What Does it Mean to be a Mother?

We each carry with us a definition of what it means to be “a good mother“, a definition that grows as we grow, a definition that encompasses parts of our mothers, of our friends’ mothers, and of movie mothers. And when we have our children that definition continues to evolve. For most of us, getting divorced has meant learning that we can still be good mothers without being married. Parental alienation, like Esther experienced will make you rethink your ideas even further. Here’s Esther:

We started off by having the kids one week on, one week off. I was working, I had very different hours so he was in charge of taking the kids to and from school at that point. He wasn’t working and he did that again as a control mechanism, to be with the kids longer. I’d get home at about six and the kids would not be home. They would arrive in my door at around seven and I had to quickly get them ready for bed and get them something to eat. They stopped wanting to eat food in my home, claiming it wasn’t kosher. That was one of their reasons for coming to my place late. I just lost control, complete control. They didn’t want me to mother them anymore. I tried to do fun things with them, they just completely refused to have anything to do with me.

Reading a bedtime story is a parenting ritualIt was one of the most painful things I’ve ever been through.

One time it was my turn to pick them up, and I went to the house. Only two of them wanted to come out, and that made it even clearer, “Wow, they don’t even want to come out and come over to my house.”

I spoke to the two who came out and asked where the others where and they told me they didn’t want to come. My youngest was about to get into my car, and I was said, “I’d like to take you home with me, but I just want to share what’s been going on. It seems like you really just want to be with Daddy right now, and I want you to live with me. I want to continue having one week with Mommy, one week with Daddy, but not if that’s something that you guys don’t want. I want you to be happy. If I’m wrong, then let’s go home, but if I’m right and you really just want to live with Daddy, I want you to be happy, and so I’ll let you do that.”

They basically just shrugged their shoulders and said,  “OK, bye” and went right back into their father’s home.

I was hoping for the Kramer v. Kramer scene like, “No, I want to come home, I love you, I miss you.” That didn’t happen.

I went home, and I thought that I was going to die. My life was falling apart and I couldn’t believe what was happening because I was everything but God to my kids up until, six months before we physically separated.

When I told them I was going to California there was really no reaction. It was almost like I was just a distant person they knew, that’s how they started to treat me. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, I’m not going to see Mommy anymore.” It was more like, “Oh, OK. Are you going to see any stars? Are you going to see any famous people?”

My youngest was the only one who showed any sign of, “Wow, I really miss you mommy, I love you and I miss you” but again having the four person unit that my kids have, she’s very much pulled by her siblings’ actions. Once she became religious, our relationship still didn’t change. She loved me as much, she showed me the same amount of affection. She said, “Mom, I have a picture of you in my locker, everyone tells me how pretty you are.”

When she told me that, I just started crying. She told recently that she was performing with the non-Jewish, a public school, for a Holocaust memorial. I wished she’d told me earlier. I’m still going to see her. I don’t want to miss the show.

It’s stuff like that that hits me and hurts, but I’m not in a place of despair like I was. That’s one of the things that I’ve learned. I have to question, “What does it mean to really be a mother? Does it mean that you’re with your kids 24/7? Even parents that share their kids, one week on, one week off, there’s a sense of guilt that goes on, like, “Oh my goodness, wait a second, I was everything for them, I did everything. Who’s going to dress them? Daddy doesn’t know how to pick out matching socks for the dress. How is he going to know how to take care of my daughter? I’m the only one…”

You put your identity as a mother. Men have this too. In fact that’s one of the things that my former husband is dealing with. He doesn’t have any identity, and the truth is, we are not what we do, we are not our children’s whatever…our children come through us. They’re not there for us, they have their own journey. I had to learn that.

Does it mean you’re not a mother if you’re not physically taking care of your kids?” I had to relearn that maybe my role for them, right now at this very second is not to put them to bed. Do I miss it? Absolutely. My daughter’s already older, but I used to read her these stories every single day. I used to read a little spiritual book to my two little ones every night and I cried every night, because that was in the first year in the separation. I remember my second youngest, she looked at me and she said, “Why are you crying?” and I said, “Mommy’s a little sad right now, but I’m okay. Remember yesterday, just an hour ago I was laughing? It’s okay to be sad.”

So I gave them permission to feel, to have emotions, to be sad. So I just had to relearn what our identity roles really are, what does that mean?

I appreciate Esther’s way of looking at this and I think it has value to anyone who is adjusting to not being in the same house as their children 24/7. How much of that pain is associated with your ideas of your role as a mother? How much of your identity do you hold tied to being a mother?

How have your ideas of being a good mother changed with the end of your marriage?

This is the last segment in Esther’s story and I’d like to thank her for sharing her painful experience. I sincerely hope she and her children are reconciled in the future.

My next guest goes by twitter name Two Kids and a Fish and writes the blog Two Kids and a Fish. Her story is one of a child custody battle fought through the courts with her playing by the rules and her ex following a completely different set of rules which sadly is not that uncommon. I hope you’ll join us, that is after a few great guest posts I have for you.


You can read more about Esther Adler’s book, Breaking the Chains to Freedom and her work at Esther Adler. Her Twitter name is @EstherWarrior.  Esther Adler, author, speaker, trainer helps you turn the most devastating events in your life into your biggest opportunities. She focuses on letting go of grief, trauma and pain, through unique movement processes, helping you gain true freedom and ultimate peace.

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