Am I Really a Good Mom?
I’m sure each of us, at some point, has asked that question. And honestly, if you have, you most likely are. I remember something my religious education teacher said when I was in elementary school. He had us all at the edge of our seats. He said there are three little words we should try at all costs to avoid, “I don’t care,” regardless of the question posed.
I didn’t get it then, but now I do. Care and concern for our kids is the foundation, and all of us moms have that down. The rest is just instilling values and life lessons as we raise our children, hoping for the best outcome. Although I do have little advantage over other moms of young teenagers, because I learned a few things from raising my much older kids. So please keep that in mind as you read my tidbits of advice for us moms, young and old.
I had a friend who thought I had a very good chance of raising an almost perfect child when I unexpectedly got pregnant with my fourth baby. Why change the rules three quarters through the game? My three adult children had turned out ok, each becoming hard working, responsible, honest and generally happy individuals, despite all my motherly doubts and misgivings along the way.
When my two older children were between six and eight years old, my good friend dropped off her kids for a play date. The kids had a blast. Afterwards when they were picked up, my friend’s daughter said she had so much fun and didn’t want to leave. She announced that I was a “different” kind of mother. That was a little unsettling to hear, and I certainly didn’t take it as a compliment at the time, but now I do.
This parenting thing is such a paradox. Sticking to rules, and schedules,while trying to control our kids’ words and actions are all essential child-rearing skills that don’t necessarily equate with successful parenting.
But I’ve seen first hand that nothing beats imparting in your child important values by setting good examples, more so than just words. My oldest daughter picked up on this early on. She was eight years old when I was pregnant with her youngest brother, and as I got closer to my due date, she became anxious while in school, anticipating my hospital stay. She would occasionally feign an illness, and end up in the nurse’s office. On one occasion after I picked her up, I pulled into a store parking lot, turned around to face my daughter, setting myself up for a real heart-to-heart. I’ll never forget the way she rolled her big brown eyes and said to me, “Please, Mom, don’t start, we are not the Brady Bunch.” I burst out laughing, but I understood exactly what she meant, and later in the day she confessed she was nervous about me being gone a couple days and the fact I’d be bringing home a new baby.
That’s not to say you should ignore your child if you think there’s a problem, But if nothing is too serious, don’t hound them. Give them a chance to come to you. Just make sure you are listening, even if preparing dinner, and respond so they know you are listening and you care.
A sure way to everyone’s hearts is through their stomachs! (Not just your husband’s). And not just because I’m Italian, and it’s all about the food! Get the family together at the table for a meal as often as possible, whether it’s take-out or home-cooked. It’s the best opportunity to see and hear your family and get satisfaction watching them eat. I always have and still buy each of my kids one of their favorite foods or snacks, including my grandson, when I go grocery shopping. Forget spending the money on the trendy sneakers or latest cell phone. Your child will appreciate that you noted what they like and made point of buying it, thus feeling loved and cared for, again.
Next, take a deep breath, and remember it’s ok to relax the rules a bit. Let the kids stay up later (preferably not on a school night), eat dinner at 9 instead of 6, have ice cream for breakfast. If it all means enjoying each others’ company, then it’s a good thing. The world, as you know it, will not come to an end. I guarantee that one of those times you “let loose” will create a lasting memory for your kids.
Many years ago, on a hot summer night, my older two kids stayed up late with my husband and I and my in-laws playing Monopoly until 4 a.m.! The grandparents have passed on since then, but the fond memory still lingers for my kids. And so we all slept in that morning, and all was fine the next day.
Keep in mind that spontaneity can be the spice of life, my mantra for the matronly years. Occasionally don’t plan every weekend, take it slow. Create a meal together. Fall into a discussion about your heritage and stories from your past, or randomly pick out a movie to watch and discuss it. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a snow day! And if you read my first post, yours truly is definitely a fan of spontaneity. Things always have a way of working out. I truly believe that.
On a more serious note, practice and preach compassion to your kids as often as you can. Let it start at home. Sibling rivalry never took root in my house because my kids were too busy defending each other. Be open and transparent with your kids’ and their problems and your own. It’s ok to let them witness your minor arguments with Dad because you are showing a struggle and resolution, hurt feelings, but also empathy for each other. We dealt with our family and childrens’ problems most times as a unit, if the subject matter wasn’t too deep. This created a strong family unit, and each child felt they belonged. And what better feeling than that? It’s the most primal of human cravings, and promotes confidence, self-esteem, and the ability to be loved and love back.
And of course, needless to say, practice compassion with people outside your family unit. Younger kids catch on fast. Archaic as it sounds, make sure your child has learned a modicum of manners, unfortunately it’s a practice that’s dwindling these days. Greet each person when you enter a room, young and old, and have your child look up from their electronic device, even for a few seconds to greet a guest in your house, and you do the same. What will they learn?? Respect, respect, respect. There I go sounding like a fuddy duddy old lady, but it’s true. The proof is in the pudding.
While raising my four children, I had a perfect attendance record for going to all my childrens’ parent-teacher conferences and back to school nights, but I have few more to go. My four kids ran the gamut from A/B students to super intelligent/but a no homework-doer, to the seriously struggling academic student. But the most frequently heard comment spanning the years were that they were good kids, and must have been raised well at home! It was the best broken record I could’ve listened to. And so after every conference usually flying solo (it’s ok if your husband can’t make it, don’t fret) I would embrace and absorb the feeling. You have to keep it in mind so you are well prepared for the next maternal metamorphosis.
And now, sorry ladies (and gents) it’s time to bring us all down a notch from this euphoric high we are each feeling by now, but despite all the continuous leaps and jumping through hoops for our kids as babies, toddlers, pre-teens, young adults, new, young mothers and dads themselves, there’s the “womb to tomb” factor I hate to bring up, but it affects every parent still with me on this post. Each offspring will possess at least one, and only if you are extremely lucky, dislikable, if not downright distasteful personality trait. They were born with this and will take it with them despite the most effective parenting skills you come up with to obliterate it! And the best you can do is cushion the blow for them and yourself when faced with it, and try to make light of it, while you keep saying to yourself, wow I really love this kid despite…
The best personal example I can give is the way I comfort and try to de-dramatize my eldest daughter who is now also a mother. She has always been a nervous Nellie who worries endlessly about her toddler son. Mommies are always putting out fires, and it’s ok, that’s our job. Sometimes it even helps. Just try to not get burned in the process.
And so this is the part where I was going to end with best wishes etc. to all mothers out there. But sometimes we are so busy preaching, that we forget there’s always some other person with a wise piece of advice for us, but it doesn’t always register in our minds or hearts right away among all the madness we deal with each day.
A few mornings ago, I walked into work and there is always a very pleasant older woman at the reception desk. This one particular morning, I was walking through the door while on my cell phone with my mom, and was little frustrated with her 20 questions. I felt the need to explain this to the nice receptionist why I was a little annoyed with my mom, because she seemed to be oblivious to how rushed I was, and as I sped past her, she commented, “don’t forget, it is privilege.” And I have to tell you I was blown away as I figuratively put my hands down after patting myself on the back for being such a fantastic mom!
I was a daughter too, and still lucky enough to have a mom, who probably also conveyed to me all the wonderful pieces of advice I just shared with all of you. So, don’t let that notion get away because I certainly won’t. Celebrate your mother, grandmother, great grandmother if you are still lucky enough to have one, and of course your precious children on this Mother’s Day because all these little thoughts, traditions and unconditional love were handed down to you from all these self-sacrificing generations of women in your life, and you are sharing them now with your own children, and all that makes you a really good mom, in answer to the question I posed at the start of my post.
So, ladies, young and old, enjoy and revel in the exquisite beauty of being a mom this Mother’s Day! You are nothing short of AMAZING!!!
(And extra special wishes and congrats to a new mommy, my goddaughter, and niece who couple weeks ago, gave birth to my first great nephew! Thank you for gracing all of us with this most precious of gifts. Princess, please BELIEVE, after only few weeks, you are already a great Mom!)