This is for mothers — anchors for our children in this busy, hectic world
Matthew Perry (age 54) has died. He was the actor who played “Chandler” on Friends. Recently, he was found drowned in his jacuzzi, his body showing evidence of a heart attack… How tragic! One element to this tragedy is that he felt he lived much of his childhood alone, as his parents divorced and each led busy lives. He said in his autobiography that he had led a lonely life. And now he has died prematurely, and alone.
Finding a balance
As mothers, we are concerned for our children. Yet today we also lead lives that take us away from the home more than in previous eras. How do we balance our children’s needs and our own?
Mothers, I think we need to find a balance between devotion to our children and building in them a healthy level of independence. Our children need room to discover themselves whilst also knowing we are an anchor for them.
It works both ways…
As my child has entered university, I realise I am free to allow my head space to go in new directions; as well, in my personal physical space, I need room to develop in new ways.
And yet I’m also aware, I still need to be available — albeit to a reduced degree — for my son, because I’m his anchor. I’m not sure how I can find this balance, but it’s important I do this for us both. I need to explore new avenues in life so I don’t waste away. I need them for me. But I also need them for my son, so that he can be confident to explore his new life, knowing that I can flourish without him, yet secure in knowing that I’m still around as and when he might need me.
What is an anchor? It’s the weight that prevents a boat from drifting. It’s the mechanism by which that boat can bob about without losing sight of it’s permanent location. It’s a weight that will cause the boat to drag — which is both a blessing (if you don’t want to get lost) and an annoyance (if you want to float about freely).
In summary, an anchor gives the boat total freedom when it is lifted and stored out of use, and total security when it is in the water.
Mums, we are an anchor for our children. We can help them to navigate the strange world, without getting lost. We are a base they can return to. We are a plumb line from which they can gauge their growth: their alteration from what was to what is to what they are becoming. And we are a moral compass — sometimes even their conscience — should they temporarily lose sense of their own.
Parenting can feel imprisoning / oppressive if we put too much ownership on who our children are: for us, for them. We can think too much and / or interfere too much in their lives, rather than allow ourselves to let go (gradually) as they grow up so they can become independent entities, responsible for themselves and perhaps one day, their own family.
Parenting can also feel remote if we are too scantily involved in who are children are growing up to be. In all things, we need to find a balance, one that acts as an incentive to them to mature, while nurturing them into independence gradually.
This post is to ask each of us to consider how we are managing to balance our own lives with that of our children. This will depend most upon the age of our child. They will most likely think 10 or 12 or 16 is older than we might think it is. Or we may release too much responsibility on them too early. Finding what is right for them is important, as it is for us to discover what is right for ourselves.
- There’s a necessary level of self sacrifice we need to make, I believe, in order to nurture our children.
- And yet, we need to give them space and freedom as they grow.
- Third, it’s also important we maintain our own identity and a purpose for ourselves beyond being a mum.
Dependence & Autonomy
When our children are small, they need to be able to depend on us. As they mature and grow, they need to find their autonomy so they can be responsible and self reliant adults. That means we need to develop our autonomy too… whilst still being a dependable and constant anchor for them.
If I’ve learned one thing about being a parent, it is self sacrifice. I’m still on the road to practicing it perfectly. That is a lifetime endeavour. But I’ve learned the joy of giving as a parent, perhaps more than in any other relationship. As I learn to give, and then to let go, of a relationship I’ve devoted so much to, it hurts. But it is also a joy to see my child grow into a responsible adult. AND in the process, I’ve learned as the anchor in his life, the more rock solid dependable I can be to him, the more fulfilled we both are. That is a fantastic reward for something that is the greatest of privileges.