Sunday, May 8, 2011

What I Know For Sure About Being a Mother

What I know for sure about mothering is that it doesn't leave you time for much of anything else - but the one thing is always supplies you with is time to beat yourself up for being what you believe is an inadequate version of the mother you think you should be.

When I was a single mom, I actually believed that I was supposed to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and then tuck my well-mannered, well-groomed, and top-of-the-class children into bed with a story, a prayer and the vision of a smiling and completely put-together June Lockhart kind-of-mother (in pearls and a skirt mind you).  I actually pulled this off many nights.  But what my children never knew was that I would then go into my bedroom and cry myself to sleep - usually from feelings of complete and utter exhaustion and worry, topped of with a boat load of maternal guilt.  Finally, out of sheer frustration and self-loathing, I decided to start collecting quotes that I could use as affirmations.  I started reading them through my nightly  tears hoping that they would help me believe that I could get up in the morning and do it yet again and hopefully with a little style and grace. These words became my backstage parenting classes and over time they made me feel like I wasn't alone in the way that I felt.  More importantly, they helped me gain the courage to be the kind of mother who tried everyday  to just do my best with the information and resources that I had at the moment.  I finally figured out that sometimes that meant just being "good enough" and not perfect.

My children are grown now and they have all started families of their own.  My judgment on myself on this Mother's Day is that I must have done a pretty good job because they are all amazing and they are all incredible parents.  I realize that prayer and the grace of God were more influential in their upbringing than any of my mothering skills, but regardless, my children are the kind of adults I would choose to have as friends - I like them just as much as I love them.

As a Nonna, I love the freedom that I have with my grandchildren.  I don't have the "if they don't turn out, it's my fault" thing hanging over me.  But when I listen to my kids, I hear them being so hard on themselves just like I did and I find myself wanting to relieve them of some of those doubts.  But I know that some of those doubts are necessary because they keep you shooting for the "parent of the year" award - always wanting to do it better.  My daughter recently told me that I'm intimidating to her and her sister when it comes to mothering because I did it so easily.  I had to chuckle because I realized that they don't know yet that it took a lot of work to make it look so easy.

So on this Mother's Day, I'm going to share some of those quotes that I collected over the years.  I hope that some night when they are having a parenting melt-down that they are hiding from their children, they'll find some words that will help get them through.

Here are some of my favorites:

The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth.  From this almost mystic affirmation there comes what may seem a strange conclusion: that education must start from birth. (Maria Montessori)  Note from Mom: This is a boat load of guilt if you take it too seriously but it's still true.  You just have to remember that children are not blank sheets of paper for a parent to fill up so you're not responsible for everything that they learn.  Only use this quote in conjunction with the next.

We can't form our children on our own concepts; we must take them and love them as God gives them to us.  (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity. (Eleanor Roosevelt) Note from Mom: there's never a silly question - jump on it when they wonder about things shower them with more things to help them wonder and discover.

My all time favorite words for a mom to daily live by and constantly reflect on:
 Children Live What they Learn by Dorothy Law Nolte

A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.  (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)  Note from Mom: This is a hard one to learn but when you realize that you're children aren't leaning on you quite as much as they used to, pat yourself on the back and don't feel sad. It means you did your job.

A mother is neither cocky nor proud, because she knows that the school principal may call at any minute to report that her child has just driven a motorcycle through the gymnasium.  (Mary Kay Blakely) Note from mom:  And should you happen to get cocky and braggy......a call WILL come about something to knock you down a few notches and remind you that you aren't done yet.

My doctors told me I would never walk again.  My mother told me I would.  I believed my mother.
(Wilma Rudolph)  Note from mom:  you're the one person who can do this with true authority.

If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much.
(Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis)  Note from mom: it's just true.

At work, you think of the children you have left at home.  At home, you think of the work you've left unfinished.  Such a struggle is unleashed within yourself.  Your heart is rent. (Golda Meir) Note from mom: it's a fact of mothering, not fathering.

Nothing weighs more than maternal guilt.  Men rarely work around the needs of their children; women rarely work any other way.  -Sarah Ban Breathnach

Strengthen a parent and you strengthen a child. -Fred Rogers  Note from mom: take care of yourself or you're no good to your kids.

Over the years, I've read this poem a thousand times:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
(Kahlil Gibran's poem on Children - read the rest: Link to Kahlil Gibran's entire poem on children

Children are living messages we send to a day we will not see.  (Unknown)

Pray to God....but row to the shore.
Note from mom: And then there are times when you can't row anymore and there's nothing else to do.  This is when you drop to your knees because you have no where else to go and then you pray for God's protection on your children.

And above all, remember that the mother who laughs......lasts:

If you love something, set it free.  If it comes back, it will always be yours.  If it doesn't come back, it was never yours to begin with.  But, if it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your telephone, takes your money, and doesn't appear to realize that you had set it either married it or gave birth to it.
-Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Ha, Ha, Ha - I love that one!

Brittany, Ashli, Ty and your absolutely fabulous spouses, I love you all!


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