I know a lot of mothers. Shoot, I am one. If I had to guess at the one thing that most consistently goes through the heads of almost all of the moms I know it’s this:
“Am I doing it right?”
From the first moment the nurse lays a baby on your chest and the floodgates of overwhelming love are unleashed, you just want to do it right.
No mom goes into parenting thinking that they purposefully want to screw up their kid. No mom wakes up each morning plotting ways to cause their kids to need therapy later in life. I mean, even Joan “No Wire Hangers” Crawford thought she was doing the right thing by her kids. She just didn’t know any different. She was raised a certain way and elements of that were transfused into her way of thinking and parenting. If you don’t know what you don’t know though, sometimes wrong-thinking can be misconstrued as right-thinking.
Yeah, I’m sure Charles Manson thought he was right too, and we all know he wasn’t. Hitler. Stalin. ISIS. The world is rife with examples of people or groups of people who do the wrong thing thinking it’s the right thing. We all have a God-mirror in our souls that is the still, small voice whispering to us when we’re wrong. Whether we choose to do anything about listening and obeying that voice is another matter. Charlie Manson and Hitler had moms too, and even if they were the crappiest moms in the world, you still have to wonder if they didn’t have doubts about their own parenting skills.
I don’t think I was anywhere close to that kind of mom, but I know there were things I could’ve done differently and better. My mom is a great mom, but she wasn’t perfect either, and some of that found its way into how I parented. I’m sure how I parented will also cause my kids to do things differently – or the same. It’s just how it works. You become a parent and you think about how you’ll right the so-called wrongs.
Because… you. just. want. to. get. it. right.
From the moment our children are born, we constantly weigh how to do something one way or the other. When the baby cries, does it mean they’re hungry? Tired? Sick? Needing a diaper change? And if you change the diaper but they still cry, you wonder… “What did I do wrong? What didn’t I see?”
Despite years and years of telling your kids that they “can always talk about anything and my love for you will never change,” when your child is in the thralls of their first love, and all of a sudden, conversations become secretive and guarded, you wonder how that oft-repeated conversation didn’t stick.
We tell our kids that family is THE most important thing, but when our kids go out into the world, living their own struggles and victories, and you become somewhat an afterthought, it’s easy to think that you – yeah, you, Mom – aren’t an important part of their life. You can wonder, yet again, how that thing about family didn’t translate to you.
As I said, I know a lot of moms. And for a lot of them – myself included – Mother’s Day is not the sunshine-y happy day that Hallmark and the whole retail industry have coddled us into expecting. A lot of us have had babies that grew up and the close relationships we envisioned haven’t turned out the way we hoped they would. Many have children who have died, are addicted, in prison, not talking to us, and any number of other things.
Even though I have a good relationship with two of my three kids, I still ask myself if I got it right with them. What did I do that will cause them to struggle with certain things? Would they be CEOs of a major corporation if I had made them weed the garden more? If I had indulged their love of pirates, would my son be in the Navy instead of the Air Force now? I don’t really ask myself these things, but I sometimes wonder if I did everything to the best of my ability for them. With my one child who I don’t have a good relationship with, you had better believe that I question what I didn’t do right.
The thing is… until you’re a parent, you don’t know how hard it is to be a parent, let alone a perfect one. There is no such thing. Looking back, of course I would have done some things differently. Some things I would still do exactly the same. Every relationship is a minefield that you hope to maneuver successfully, none more so than parenting.
For me, I didn’t – and still don’t – want to do wrong by my kids. I tried. I tried very hard to be the best I mom I could be. I didn’t go into parenting planning to mess things up. But I did. We all do somehow, regardless of much we try not to.
However, I’m still a mom, even if I did, am, and will mess up again and again. And probably again. That’s what happens in life. But I would rather have risked my heart to have my kids, even knowing what I know now, and having parented both wrongly and rightly, than to not ever call myself “Mom.”
There are probably a lot of you other mothers out there that feel the same. Your kids and your relationships didn’t unfold the way you thought it would that day when your baby was placed in your arms. You had visions and hopes for a bright future for that 7 lb, 12 oz baby, that day you became his or her mom. The visions and the hopes changed, but one thing didn’t change:
You are still a mom. You tried. You loved. You risked.
Happy Mother’s Day to you.