Shaping the Mom Identity
Recently. I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Largent, opera singer, educator, artist, and mom. In the interview, Beth talked about the ways she felt connected to other moms (and the things that made her motherhood unique), while also noting how self-compassion helps her many caregiving responsibilities.
You lead such an interesting life. What are some experiences you feel are unique to your parenting experience or your identity as a mom?
As a performer, I had very little down time after birth- my first performance after my son was born, he was only 10 days old – and so many times I’ve had to bring my son along with me to work, or I’ve had unusual work hours – lots of weekends and nights. The hardest part of this wasn’t my sons reaction to it but my own! Sometimes the feelings of guilt were overwhelming– after all, I’m an opera singer, it’s my soul and heart’s work, and marrying the concept of that with motherhood was so hard. In the end, my son was so flexible that it allowed me to bring him with no issues, and the positive is that music is a huge part of his life, as well. He understands the need to volunteer his help as he has been doing that since he could stand!
We’ve talked some about common humanity. What are some experiences that make you feel connected to other moms?
I feel this often when I see moms out and about with their little ones who are experiencing meltdowns. We feel so JUDGED by everyone in that moment, and I would love to wrap my arms around them and let them know that none of that matters. You are doing your best, and children aren’t perfect – they’re human. Be loving and kind, get up each day and live your most authentic life. Others’ judgement of you says more about THEM than it does about you!
“You are doing your best, and children aren’t perfect–they’re human.”
Super Compassion for Super Caregiving
It seems the practice of self-compassion has helped you deal with the judgment moms often face. Do you have a particular moment when you needed a reminder to be self-compassionate while parenting?
I was widowed shortly after my sons 4th birthday and although it wasn’t unexpected (my late husband fought brain cancer for 7 years) it was devastating. We were all so relieved that my husbands suffering was over, I had to grieve, and I had to help a little boy work through his feelings of loss, while still remembering that he deserved to be a child, and have carefree child moments. After much research, I realized that at age 4 children are concrete thinkers, and that I couldn’t say to him things like “we lost papa” because when you lose something, you look for it. Heaven, while a beautiful concept for older children and adults, is a hard thing for tiny humans and so I used every opportunity before and directly after my husbands death to prepare our son for his being gone. We had a swimming pool, and almost daily when I fished a small animal out of it, I would show him and we would talk about it. It’s hard for adults to break it down like this, but it made the transition easier for our son. Every day, I made a point to remind myself that I was doing the best that I could. Routine became our balm and best friend, as both my son and I thrive on structure. I returned to cross stitching, something I could do each evening as my son slept that not only calmed my mind but created a product I could then gift. Constant reminders that I would be ok, that I could do it and that I was enough came from my mother and best friend.
“Every day, I made a point to remind myself that I was doing the best that I could.”
How do you find moments of respite to re-energize you and remind you of the aspects of yourself that sometimes get pushed to the side when you’re caring for others?
I find myself in a “super sized” caregiving situation right now, as our son is a junior in high school, my father moved in with us a year ago due to declining health, and my mother moved in with us after breaking both her wrists in December! WOW, do I need to prioritize my own care because I spend almost every waking minute caring for someone else! That’s where Instagram and my hobby of Barbie collecting comes in. I post daily, and that’s a choice – but posting daily, I MUST make time for that in my day, even if its at the very end when I’m running out of time. It’s time for me; it allows me to settle and simply be and play, and it makes me a better mom, wife, caregiver, daughter, singer, teacher, friend, and human. Without these minutes alone, I truly do feel lost. One of the side benefits is that I also spend the time examining my day for the tiny nuggets of splendor that I want to share, which has made me not only more mindful, but SO grateful for my many blessings. I’ve also met some amazing people, like you, Dr. Kim!
Awww. Thank you. Any other moments you’d like to share?
I sang a recital about three months after my husbands death, brought my son and a friend to look after him in the audience while I was singing. When the time came for me to go up, my son refused to leave my side- something he hasn’t done before, or since – so, he stood by my side the entire concert, looking like a cherub and making people smile. I realized then that parenting means being really flexible and that often what happens is so much better than the original I had planned!
***Beth is an academic mama, opera singer, and photographs the most amazing doll dioramas. You can find her on Instagram @barbieandbuddy***
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