Much of what I do as a mom is a reaction to the mothering I received from my mom. Or the lack thereof.
I don’t want to say my mom wasn’t a good mom because in many ways she was. I wasn’t abused or abandoned. I was loved and given a home filled with love, good food, and a lot of laughter.
But as a parent, there is a lot I try to do differently.
It’s true we learn so much from our mothers – how to behave or when or how not to. We learn what’s funny, what’s important, what to get riled up about – like worker’s rights.
My mom was a union member and marched with Cesàr Chavez chanting uvas no!
I was very little when she explained to me the meaning behind the bumper sticker I had seen that read “Dick Nixon.”
For better or worse, I learned what to put up with in relationships by watching what she put up with — including silent treatments and cold shoulders.
One night when I was in my early teens I was in the kitchen with her, cleaning up after dinner. My step-dad was in one of his moods and I was treading lightly. My mom turned to me and whispered, He just needs a good blow job!
A Mother of a Realization
The other day I was listening to a comic on the radio. He told a story about meeting a couple years ago who called themselves Jane and John Doe. The skit was about how he questioned them about the wisdom of those names and they told him “We’re just going with it.”
And then, 20 years later he reminisced about meeting them and that’s when it dawned on him…it was a joke.
I recently had a similar realization about my parenting style – no, not that it is a joke – but that it is very much a response to my mother’s parenting style. #ahamoment
She was a lovely person, and clearly, I miss her very much. But she was not a warm, cuddly, come tell me your troubles while I feed you cookies and pay your bills, kind of mom. In fact, I often said she was more a friend than a mother.
[I also said my dad was more a coach than a father – though thankfully he and I have gotten much, much closer over the past ten years or so. #grateful #ilovemydad]
And so, I suppose because that was what I wanted in a mom, I try to be more snuggly, affectionate, warm, loving, and doting than she was.
There are some things I have consciously chosen to emulate – to varying degrees of success – her openness, her willingness to talk about anything, holding confidence and withholding judgment.
I think those were some of the best gifts she gave me.
I know her goal was to raise independent children – and she did. #nailedit
Have I? Yes and no. I think and hope my children are independent thinkers, and I strive to let them have their opinions and encourage them to articulate them.
However, they may be more dependent on me than I ever was on my mother. Not that they are dependent, by any means.
My mom was young when she had me and she worked – for “the phone company” – from the time I was very little, to when she retired, not long before she was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
She had wanted to be a school teacher and studied early childhood education, but when I came along she let go of that dream to become the steady breadwinner of the family. I know that has a lot to do with my inability/unwillingness to stay in a job that I don’t find fulfilling. One of the crosses I bear.
With my mom always being the breadwinner it meant she missed many of my athletic events and I was often home alone while she commuted to work and often had late meetings. #unionwork
Subsequently, I try to make it to all of my kids’ events and when I don’t or can’t I feel guilty. I also have, perhaps subconsciously, created a work life (for the time-being) that allows me to be home with my kids a lot more than my parents ever were.
That means I am available to run forgotten items to school, chaperone field trips, drive to events, volunteer, and drive hither and yon several times a day if needed.
While I’m not sure if that is the best thing, I appreciate being able to do it. I know it can change at any time and, although I complain about it from time to time, I try to remember how fortunate I am to be able to do for them in this way.
Ultimately, I want them to have, where I had not. I want them to know how much I love them – to feel it in a tangible way. I want to hug them and squeeze them and snuggle with them for as long as I possibly can.
I know my mom loved me, and I am pretty sure she was proud of me. But I want my kids to know, beyond question, that I have their backs and always, always will.
I want them to never question that I love them more than anything and they can always come “home” – which is wherever I am – and they will be warmly welcomed into my arms.
I may not have cookies, but I will have a shoulder to cry on, ears to listen, and love to give.