“I’m sorry. I’m broken,” I said to my husband while holding back sobs. We had been arguing, and I felt that way. I felt like a broken human being, and I felt the need to apologize for being me. I felt unlovable and unable to have normal relationships with the people whom I loved most because of my inability to have it all together in the way I imagined I should by now.
I’ve wondered on more than one occasion, how am I supposed to be a mother when I feel so lost myself sometimes?
We all come with baggage. Some of us hide it better than others, and some of us put it all out there and live it out loud. I’m somewhere in the middle, but it’s there for all of us. We keep preaching that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and I believe that, but that means that we, too, were raised by imperfect people. The result is that so many of us feel broken inside because of our past and are left feeling inadequate in raising our own kids.
Being a broken adult means that mistakes were made while we were growing up. Some mistakes by our parents are bigger than others. Some feel unforgivable. But I believe that regardless of my past, it’s up to me to learn from the mistakes I witnessed and try to do better and be better. It’s up to me to put myself back together again, so that I can be present for my kids in the way that they need me.
It’s hard to feel broken and try to help a child figure out who they are when you are still learning yourself. I’m almost 40 years old and have just started a journey toward self-love and acceptance in the past two years. I’ve finally started to accept that my view of the world is skewed sometimes by my own anxiety disorder and that mental illness runs deep in my bloodline. But there is nothing I can do about that except try my best to seek help and fight it like I would a cancer.
Still, the guilt that comes from feeling broken, and trying to raise other humans, is hard to overcome for many of us. Of course, we all want the best for our kids, and a few years ago, I might have convinced myself that someone else would have been a better mother to my kids than imperfect, broken me. I could have easily listed all the reasons why I shouldn’t have been chosen to raise these beautiful souls, but now I know my brokenness can be my greatest strength if I let it.
The beauty of raising kids when you feel like a broken adult is that your kids raise you as much as you are raising them. Their pure hearts and minds heal you from the things you’ve experienced and seen, and as a result, your faith in the good things of this world is restored. You see beauty through their innocent eyes, and there are moments when it feels like the slate of life has been wiped clean of pain and anger, and you are whole again.
But as I struggle my way through parenting, I’m reminded often that I have to fight the past and the things that shaped my way of thinking. My kids don’t need to know everything about my past, at least not right now. They will, however, see me fighting a battle everyday to be better. I know that this teaches them powerful lessons, and I’m grateful for that.
Through my brokenness I can teach them that’s it’s okay to feel emotions that aren’t always rosy and happy, so that we can heal from them and move on.
I can teach them that saying sorry is part of our everyday vocabulary, and that doesn’t make us weak — it makes us strong.
I can teach them that no one is perfect, and that they aren’t expected to be either.
I can teach them that the past shapes us, but it doesn’t define who we become.
I can teach them that love can be born out of less than ideal circumstances, and that spreading kindness is the way to go throughout this life.
I can teach them that forgetting ourselves and showing compassion toward someone less fortunate is the best way to get over a bad day or a bad experience.
They will know that we all have weaknesses, but that the true test of strength is being able to overcome those weaknesses and turn them into the strongest part of our character.
There are lots of lessons that a broken adult can teach a child. I hope that more than anything, my children will learn that loving one’s self is the true key to peace and happiness, but serving others is the way to find joy in this life.
I’d argue that being a broken adult is quite possibly my greatest strength as a parent because I know how to build myself back up now, and when their world seems to fall apart one day, I’ll know how to guide them back to feeling whole again.
More than anything though, I want my kids to know that they are loved in ways they won’t be able to understand until they have kids of their own, and that their mom has fought like hell to put herself back together again. Not just for herself, but for them. Because they deserve the best.