I’m a mother, not my mother.
I can honestly say that I had an awesome childhood. Naturally, there were times growing up when I didn't get my way. Periods of melodrama thinking my world was crumbling because my parents knew “nothing” about what I was going through, and moments still that I didn’t agree with, nor understood their logic. All things considered, I have no qualms regarding my upbringing. Nothing was ever perfect, but through eyes of my younger self, at times it felt like it, you know? My parents worked hard at keeping our childhood as blissful and unscathed as possible. I never knew of disagreements between my father and mother, even though they existed. Never tipped off to any imminent danger, and was considerably unaware of financial hardships - pancakes for dinner, beans and weenies twice in one week - Are you kidding me?!!??! That was like hitting the mega millions for a kid! Mom and Dad taught us how to love God and ourselves. They instilled the value of respecting and loving others, regardless of inherent differences, and they showed us how to serve our community. My parents, and their childrearing, are unquestionably the cornerstones of my own family values. As I grew older and began to consider the idea of parenthood for myself, I figured my parental style would instinctively emulate theirs, and that I would become the carbon copy of the model mother my mom was…Except, I’m not.
I’m still a relatively novice mom, but I’m a good one. Everyday brings on new challenges so its no surprise that I am constantly learning and growing. And motherhood looks different on me than on my mom, yet surprisingly, that was a revelation. I knew that when it came to becoming a mother myself, I would make modifications compared to my upbringing. Some methods I would keep, others omit; and I’d adopt new things that became important to me along the way. What I neglected to consider, was how the variances between my mom’s personality and my own, would reflect so diversely in our individual parenting styles -That is, until the realness of parenthood struck and I was knee deep in toddlers, and tantrums, and toilet training.
My mom was a full-time mom (homemaker) until I reached school age. In our earlier years, my dad, who was in the military, travelled often and worked graveyard shifts. The woman also ran an in-home day care while simultaneously raising two children of her own! Outside from the fact that this makes her a certifiable lunatic (kidding), she was equally every bit super human. Or drone…The verdict’s still out. Things that my mom seemed to handle gracefully back then, I find myself coming unravelled at. She never seemed to be in short supply of patience, and I don't recall her ever needing “a break”. I found myself asking her one day, “how did you do it without needing time for yourself?” But as any good mom would, she reminded me that I am not her and there’s no need to be. Furthermore, my children are not my brother and I. The reality is, her system worked because it was how she wanted to parent. She operated in a way that she was comfortable and could manage (and for the record she did take "me time" just in different forms. Nap time was her friend). Mom also her fair share of flaws and moments of “oops” and “oh well”, and even she was not without help. There was a community of friends adopted as family and decorated as uncles and aunties for my brother and I, that helped and supported both her and my father as parents.
No two parents or their strategies are alike. I have to be mindful of that, especially when I find myself trying to measure up to the imaginary expectation of being like mom. What’s important is loving my children, showing up for them daily, and giving them my best. Even in the mistakes, love is evident, because it means we’re putting forth the willingness to try. We won’t get it right every time. I honestly believe that’s why God doesn't allow us to recollect much beyond the age of 3 or 4. It’s the “get-it-together” period for parents ha! And if you're blessed to have a great example of parenting in your life - your own parents, friends, neighbors, or otherwise - tap into their knowledge. Use their wisdom and experiences as guidelines. Their mistakes, as your learning curve, but remember to ultimately make the parenting experience your own.
For me and my crew, rather than 7pm, bedtime looks more like 8:30…ish. Co-sleeping at 3 is a thing. Midday dance parties are nonnegotiable. And while I’m equally passionate about manners and kind and loving hearts, sitting on tabletops to help mama cook and the occasional bed jumping session, may or may not receive an approving nod. But I'm fully aware of my limitations and I find taking breaks for self care imperative. I can’t be the best mom for my children and attend to their needs unless I’m also adhering to my own. If the same holds true for you, take a moment when, and where you need to. Invest in yourself. A mentally, spiritually, and physically healthy mom and/or dad is the foundation to great parenting. I've learned that I don't have to have it all together all the time, and the best teacher I know agrees. Parenting your way, even when it differs from the best role models, doesn't make you weak, selfish, or negligent. If anything it makes you all the more amazing because you’re following your heart, doing what comes naturally, and that’s authentic. Last week, for the first time as a mother, I rung in the new year childless and without abandon. I took a moment for me and brought in 2017 albeit low key, but over good food, great friends, and engulfed in laughter and love. I set the tone of rejuvenation for the year. Thats mothering in a way thats my own, and I’m ok with that. Happy New Year!!!!