As Mother’s Day approaches, I have been reflecting on how motherhood has changed me. I became a mom for the first time in May of 2014 and I am preparing to welcome our second little one this summer.
Like many parents, the very moment I first laid eyes on my daughter is burned into the place in my brain that holds a few very vivid memories. It is nestled safely next to the moment I could first glimpse my husband-to-be standing at the end of the aisle created by loved ones on our wedding day.
Somehow, the days between those moments and now have defied the laws of time. Those days have also shaped and molded me in ways I never saw coming. Now, when I look in the mirror, I see a woman that resembles my mom more and more. I am finally beginning to understand (and deeply appreciate) the phrase, “I am turning into my mother!” I am grateful for this transformation, and I think there are some specific things that I am pleased to emulate, particularly now that I understand them.
1. I have learned to appreciate her need for silence.
My sister and I used to get in the car after my mom would pick us up from school, or practice, or a friend’s house, and I would give her the most difficult time because the radio was always off! I could not understand how on earth she would drive around without listening to the radio. My first course of action was always to turn it on and then I would proceed to talk over it.
The first time I found myself driving in the car and purposefully turning the radio off, I smiled to myself and thought, “okay, mom, I get it.” Quiet is so rare these days! Whether it’s my daughter chatting all day or the mile-long to do list running through my head, the few minutes of peace I find now and again are much needed for my sanity.
I have also discovered that those moments of silence I used to hate now recharge me. They fill me back up and they help me to be more patient, more understanding and a lot more fun.
2. I understand why she seemed stressed out at times.
What is it about us women and the pressure we put on ourselves to “do it all?” The era of working mothers really launched with our moms’ generation and it has now evolved into this age when the majority of us work outside the home in some way, shape or form, but we are also constantly accessible via cell phone, email and social media. We literally cannot escape anyone who may “need” us at any given moment. I don’t know about you, but just the thought of being available 24/7 makes me feel like I could break out in hives.
Now, please do not misunderstand me – I recognize the beauty in and the significance of the options we have today that our grandmothers never could have imagined. However, I often find myself wondering why it is so difficult for us to give ourselves permission to just focus on the things we really want to focus on. You worked hard for your law degree and you find it important to keep a full time job while also being a really great mom to your kid(s)? That’s amazing. You worked hard to earn an advanced degree in economics but cannot dream of anything more rewarding than staying home to raise your babies? You are incredible. Whatever path you have chosen, that feels right for you and your family, is heroic. It is heroic because, here you are, reading articles about parenting and (likely) constantly worrying whether or not you’re doing this thing right. Let me clue you in on something I learned recently: you are.
Looking back, I recognize that the tendencies I have to figure out how to do everything that I feel is expected of me comes from my mom. Somehow she managed a job, raising us, cooking dinners, washing clothes, cleaning the house, attending our countless activities, going on vacations and listening when we needed to talk. It is not that my dad wasn’t helpful or present – he was! But women just seem to be wired differently. We all feel we are Super Woman (and we are!) but we have lost the art of saying “no” somewhere along the way.
For the record, I have always considered my mom to be amazing, even though I’m certain I did a poor job of showing it (especially during my teenage years). My admiration of her is not about what she did for us, but why she did it. She loves us. Deeply. And she worked very hard to be certain we never questioned that fact for one minute.
3. I get why she let us “duke it out.”
My sister and I are three years apart. She has been my best friend for my entire life. That friendship has changed and evolved over time, but for the most part, we got along and played together beautifully.
Of course, like any siblings, we had our moments. One of us would run to my mom to tell on the other one and her response was always the same: “come get me when there is blood.” Now, before I go any further, I am certain my mom would have stepped in very quickly if she ever heard us physically harming one another. I know we were always within earshot and she didn’t actually expect us to physically fight out our problems.
What she gave us was a gift: the gift of working through an issue to find a solution. This approach also taught us that always running to the person in charge when we didn’t get our way wasn’t going to get us anywhere. Of course, we didn’t realize it at the time, but now, as a mother, I recognize how valuable it was that she didn’t feel the need to mediate and fix every little thing.
We all know how rewarding it is when we see our kids find a solution to a problem on their own. It is bittersweet, but so beautiful. My mother-in-law says it well: “your job is to help them need you a little bit less every single day.” While I actually sort of hate this idea (because, let’s face it – it is amazing to be needed by a little person you love so much), it is a sure sign that we are doing something right. As we prepare to welcome our second baby later this year, I hope I can remember to give them the freedom to work through their issues and build a deep friendship like the one I have with my sister.
I have always heard that we cannot fully appreciate our parents until we become parents ourselves. I find this to be deeply true. I have subconsciously carried so many lessons from my childhood and teenage years into my role as a mom. I am so very grateful I have incredible parents who I still learn from to this day.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, cheers to all the moms who wondered if they were doing it right, who wonder now if they are doing it right and who have made a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hard choices out of love.