Motherhood Is An Institution vs Motherhood In An Institution
Contributed by Miranda Vecchio
A Mother's Day introspective of a Charlford "peach":
"I dreaded Mother’s Day for years; In part, because my mother (who was neglectful and abusive) died at a young age and in part, because I never conceived a child of my own. The sting was deeply rooted and literally burned on the inside. I would do my best to avoid people so I didn’t have to deal with the awkward question “So, are you doing something special for Mother’s Day?” Such an innocent question but it pierced my heart every time.
When I sought help from Charlford House years later, for what I thought were totally unrelated circumstances, I was able to work through some of the conflicted feelings, anger and pain; I managed to come out the other side. I was given permission to grieve. That alone was incredibly freeing!
While living at Charlford House, I met a lot of moms and learned not to envy them for this fact alone. Here, I became accepting, whereas before I had been judgemental, believing that given the chance, I would have been a better mom than anyone. Very easy to say of course, when I had never been in their shoes!
Here I am years later and I work at the very facility that saved my life, saved my soul and saved the best for last.
I have the incredible honour of witnessing the journey of the women here. Emotions run high around Mother's Day. While some women yearn to see their children, others are anxious and overwhelmed at the thought of seeing theirs. Still others ruminate on how past behaviours have harmed the relationship between themselves and their children or with their own mothers.
It tugs at the heart strings, listening to the women interact. They comfort and reassure each other. I hear their words: “Don’t worry if you don’t get to see your kids this weekend. I’m gonna need a lot of help with mine so you can be like mama #2”; “I think you’re really patient and kind. Maybe you’re just being really hard on yourself because you feel so guilty”; “Don’t worry if you don’t know how to be a mom. There are lots of women here who will give you all the help and support you need”; “You don’t need to overcompensate by having every minute filled with some activity. Your kids are so young, they won’t necessarily remember everything they’ve done. What they will remember is their mother’s love so just spending quality time with them is enough.” “Even when you leave here, your “sisters” will always be there for you so don’t panic”.
This last remark strikes a chord because recently, one of our graduates gave birth to a baby girl. As of right now, I am aware that one of her “sisters” is spending the day with her, looking after the newborn while mama gets caught up on some much needed sleep. This is the kind of unconditional love that is taught, learned and shared thanks to the Surrogate Family Model of Treatment at Charlford House.
I believe that there is a certain reverence that goes along with motherhood. I consider the fact that many men (those who are institutionalized in particular) have “Mom” tattooed somewhere on their person. Further, I don’t tend to hear comments about how Mother’s Day is “commercialized” the way I do with other occasions. God intended for mothers to be nurturing, protective, kind and loving and most of them are. In my own mother’s case, it is clear to see in retrospect, that she was mentally ill at a time when such conditions were rarely acknowledged or treated. We are extremely lucky today to have facilities like Charlford House that address co-occurring mental health disorders like bi-polar and addiction.
Many of our women are single moms on a fixed low income. When they leave Charlford House, it is heartening to follow their journey – how they navigate challenges large and small and become amazing parents to their children.
If the children are our future, then that future is made brighter by the loving example set by moms everywhere - especially those who courageously seek help to battle their issues and become the best version of themselves.
If it hurts to say or hear “Happy Mother’s Day”, please know that there are all kinds or resources available to help to heal your aching heart. My prayer is that you will find the one that best mends yours.
For the record, today I have a wonderful step mom and two incredible step sons. I am pleased to say that I now derive much pleasure from selecting the perfect Mother’s Day card, calling and receiving a phone call on Mother’s Day.
My heart is full. Thank you Charlford House. And thank you to moms everywhere."