I’ve been a mother for 1o.5 years now. And I need constant reminders about what is good fertilizer to grow children. I know, so sad, right? But it’s true.
I have read in so many places regarding healing from childhood trauma that it takes a lifetime to heal.
I’ve spent a LOT of time on this blog talking about some of my own childhood and how it’s impacted my mothering journey. It’s not been very fun talking about my painful past and current interactions with my family of origin that re-open old wounds. But I needed to and I wanted to share resources that help me.
My family, like many families of my generation (I’m in my 40s now so this means the 60’s and 70’s), didn’t prize intellectual giftedness. Being smart wasn’t an asset, but a liability. In addition to being in a very dysfunctional/physically and psychologically abusive home, my intelligence was frequently ridiculed.
I couldn’t help being smart. It’s not like I picked my genes…OR my family.
I grew up, had my own highly sensitive and smart daughters and while I am not like my family, I still am farther from the ideal I want to be. I have had to study how to be a good mother, because I don’t intuitively know how.
I constantly have to balance the smart girls needs for guidance with my own needs for intellectual stimulation and creative expression. I used to work in the biotech field…and loved the stimulation I got from work and the friendships I’ve made, some of which have endured for 15 years, even though I do not see my former work mates except once or twice a year.
So now, if I’m not careful, I’ll get too absorbed in my various passions:
I read, I write, I art journal, I take photographs and almost constantly work on my ‘stuff’ – how to heal from my own traumatic childhood wounds (from alcoholism, divorce, physical abuse and neglect), how to heal from co-dependence (my husband had a bit of a drinking problem he’s been in recovery from and we’ve come close to divorce a couple of times in the past two years) and how to raise my beautiful and highly sensitive smart daughters so they don’t have to grow up with deep childhood wounds. They will have some wounds, no doubt, but not nearly as many as I had.
I started re-reading The Emotionally Absent Mother: A Guide to Self Healing and Getting the Love You Missed, by Jasmie Lee Cori.
There is a beautiful little list of 10 Basic Good Mother Messages children need to hear from their mothers. I know, for those of you who had great, loving mothers, you already know these things and probably already do a great job of reassuring your children. But, believe it or not, I didn’t know.
And I made an art journal page out of it…and plan to print this out and post it on my fridge. So that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life (which, in a gifted, highly sensitive household, is pretty chaotic), I make these a priority.
Ten Basic Good Mother Messages:
1. I am glad that you are here.
2. I see you.
3. You are special to me.
4. I respect you.
5. I love you.
6. Your needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help.
7. I’ll make time for you.
8. I’ll keep you safe.
9. You can rest in me.
10. I enjoy you, you brighten my heart.
And without these messages, children might be challenged with many difficulties.
Common Challenges of the Undermothered:
1. Holes in your sense of value and self-esteem.
2. Feeling as if you don’t have enough support.
3. Difficulty accepting and advocating for your needs.
4. Feeling undernourished and emotionally starved.
5. Difficulty taking in love and establishing intimate relationships.
6. Loneliness and feelings of not belonging.
7. Not knowing how to process feelings.
8 . A pervasive sense of scarcity.
9. Sense of struggle.
11. Addictive behaviors.
12. Feeling disempowered.
13. Not feeling safe.
14. Perfectionism and self criticism
15. Difficulty finding your authentic voice and following your passion.
I struggled with these in one way or another all my life. Many times as a child, I wished I was dead. I started feeling suicidal about the age of 13. I was bullied in school for my intelligence, and I was degraded at home by my mother, my stepfather and two of my sisters for my intelligence. Of the 10 Basic Good Mother Messages, I received none.
I am 42 years old this year…and still, at times, struggling to be here. My sensitivity is taking it’s toll. Mistakes I’ve made have added up. Friends I’ve lost due to death or moving on hurt more than anything. I can’t share with my siblings or my mother the struggles I go through. Not only would they not understand, they have criticized me for having problems in the first place. They have no idea that it was because of them.
I write to help myself, let my husband in on my mind, and share with my readers. I hope some good comes out of what I write. I know of a few very gifted and talented adults who have had crappy childhoods, and while it is true that we can take our pain and make something beautiful out of it…it often comes at a very high price. I hope the things I share help someone else. I know it helps me to write this stuff out.