Great Mom vs. Great Mother: It’s a Balancing Act
Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I’d forgotten. My mom has been gone more than a decade now, my mother-in-law longer than that. I have no cards or gifts to buy, no one to call.
We lost them both too soon. People always say that, as if the death of people we love would somehow be easier to handle if it happened on another day. Yesterday, today, tomorrow—it doesn’t matter when it happens. It hurts.
But I didn’t plan to write this post about the reality of being a middle-aged orphan, so I’m taking a sharp curve here to get myself back on track. How did this thing start? Oh, yeah. Mother’s Day, this Sunday. If your mom is still with you, give her an extra hug and kiss for those of us who aren’t able to do the same with our own moms. You’re lucky! Take joy in it. I’m envious, but happy for you.
So, Mother’s Day. As I said, I had forgotten until a gift came in the mail for me from my son and daughter-in-law. *I have a daughter-in-law—doing a happy dance!* It got me thinking about more than just missing my mother and mother-in-law. I started thinking about my own kids because without them, of course, I wouldn’t be a mother at all and I am, in fact, a great mom—but not such a great mother.
If I were a Great Mother, my kids wouldn’t have been able to get away with so much stuff. I would have been stronger about discipline instead of always letting Joe be the bad guy. (Now that I’ve admitted this the man will never let me hear the end of it. Sometimes I hate the whole “naked truth” thing this blog promises. What the heck was I thinking?).
Great Mother assigns chores and makes sure they’re completed and done right; she does not assign chores and then do them herself because it’s a nice day and the kids want to go out to play. Great Mother sets rules and insists they be followed, and if her teenagers think she’s a hideous beast, well, Great Mother knows that this means she is doing her job well. Great Mother does not back down. Great Mother does not give in to whining, wheedling, or tearful pleading. Great Mother kicks ass and takes no prisoners, and her children are better off for it.
Great Mother I am not. Maybe I displayed a flash of Great Mother here and there, but I’m more along the lines of Soft Chocolate-Chip Cookie Mama, complete with too much sugar and an ooey-gooey center.
Looking back over my kids’ growing-up years (they are now ages 32, 27, and 20) I see all the ways I let them down. I should have been tougher, stronger, less wishy-washy, more secure in my role as Boss-of-You. But when they cried, I cried. When they hurt, I hurt. (Ha. I say that as if it isn’t still true). Stuff would happen to upset them and long after they got over it and moved on to the next thing my stomach would still be in knots. I can’t tell you how many nights I lay awake, chest aching, because one of them suffered a broken heart. Do all moms experience this kind of empathy? Is it just a mother thing or do dads go through it also?
Lest you think I’m degenerating into a puddle, let me say that I know I did a lot of things right, too. My kids have always known they can talk to me about anything (and I do mean anything), that if they need an honest opinion they can come to me. I might find a soft way to say the truth, but the truth is what they hear. Unconditional love goes without saying, as does steady and continual emotional support. As long as I’m breathing my children have a safe place, always.
Did I mention that all three of my young ‘uns are freaking awesome? They have grown up to be intelligent, loving, honest, kind people, so between Joe and me working together we must have done something right along the way. Or we got crazy lucky. My wise mother liked to say that most parents take more credit for their child’s successes and failures than they have a right to.
So yes, I know I’m a Great Mom, but I am not a Great Mother. If I could change anything, it would be to have found a way to straddle the two. My mother handled that balancing act like a pro. Oh, how I wish she was still alive so I could ask her how she did it, and with such unfettered grace.
Man, I miss my mom.
For the record, I want to say that I love the quote by Elizabeth Stone at the top of this blog post. She describes the parental experience in a few words, and I believe it is true for every mom and dad, biological or adoptive, who loves his/her kids with a vibrant passion. Do you agree/disagree?
Please leave a comment and let me know how you see yourself as a parent, and if you don’t have children, then tell me about your mom. If you’re a writer, does motherhood—or the lack thereof— impact how/what you write in any way? C’mon, Buttercup, do a little Writing in the Buff! The naked truth is a good thing.
Wishing you all a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!
See you next week for more of the naked truth—