Mother’s Day is an annual opportunity for me to reflect on all the ways I appreciate my mother: her kindness, support, and consistency have been a life-long blessing, and I’m so thankful for her. It’s also an opportunity for me to check-in with myself as a mother: how am I showing-up for my children, what’s working and what isn’t, and am I pleased with the decisions I’m making on behalf of myself and my children?
*I started writing this on Mother’s Day, and then life sent me down a few twists and turns, a cultural revolution began, and I celebrated my birthday. Now I’m back to writing and feel these thoughts are relevant even if Mother’s Day was a month ago.
As the oldest in the my family, I remember feeling like my little brother, the youngest by 6 years, had such an easy childhood in comparison to mine. My parents had very strict rules for me that didn’t seem to exist by the time he was a similar age, and it felt so unfair. Now that I’m a mother of three (parenting an age span between teenager and preschooler), I see first-hand that maturity and insight change parenting, the unique differences in each child’s personality requires me to show-up differently in their lives (respond, educate, set boundaries, discipline, etc.), and life circumstances and support systems have a direct influence on priorities and decision-making. I simply can’t parent my youngest like I parented my first born at the same age; they are different people, and truthfully, I’m a completely different person. While this may seem so obvious, I find that writing and discussing topics like this can help to identify areas of over-complication, mom-guilt, and self-sabotage. Sometimes we just need to say something out-loud to realize that our thoughts, feelings, perception, or actions don’t make sense.
I’m a high achiever, always self evaluating because I want the best for my children, and I also want to set a great example for them. It’s easy as a mother to doubt, second-guess, over worry, and compare until every decision either feels wrong or overwhelming. I’ve thought a thousand times “why is this so hard?” or “you’d think I would know what I’m doing by the third time” or “I didn’t see this coming”. As I truly consider and evaluate the unique preferences, learning style, attitude, and personality of my three children, I not only gain insight into each of them and their needs, I also see areas where I could adjust my approach, parenting style, and expectations to better help them navigate life. Like a coach, I want each of my “players” to be the best version of themselves, not identical to one another, because the success of the “team” is reliant on each individual having different strengths and developing their unique talents and skillsets. Sometimes rules and structure smother creativity and growth. I’d like to shift my mindset so that every time something is difficult I first think “what does my child need right now to feel safe, understood, and like an individual?”, and I believe that this will bring me to a new level of patience and caring, especially in moments of frustration.
With this heightened perspective on parenting, a shift in attitude and new goals outlined, I’m able to recognize that my parents were simply showing-up for my brother differently because it’s natural to parent your baby differently than your first born, and with this knowledge I’ll rewrite my immature interpretation of my own childhood, which naturally heals some lingering hurt, and give myself more grace in the areas where I’ve unfairly applied my childhood misconceptions to my approach as a parent.
Epiphanies like this are worthy of celebration, because anytime we can recognize how we’re allowing a feeling, interpretation, idea, or opinion from the past to complicate, misinform, or poorly shape our future, that’s huge! Like pat yourself on the back, jump up and down, scream from a mountain-top, and tell your bestie, HUGE!
Now whenever we learn something about ourselves, that doesn’t necessary solve the problem or open the door and answer the question… knowing and changing are completely different. We can be incredibly wise on behalf of ourselves and others while living in contradiction, so self-evaluation and realization comes with a choice, and I’m a “get back on the horse”, “bite the bullet”, “no pain, no gain” kind-of person, so whenever I’m faced with the choice, I’ll dig-in and transform. In the context of parenting, this has required me to face some “shoulds” that have been influential to my mindset, attitude, and decision-making as a mother that are appropriate to modify.
- First, the family rules, morals, and culture can be the same for everyone while the approach or method for applying or following them can be individualized based on personality.
- Second, my family can be whole without a husband. I am strong enough to navigate everything on my own, I am independent and capable, and I’m built for the life I’m living. My journey has always prepared me for the next chapter, and while I want to share my life with someone, I’m not broken, half a person, or lessor because I’m single.
- Third, I can parent my children according to my beliefs, structure, and family culture without the permission or approval of my closest friends and family, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect and love them, or that I don’t appreciate their insight. Sometimes we need to hear how someone else would approach sometime to discover our path.
- Fourth, when everything feels like it’s upside down, that doesn’t mean I’m failing myself or my children. It’s ok for things to be difficult at times, and since I know growth happens when we’re under pressure, I want to lean-in when there’s tension instead of resisting or resenting it.
I’m so thankful for my children, and I love being their mother. Sometimes it’s a beautiful, lighthearted experience that matches all my youthful expectations of motherhood, and sometimes it’s hard-as-hell. The time between euphoria and darkness is the majority of our life together, and I recognize that’s an incredible blessing. My little humans are great people; funny, creative, spirited, inquisitive, and as different and they are similar to one another. I’m in their lives to guide, protect, and provide opportunity for them to discover themselves, with the hope they are prepared to navigate life on their own someday. Parenting is such a powerful, complex, beautiful, heartbreaking experience, and I am who I am because I’m a mom. For all the ways I can always grow and improve, I’m proud of myself for how I show-up, love, and care-for my children. I’m proud of who I am, and so thankful that I’m a mom.