The Perfect Mother

The instant my daughter was born I made a promise to myself and to her that I would be the best mother ever. It didn’t take too much sleep deprivation to remind me I was human!

And yet, for years I continued on my mission to prove myself as a mother. I had to prove I was a good mom — to myself and to the world. I had such deep shame over the abortion I’d had years earlier that aspiring to sainthood seemed the best way to hide my secret. Afterall, if I was an impeccable mother, no questions would ever come up to suggest that an abortion was part of my past. I wondered, how could a “good” mother choose an abortion?

Shame is often referred to as the secret emotion because of the intense need the person feeling it has to conceal it. For me, the longer I buried the experience and tried to hide it from even myself, the harder it became to live my life authentically. I wasn’t living for me or for my daughter, I was living in fear and shame.

I have no doubt that my Catholic faith had a lot to do with these feelings of shame. Sermons about the evils of abortion, combined with teachings on original sin, reminded me regularly of what I had done and how mortally I had sinned. 

It took many years and many hurts to realize that my religion did not need to define my spirituality and that the Church was made up of human beings just like me. None of us, not even our priests, are exempt from the imperfections of humanity. I watched the clergy-abuse crisis unfold in my own backyard in Boston, and realized that my “sins” were no worse than many of the clergy who espoused a life’s vocation of following Jesus. 

As I learned to open up to other viewpoints, my spirituality evolved to where I could begin to think for myself, not simply as I was instructed to think by my religion. I began to see myself and my abortion in a whole different light. I wasn’t a sinner, I was a human being made in the image and likeness of God. And abortion wasn’t a sin, it was one possible answer in a world where both options were painful.  

Today, I strive to be the best mother I can be to my three kids. It isn’t easy to do as a single parent, but I no longer do it out of fear for being discovered, going to hell, or finding myself otherwise unworthy. I do it because I was chosen by them to be their mom for all the gifts I have to offer them. I make mistakes just like everyone, but I no longer berate myself afterwards for long periods of time. I take a deep breath, think about what I can do better next time, reminding myself this is where I was born to be and what I was born to do. 

For anyone still trying to reach sainthood, attain perfection in parenting or otherwise hide behind the mask of shame, I hope you find peace one day knowing that you are whole and perfect just the way you are.


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