mater mea - Celebrating Motherhood and Women of Color

Instagram Takeover: Megan Baca On Letting Go Of The Selfless "Perfect" Mom Narrative

  Photo Credit: Death to Stock Images

Photo Credit: Death to Stock Images

Instagram Takeover: Megan Baca On Letting Go Of The Selfless "Perfect" Mom Narrative

Words: Megan Baca

A Seattle-based writer and stay-at-home mom of 3 explains how she stopped parenting from a place of pain.

 

On mater mea's Instagram page, we regularly have moms from around the world take over our account to give us a sneak peek into their lives or to drop some knowledge about a topic that matters most to them.

Megan Baca, a stay-at-home mom of three daughters in Seattle, unpacked a lot of baggage many moms can relate to during her takeover: confronting your fears of how motherhood may change your life, parenting as a survivor of childhood pain, and the need to be the perfect mom.

* Captions slightly edited from original post.

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Good morning mater mea fam! It’s @themeganbaca and I’ll be taking over today. But before I dive in, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Megan. I’m a writer and SAHM. I’m originally from Alaska but made the move to Seattle a couple of years ago.

I met my husband, Steven, when I was 14 and if you would have told me then he would one day be my man and the father of my children, I would have cackled. But turns out that shy boy had a humor that left me ugly laughing and we became best friends. That friendship turned to love and we have been married almost 12 years now. The day he stole my heart is the one where we all went camping as a group and he forgot his sleeping bag but had a huge duffle bag full of snacks. I thought to myself, He gets it, and we’ve been laughing and carrying excessive snacks with us ever since. We have three daughters ages 5, 3, and 10 months and they bring us joy. 

Motherhood is something I knew I always wanted but deeply feared. Wounds from my own childhood let me know just how cruel the world could be. I was terrified that I didn’t have what it took to be a good mom. I was scared that I might unintentionally hurt my kids the way my parents did me. I didn’t feel qualified.

What I didn’t know at the time is that although children don’t come with a manual, they are teachers. And if we pay attention, they help us remember those parts of us that at one time came natural. I could write a book on all the lessons my babies have taught me, but today I just want to expound on one, and that is: In order to see our kids love themselves and step into the fullness of who they are, we must do so ourselves. I so value this space and look forward to connecting with you all today. So slip into your favorite stretch pants, get comfortable, and let’s chat. Please bring your questions and thoughts. Also bring excessive snacks (a duffle bag’s worth) and sweep yourself off your feet. You deserve it.😉

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Growing up I had two distinct movie reels of motherhood. The one reel was full of ideal moments. It was a montage of Hallmark motherhood. It was clips of a mom serenely holding her sleeping baby after just giving birth. It was a Pinterest-worthy nursery. It was a mom humming gently as she rocked her child to sleep. It was "peek-a-boo" and cute baby outfits. It was a gap-tooth toddler holding your cheeks between their sticky hands as they leaned in to give you oatmeal-covered kisses. It was love, laughter, and unparalleled joy. 

The other reel wasn’t as fun to watch. It was made up of mothers I had known over the years. They were burned-out mothers. Mothers who never made time for themselves. The ones who sacrificially shoved their dreams into the back of the closet “just for a season” only to forget about them completely. They were the mothers who secretly cried themselves to sleep, but their swollen eyes gave them away in the morning. They were worn out. Lonely. And when someone would encourage them to take care of themselves they would hold their exhaustion in the air and say, “All this I do for my kids. I do this because I love them. This is what motherhood is about.”

When I was pregnant with my first, I was overjoyed. But the images of motherhood perfection left me feeling already unqualified. The examples of selfless, exhausted mothers had me accepting my fate. I quietly mourned the life that would no longer be. The dreams I would never fulfill. That is until I had someone look me in the eye and tell me this wasn’t a death sentence to everything I ever was and everything I still dreamed to be. And when I found out the life squirming in my womb was a girl, a fire lit within me. I promised myself that as a mother, I would not abandon myself or my dreams so that my girl didn’t grow up thinking she would have to abandon hers. Lack of self-care is not what motherhood is about. So let’s discuss. Have you ever felt pressured by all the images of parenting perfection? Have you ever felt selfish for taking time for yourself? 

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I may be grown and a mother, but I struggle daily with not parenting from a place of childhood pain. Those old wounds and traumas can’t simply be ignored. However, my extroverted, people-pleasing self found a way to hide the limp. I learned to boldly smile with grief stuck in my teeth. I laughed loud enough to shake a room and silence out the mental noise. To drown out the memories. And although I have notably grown in a number of ways, when I am still, I feel the parts of me that ache to be healed. I hear the sobs of an inner child begging for me to address the pain. To help her heal. 

Children have a way of holding a mirror to our face and showing us the parts of us that still need work. I have realized that when I lose my patience and yell at my kids, many times I’m not actually mad at them. It’s that wounded part of me that feels threatened. The little girl of the past who didn’t feel like she ever had a voice. The one who swore she would never feel that powerless again and here these kids are not listening. Here they are daring to be their own person.

I began to feel that familiar fear of not being taken seriously come on me and I yell in the ways I wish I could have when I was girl. I demand they hear me the way I wish my parents had. I want them to not blow me off the way my teachers did. And suddenly I realize that I am not parenting the child before me. I am trying to nurture the neglected girl of the past.

As mothers to find inner healing is to free our children. It takes the unspoken burden off of their shoulders to try and fix that which they never broke. It allows us to really hear and see them without a perception warped by the past. It keeps us from trying to push our babies to become that which we wish we had become. It causes us to cheerlead when they decide to step outside of boxes rather than fear what this means for their future. One of the most empowering ways we can teach our kids to walk in self-confidence is to passionately love ourselves. And part of loving ourselves is allowing our hearts to finally heal.

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I’m an advocate of self-discovery. I think it’s important to notice what brings you joy. What makes you come alive? What sucks the life out of you? I think this is extremely important for children as well. The things they are interested in are like little clues to who they are. What are your kids drawn to? And when they are drawn to something, as parents, do we let them enjoy it? 

I remember when I was a child and dandelions were just beautiful flowers I gave to my mom. But that was short lived. I was told by adults that they were actually pesky weeds that needed to be destroyed, so they suddenly lost their beauty. Then one day I saw my daughter gasp and say "Look at that beautiful flower!" She ran right over to this dandelion and smiled at me waiting for my response. I opened my mouth to tell her the same thing I was told years ago, but I stopped. 

I realized in that moment that I wasn't the teacher, I was the student. Who was I to define her idea of beauty? If what she saw was something beautiful then why ruin it for her? I can't help but wonder if I'd still stop and admire the dandelions had I not been told I shouldn't. All I know is I'd forgotten how pretty I used to find those weeds. But then, thanks to her, I remembered. What are some things your children seem to be drawn to? What are ways you make room for their curiosity and interest?

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For many of us parenthood seemed to mimic a game of Simon Says. Parents stood before us calling out a list of commands prefaced with “I said.” Whether we realized it or not we would watch out parents intently. Imitating each move with gusto and until we did something they didn’t like. “What are you doing?!” they would shout in shock. “I didn’t say to do that! Do as I say not as I do.” And just like that we were in trouble. We were called out for not listening when in reality we were just imitating what we saw.

I constantly have to remind myself that it is not enough for me to daily tell my kids they should never give up on their dreams. It’s essential I don’t give up on mine. How can I tell them to be brave while they watch me live my life cowering in fear? What good is it if I tell my girls to unapologetically take up space while they watch me make myself smaller? Parenthood is no game of Simon Says. I can’t live my life as a bad example and when they dare to copy it say “What are you doing?! Don’t be like me!” The best way to encourage our kids to live their life to the fullest is to show them. 

I say this as a mother that fights for her dreams and well-being, not just for the sake of me, but for my children. So that if they decide to have kids they can show their children. As mothers, may the inheritance we leave our children be that of courage, determination, and an unshakable confidence. May our words match are actions. May there be raw and honest apologies on the days they don’t. On the days we get it wrong, may we forgive ourselves. Our babies are watching. So let’s show them what it looks like to live free.

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Alright friends, I’m off to have dinner and squeeze a little more quality time in as a family before the kids head to bed. But before I go I just want to leave you with this: You already contain the wisdom, joy, and love your child needs. Your child is a gift that was strategically giving to you for a reason. And as mothers when we step into the fullness of who we are, we automatically release them to do the same. You got this mama! And so do I! And on the days when it doesn’t feel like it, let’s give ourselves some grace. And snacks! We already discussed this. (Listen! Don’t let me catch y’all out in these streets without snacks.)

Thank you so much for taking the time to engage, ask questions, and share some real gems of wisdom. I felt your words and will carry some of the truths you shared with me for the rest of my life. I’m not good at goodbyes so I’m not gonna say it. Instead I’ll say see you later.