A fellow mom blogger recently e-mailed me with the following:
“Cursed, I read your posts every day. I love that you’re so honest about your struggles as a parent, as we all struggle, even if we don’t want to admit it. I also appreciate your humor and perspective on motherhood. What is it about your personality that makes you a unique mom/stepmom? And how do you think those traits affect the flow of your family structure?” – Brynn H.
I thought this was a very sweet and interesting e-mail, as this concept of “uniqueness” is not one I had pondered before. I wanted to use the letter “U” to define/explain what makes me a unique parent – whether that’s good or bad!
1. I am a young mother. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to having children when you’re young. But it certainly plays a big part in how I raise my kids. One, I have the energy and concern to remain hyper-involved in all aspects of my kids’ lives – from school work, to fashion trends, to time with friends, sports and extracurricular activities and even social media establishment. Two, I realize that being a young mother likely means I will also be a young grandmother, and that is exciting.
2. I am a divorced mother. The kids’ dad and I are friends and we do co-parent very well (even though it took lots of work and compromise for the both of us). I am also remarried, which has changed everyone’s lives, in a good way. Being divorced and having to co-parent has made me more open-minded and communicative. I am no longer selfish with my children. I HAD to change to provide more stability and happiness for our family, and yes, that family still includes their dad. Our family is much more intact because of that change.
3. I am a working mother. That means I must squeeze a full day’s work into only a few hours at nighttime, while also letting my kids know that they are always my first priority. While it is a constant three-way tug-of-war, wherein I’m caught choosing between having fun with my kids, keeping our routine and also completing tasks, and it does make me much for conscious of my time. Being a better time manager has helped me at work and at home. I both revere and covet the lives of stay-at-home parents, because I would love to be able to spend more time with my kids. But I am also very grateful for a paycheck. And I think I appreciate time with my children even more, now that there isn’t much of it.
4. I am an affectionate mother, but I am NOT a “silver spoon” mother. My children are rotten in the ways of affection, and they have pretty much everything they want. But my kids are also being taught the value of things, so that I’m not looking at “little rich kids” in ten years’ time. I set that example by working hard, and I talking to them about the importance of hard work. Yes, my kids will have jobs when they’re teenagers. But no, they will not have college debt. To me, it’s about prioritizing your kids’ lives for them, until they can do it themselves.
5. I am a “memories not stuff” mother. This ties into #4 but in a way that is beneficial for the kids and for me. Both of my kids do have stuff, yes. But they are not so overwhelmed with stuff that they forget what’s important, which is making memories. We have silly traditions:
a. Every Monday is spaghetti night. And after we eat, we pile up in my bedroom to watch whatever movie they’ve picked out from our local library;
b. We play Skip-Bo once a week;
c. Jackie brushes Lexi’s hair every night after her bath;
d. We greet each other at dinner with the exact question, “Sooo…how was everyone’s day?”
e. I write notes on my kids’ lunch bags every day, to let them know that I love them and to encourage them to learn a lot at school;
f. Jameson climbs into my lap every night for back scratches, kisses, hugs, handshakes and our silly song (which is one I made up when he was just a baby – it contains literally ONE lyric that simply says, “My name is Jameson and I’m a good boy forever”).
g. We order pizza every other Thursday;
h. On the Thursdays that Jackie returns to work, the kids sleep with me;
i. I do not do a single chore until I have spoken to each member of my family (even the dog) to ask about their days and to get hugs and kisses from everybody;
j. We do frequent “projects” and the kids LOVE it. Last week, Lexi helped me make a wreath. Soon, we will be spending a couple of hours every Saturday to make homemade ornaments for our Christmas tree this year. Lexi is a pro at making slime, which we’ve done a few times. And sometimes we even make homemade cards or draw pictures to hang on the fridge.
k. We take LOTS of family pictures.
6. I am an understanding and approachable mother. It might be because my father was so heavy-handed with his girls, including me, or it might be because my kids are generally well-behaved, but I do not spank my kids hardly ever. I try other tactics, most importantly talking to them, before I take more aggressive action. I do not want my kids to be afraid of me. I want them to feel like they can come to me with any problem they have, without worries of being judged by me or fears of disappointing me. Moreover, I do not overload my kids with chores or expect unreachable accomplishments when it comes to school work. All I ask is that they do their best.
7. I am an organized mother. My family have a very strict routine:
a. 6:30 – up and dressed for school and work;
b. 7:30 – kids to school, Mom to work;
c. 3:00 – Jack picks the kids up from school;
d. 3:30 – snacks, showers, their one daily chore;
e. 4:00 – homework;
f. 5:45 – Mom comes home;
g. 6:30 – dinner;
h. 7:30 – finish homework;
i. 8:00 – kids watch t.v., Mom does chores;
j. 8:30 – Mom picks out clothes for the next school/work day while kids are in their rooms, reading or watching t.v. and settling in for bed;
k. 9:00 – bed time.
Again, this works for MY family and my kids. This routine is our go-by, and there is little variance during the week.
8. I am an including mother. There is very little that I do, very few conversations that I have, very few trips that I take or places that I go, where I cannot include my children. In fact, our family often go on “dates.” Weekends are the exception to the above routine. We use our weekends with the kids as a time to do fun things with them. A few examples:
a. Dinner and a movie out;
b. Picnic in the park;
c. Homemade pizza and Redbox;
f. Visiting a local festival or carnival; or
g. Making a dessert and eating it together.
As said before, I am a memory-making mother, and these are some of the ways we execute those memories.
9. I am a worrying mother. Not even my husband knows how much I struggle with anxiety when it comes to raising my kids. So many nights I lay awake in deep thought. Did I pack them enough to eat for lunch? Is Lexi prepared for that math test tomorrow? Is Jameson’s hair clean? What am I getting them for Christmas? Did I budget for tuition this month? I constantly question myself, wondering if I’m enough, worried that I’m not. I cry over the things I’m not doing, and panic over the things I might not be doing correctly. Having not been given good maternal role models myself, I am terrified that I am going to screw up my kids’ lives, and I don’t want to do that. I am aware that my kids are resilient, like most kids. They are also very forgiving. I just want to set a good example for them, invest in them, remain present in their lives and show how much I care. Then the anxiety kicks in and I’m back at square one.
10. I am a blessed mother. Even with all of those panicky and anxiety-filled emotions, I make sure to take time every day, despite the struggles and despite my mistakes, to appreciate what I do have. Not very many people love me and I know that. Hell, there aren’t even many people who like me. I can’t count on my parents or siblings. But I know that my husband, my kids, and our dog love me. And no matter how many times I screw up, they always will. There is a lot of comfort in knowing there are 3 people and 1 animal that will be home waiting for me when I pull into the driveway. And it is also good to know that I am needed, wherein my mental condition/illness often equates need to love (“If you’re not useful, you are not worthy” type of thinking). If I never crossed another thing off of my to-do list, if I stopped cooking full meals, if I stopped wearing make-up and shaved my head bald, if I never vacuumed or dusted again, if I didn’t buy another toy or dog treat or area rug, it wouldn’t matter, because those people will still love me regardless. It’s not because of what I do, but it’s who I am, that matters to them. I am Mommy. I am likely the most ordinary, average person on the face of the planet, but I am also the luckiest.
In the end, there is no such thing as a perfect mom. There are shitty moms and there are good moms. And behind most great mothers are women who are terrified they’re screwing everything up. But the simple act of worrying or trying makes you a good mom. Nobody knows your family better than YOU. As I’ve already said, I tell my kids every day that all I expect is their best. I can think of a few moms, myself included, that should adapt this philosophy. Nobody can or should expect more than your best. It will always be enough.
Meg / cC