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Each Mother’s Own Shoes
July 1, 2015
Each Mother’s Own Shoes

Posted by Peggy Kaufman

These are just some of the inspiring words Peggy Kaufman, Director of the Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS), shared with attendees at the 2015 Women’s Breakfast.

Peggy Kaufman speaking at the JF&CS Women's BreakfastMany of us have hiked different parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. Imagine that one of us might say to Cheryl [Strayed, author of Wild and Women’s Breakfast guest speaker], “Do you remember the ridge walk towards the northern part of the trail where after miles of not a single tree you could see that enormous beech tree in the distance?” She may remember that ridge and that tree, but that is all that was similar in the shared memory. Her footsteps were only her own, her thoughts were only her own, and her feelings were only her own.

I share this metaphor as many of us here are mothers. Despite this shared experience, we never walk in another mother’s boots. No one here has walked in my boots as a mother. Even though we’ve all had newborns, toddlers, maybe school-age children and more, no one has taken the steps that I took when my son was two or when my daughter was 16. They may be similar steps but they are not mine.

Every mother we help at CERS is her own unique person who comes to motherhood with her own history, relationships, and experiences. She has her own walking shoes, her own path, and her own experience of herself as a mother, her way of being with her baby, and her way of navigating her mothering world.

  • We are presently engaged with three moms who are in the same Boston hospital NICU. The common thread stops there.
  • We are now working with seven mothers who are receiving their daily dosing at a Boston methadone clinic. That is the limit of their similarities.
  • Several of our mothers are living in the same homeless motel. Time and place is all that joins them.

Let me give you a snapshot of the work that any staff person or volunteer might engage in on this journey with a new mother in her unique experience: first and foremost we accompany her. She is not walking alone. We bring calm to her travels where calm may not have existed. We are there to understand when the path gets rough; we are there to see her baby the way that she sees her baby; we are there to help the mom explore opportunities when she wants to consider other courses of action or turns to take, other paths to explore; and when she is ready we may offer a drop of information to help her make a choice or do something different. Most important, she is not alone. We are walking the path by her side.

What we don’t bring is a CERS guidebook on “How to Mother.” We bring ourselves, our abilities to listen, to reflect, to engage, and to deepen understanding. And by starting early we help parents to set on a trail with their infants, a trail that is a lifelong discovery process.

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