goal today. To make her family smile.
I didn't stay long, although I wanted to. This family was remarkable. I have fond memories of my own family gatherings as young child, when we would all gather around at my grandparents house with my great grandmother present. Being in Eileen's house took me right back there. But I felt like an intruder, and decided to leave.
As I left, I choked back tears. Eileen is a woman many aspire to be. I instantly began thinking of my own failings as a mother, matriarch, family member. I couldn't tell you the last time all of my family were together. I felt so sad, leaving her house. In all honesty, I was jealous of what I had witnessed. It was beautiful, a family so full of love, laughter, and support.
Then I began to think more about what it is that makes us good mothers...
Why is that we feel that our only sense of worth as a mother, partner, friend or person can come from the comparison we make to others and the perceived superiority we have to them? Does it really matter? We could teach our children how to count much better than the mother next door. But do we tell our children we love them as much as she does? We can buy our children all the latest clothes and toys, but do we get dirty with our kids? Laugh with them? Cry with them?
As I thought more about my own situation; my mothers situation, my step mother's situation, Eileen's situation, I came to this conclusion.
The real measure of your worth as a mother, is the feeling your children have towards you, and you to them. There is NO 'perfect family'. I am lucky enough to have two mothers, each of which have taught me very different things.
My step-mother, didn't have her mum growing up, but she inherited a family that she called her own through her father's new partner. Through her I learnt that family is all important and that family is not just blood. It is the people you love and treasure. Through her, I learnt what it is to sacrifice for those you love. I learnt unconditional love.
My mother, has had more than her fair share of challenges. Including with her own mother. Through her I have learnt what it is to stare a challenge in the face and accept all it brings and rise above it. I have learnt the importance of truthful, open communication. I have learnt the value of having a meaningful bond with your parents.
Then there is Eileen, as I watched her family today the one overwhelming thing I noticed was their smiles. They were all happy, every single one of them. They talked of things that they had been through, were going through, yet the smiled and laughed together. And they talked fondly of Eileen. Of her strength, resilience and compassion.
Three incredibly different women, all three of which occupied my thoughts today. Yet they have one thing in common. None of them are perfect.
Eileen is stubborn and refuses to accept that may need some help now,
My step mother never wants to show weakness and busies her self with helping others so that no one will notice that maybe she needs help,
My mother is so critical of herself and her own ability as a mother that some days it cripples her.
Here's another thing they have in common, the unconditional love of their children. I love my mothers more than anything in the world and I would go to the end of the universe for each of them.
As I tucked my boys into bed tonight, I was struck by the same realization about myself. Michael did not let go of my neck until I promised to cover his face in one thousand kisses. He didn't care about how messy his bedroom was or how many books we'd read that night. He just wanted a cuddle, a kiss and my love. Jack was much the same, as I bent down to kiss his forehead goodnight he snuggled in against my arm, sighed and told me he loved me.
For all my self criticism as a parent, these two little boys still smiled as they closed their eyes and told me that they loved me.
My wish for all mothers tomorrow, stop comparing yourself to others. Take joy in your children's cuddles and their unconditional love of all that you do for them. No matter how inferior it may seem to you, it means the world to them because there is no one else that will do it for them or teach them the things that you do. You are the best that you can be, and your children expect nothing more. All they expect is your love and a mother's love goes without saying, regardless of her actions, her words or her gifts.
Happy Mothers day everyone, you are all incredible. xxxx
Jess Castree is a mother to two little boys and one angel little girl. She is the General Manager of a Plumbing Company in Melbourne. All round workaholic, perfectionist, over anxious, slightly neurotic woman trying to make it in the big bad world we live in today.