“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”

-Maya Angelou

My daughter loves rainbows, so I want be forever arching with colors for her. She doesn’t yet know that rainbows are more complicated than a mere shape. They are made from the sun shining through rain, just like the faith of a mother creating beauty from whatever harsh elements the world throws at her. 

My hurricane of motherly love is fierce but it isn’t always perfect. No mother is perfect.

“There is a painful side to motherly love,” said a high school friend. “Everyone tells you it’s supposed to be pure but there is so much guilt and worry. I love my child completely… but this “completeness” detracts from self- love.” 

No one ever talks about this. Should we? Should we talk about ALL parts of motherly love?

My own mother defines motherly love as “immensity.” A hurricane. The ocean. The mountains. 

“It can be soul expanding or soul crushing depending upon our own set of circumstances,” she said. “But remember that although circumstances may shape us, we also have the power to shape our circumstances. It’s faith that the sun will find a way to shine through…”

My own soul feels crushed right now, but I know I am not alone.  Many people are dealing with separation and divorce. Every parent ending their romantic relationship must also grapple with the hard reality that they must now share their child. The partial absence hurts and the missing is hard on everyone. To help manage the missing, my daughter and I recite the phrase “If we miss each other, it means we love each other!”  Love fills the cracks the missing creates.

The only way for me to pull through my missing is to meet my circumstances with strength. If I cannot see my daughter every day as I once did, how do I maximize the days I do see her?  How can I build a rainbow that she’ll remember on the days she is not with me?

“Nothing is forever perfect but perfect moments can be treasured,” said my mother when I talked to her about my heartbreak.

I waited a long time to have my child, wanting her desperately for years. We now joke that she was up in the sky sitting on top of a star, waiting for me to figure out a way to bring her down to me. We make forts out of the sofa cushions, have dance parties in the hallway, read stories about the wild, and bake muffins in our small kitchen. Sometimes we have dramatic standoffs, a clash between two strong feminine wills. Sometimes I feel tired and frustrated. Sometimes I feel immense joy. And sometimes it hurts to look at her intense blue eyes, so in love with her am I.

Pain is always present, because intense love has sharp edges.

“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I know I am not the only one with pain in my love. Other amazing mothers have it as well, just like my high school friend.

I know a mother that had babies born with major health problems and she has been in and out of hospitals for multiple years. Her sleep is shallow but her love is deep. She makes rainbows every day because she must.

I know another mother that has permanently strained her eyes, constantly scanning the streets, the parks, the streets, waiting for anything that might endanger her child. She lives in crippling fear that something will happen. She must pull through the fear to allow her child to leave the nest and grow. Motherly love means managing fear.

There is another mother who has three kids that constantly demand everything of her. She’s permanently exhausted. She locks herself in the bathroom each night just to have 5 minutes alone. In those 5 minutes she scans Mommy Memes so that she, in fact, does not feel alone. Mothering can be isolating. There are mother’s groups for a reason-so that we can manage the immensity and the exhaustion of our collective motherly love.

Maybe you are all of these mothers in one. Maybe you are none of them. You are doing your very best with what you have. You are a hurricane. You are making rainbows from the rain. And that’s motherly love. The dark, the light, the spectrum of colors and the immense intensity of it all.

“Motherhood: if you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.” – Unknown

Stay tuned for next week’s post on tribal love or friendship. Past love posts this month:

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