Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Mom's Perspective on Being the Mom She Wants to Be

I have been so blessed reading all of your emails and comments on being the mom you want to be and what that means and how we get busy and try to be perfect and fall short. Today, I am so honored to offer a guest post from my friend Suzan on what being the mother she wants to be means to her. I am so blessed by reading Suzan's post and found it fascinating the insight she gleaned from her own mom.

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 When my children were born I knew what type mother I wanted to be – the perfect mom. Now that my children are grown I find myself realizing I did not live up to being the mom I wanted to be. And, I’ll be honest – I’ve struggled with my failure to be that mother… …still struggle. And, I suppose I will always struggle because now that my children are grown, not only can I not go back and redo – I can’t even undo. Motherhood doesn’t come with a handbook, but it does come with expectations. A lot of expectations. Some I heaped upon myself, some family piled onto me and others I absorbed from situations and surroundings and friends around me. And, my children placed expectations on me – with that first cry my son and daughter let me know I was expected to soothe them, feed them, change them, hold them, help them, be for them what they could not be for themselves…. When my children were at home, it was important to me that I create a safe environment for them – a place where they could live and grow and become. As their mom, I wanted to protect my children. I wanted to provide them with everything they needed to achieve their loftiest goals. I wanted to teach them respect and responsibility – for themselves and for others. I wanted my children to feel secure enough in the nest created to one day spread their wings, find the nest too confining…and fly away. I wanted to be a mother who loved her children more than her own life and who taught them right from wrong by example, not just by words. I wanted to be a mother that my children enjoyed being with and their friends felt comfortable being around. I wanted to be open to my children, forgiving, loving unconditionally, embracing each child as the individual they are. I wanted to raise my children to love others, to live gently, to be difference makers. The Mother I wanted to be mirrored my own mother in many ways. I never wondered where she stood on a matter and though we often clashed I respected her and was in awe of the assurance she showed in her role of Mother. I asked my 84 year old mother what it meant to her to be the mother she wanted to be. Here’s her reply: It means I succeeded in one of my life’s endeavors – that I helped my children to be successful parents – that I often placed my children’s needs ahead of my own. My mom turned the question back to me and I replied that I’d never really thought about “being the mother I want to be.” Her reply? “Well, don’t you think it’s time for you to give some thought to what kind of mother you want to be??” My mother – gotta love her! What kind of mother DO I want to be? The Mother I want to be is kind and generous, wise, does not jump to conclusions, never responds in anger, loves unconditionally, and puts the happiness and wellbeing of my children ahead of my own. Yeah. But, I’m not that Mother. I’m far from it. The mother I have modeled is not the mother I wanted to be – not really. Situations and circumstances dictated actions and decisions that weren’t included in my dream motherhood experience – for me or for my kids. And then there’s the kids themselves. They didn’t give any thought to what kind of child they wanted to be – they just threw caution to the wind and lived an exuberant childhood without any consideration to the fact that they were blowing the mom I wanted to be right out the window. I smile, now, as I think back on the times I lost my cool, or threatened madness and mayhem because of their antics. The mother I wanted to be would have held her tongue, maintained her composure and handled things with dignity and restraint. Hmmm…as I reconsider the kind of mother I want to be I find myself wanting to blame my failure for being that mother on my kids not being the kids I wanted them to be. And therein lies the rub. I think we all have a mental image of what the perfect mother is like, what she does and doesn’t do – AND we all have a mental image of what the perfect child is like…. I don’t know about you, but my children do NOT fit that mental image. Instead they have been strong-willed, abrasive, mess-making tyrants who refused to allow me to be the mother I’ve wanted to be. And so, instead of being the mother I wanted to be, I became a mother who stepped back and allowed her children to express their independence, to make their messes, to experience life as ruler of their domains. And, as I stood at the sidelines worked to keep boundaries in place and to make sure they were safe and had what they needed. I kept my mouth shut and offered no advice unless asked of me and even then I offered little. I was available, but not hovering. I refused to jump in and take care of things, choosing rather to give them time to find a solution and implement it. I didn’t impose and remained aloof when with all my heart I wished to be invited into their world. As my children grew, I grew as well. As my children’s needs changed, my actions and reactions changed. I became the mother my children needed and not the mother I wanted to be. Instead of June Cleaver, I leaned more toward Rosanne Conner. And, that was NOT the mother I wanted to be. My children are adults and my son is now about to be a Dad. The nurturing phase of my motherhood has passed and it’s time to ask myself what type of mother do I want to be NOW? And, I think that’s the question for every mother – whether you’re a new mom or one, who like me, has adult children. Each day we need to ask ourselves what kind of mother do I want to be today? And, whatever that answer is, lean fully into the implementation of it. This question has given me direction as I face this “what next” phase of my life. I’ve been wondering how best to approach a relationship with my adult children and have been letting them dictate who I am and what I do regarding interaction with them – hands off, so to speak, unless they desire conversation or interaction. But, is that the kind of mother I really want to be? No…I don’t think so. As I stated previously, the Mother I want to be is kind and generous, wise, does not jump to conclusions, never responds in anger, loves unconditionally, and puts the happiness and wellbeing of my children ahead of my own. What does it mean to me to be the mother I want to be? It means giving myself permission to live fully into who I am and who I am becoming and at the same time honoring my children as the individuals they are and respecting their privacy. What does it mean to you to be the mother you want to be? Suzan Hutchinson @periodwise suzan.hutchinson@gmail.com

Suzan Hutchinson: wife, mother, menstrual activist, TSS survivor, menstrual cup advocate, published writer, ardent lover of nature, budding blogger.... For more about Suzan visit SuzanSays and You Are Loved.