Safe Harbors

I am passionate about mothers. Or more specifically, those who grew up without one. Maybe they grew up with a mom who was there but addicted to a substance. Or perhaps they had a mom who was in the home but in her mind was longing to be somewhere else and did not engage with her children. I have a radar that senses motherless children in adult bodies. I’ve befriended several. I am a mom. I was born to a mom. I watch other moms mother. Truth be told, I, too, still long for a mom of my own. It is the void in me that I spot in others. 

In my mind, a “real” mom is like a lighthouse lighting the way into a safe, protected harbor. Her light is always blinking, day and night, letting her children know they have a safe place to return to when the storms of life thrash them about, or even when there are no storms and they just want to reconnect with her. I’ve met several grown women who have shared their stories with me. They had a birth mom but their mom did not mother them well for whatever reason. Each of them, myself included, are damaged on a level that cannot be repaired. There are no do-overs when you missed out on having a mom. It is a void you must deal with for the rest of your life. Sadly, there are many of us “boats” bobbing about on choppy waters riding out storms the best we can because we never knew what it was like to have a safe harbor to help us weather the storms and feel secure. 

The women I’ve befriended over the years all have similar stories. Mom was addicted. Mom became the daughter and the daughter became the mom. Mom was unreliable. Mom was mentally ill. Mom had boyfriends and the boyfriends were more important than the daughter. Mom hated dad and her anger and bitterness would not let her see outside of herself to care for her children. Mom abandoned the family and started a new family. 

Motherless daughters. We’re drawn to women who offer us warmth, attention, the mothering we missed out on. Because we missed out on a secure and safe harbor, we are unable to fully trust or to fully engage. We’ve always got one oar in the water in case a storm comes up and we must paddle like crazy to avoid capsizing. We learned early that mom was not going to rescue us. In some ways we are needy, and in other ways we are as tough as nails. We have resilience, but we are also often unsure of ourselves as we navigate each new sea in life. 

My mother was a beautiful woman who showed little emotion. She was mostly silent and as strong and stoic as a stone wall. She did not kiss, hug, or cuddle her children. There was no playfulness in her, and there were no bedtime stories or tucking us in. At bedtime, we were allowed to come to her as she sat in her chair in the living room and kiss her on her cheek as she’d turn her face sideways to us, and twist her lips away from us so that her face became a kind of grimace as we planted our kisses on her soft papery cheek. Soft, perfect, sacred skin. 

I feel passion for the motherless. But then I am compelled to ask, does that include myself? 

Each of us grown women have a little girl in us. Some of us have little girls who are still looking for a mom.

I feel that it’s time I learn to become a safe harbor for my own little girl – where the lights are always blinking – beckoning her to security.

I sense my little girl standing next to me, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, twisting her long curls around her finger as she chews her nails on her other hand. She’s nervously waiting to see if I’ll embrace her and kiss her and tell her that I care. She’s waiting for the mother she never had. 

I’d like to encourage all of us women to become mothers to those who did not have one. Perhaps that is already a passion we share. Maybe our gestures of love and kindness towards the motherless can help to lessen the void in them. Mother’s Day is coming. I’m thinking I may send a card to the motherless women I know. 

Barbara is grateful for many things, but is most grateful for the “Hound of Heaven” who pursued her from a very young age.  There were times she felt unworthy of Him and ran the other way, but He has never let her go.  For that she is eternally grateful.