Blogger’s note: I wrote this column for work. I’ve expanded on it here a bit since space isn’t an issue. I’m a mom. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, which makes my perfectionist side crazy. But we all have clothes that fit, food in our bellies and a roof over our head. The kids have survived this far, and with any luck, will make it to ripe old age. Happy Mother’s Day!
My daughter and I recently started bonding over Marvel Studios’ films. While I’m usually a DC Comics fan, Marvel’s latest films have given both of us hope that female superheros will get larger roles. I relate to Captain Marvel when she finds the strength she always had inside her. I hope my daughter draws on her own superpower as she grows older. I also love Wakanda, and the strong females who help kick butt and protect Earth.
For me, the latest gem came from a mother in “Avengers: Endgame” who said, “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be. … A measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.”
As a mom, I try to be a middle-of-the-road person. I’m aiming for kids who are able to be independent, but know that they can count on my husband and I if they need help. I want my kids to grow up to be decent human beings. Please, be decent humans … at least to the people you meet in public.
I would prefer they didn’t wear running-race T-shirts at church, but I put comfy things under my dress clothes sometimes. While they run around on sugar highs through our yard, I try to remember that I bought the candy and they will eventually crash.
I wasn’t always this way. I spent a lot of my children’s formative years being an angry mom. Grace and forgiveness were things I rarely gave myself, or anyone else.
Before I was a parent, I was a person who like studying Eastern religions while working my way up the newspaper editorial office and earning my associate degree in culinary arts. I went to a meditation retreat during this time and the instructor said to me — I’m pharaphrasing: “You’re so uptight. You need to have a kid.”
A few years later, we had said kid. It took until she was 11 for me to loosen up enough to be mellow for a few minutes. But still, talk to my kids the wrong way or criticize them, and my uptightness returns, as does my urge to go all momma bear on someone.
When I started out as a parent, I thought I was supposed to be like my mom — the bread-winner who did all the things. My grandmothers lived through the Depression and knew how to do all the things, sometimes even while taking care of their sick spouses.
Unlike my mom, after I clean, the house gets dirty again within 10 minutes. My mom was able to get us to do our chores. No matter how I approach it, my husband is more successful at this that I am.
I’m not my mother, and I’m not the kind of parent my husband is. I grew up with Barbie commercials telling me, “We girls can do anything.” I’m pretty sure that Mattel didn’t mean we had to do everything. But as a young mom, I thought I had to do it all.
For a long time during my journey as a mother, I felt that I was failing at what I was supposed to be. It made me mad and depressed and a bunch of other things.
Participating in athletic activities helped, as did joining Team Red, White and Blue. I had a way to vent off some steam. I got to talk to other adults about potty training, good schools and other parenting issues.
Then we moved to Chowan County. Before my family left West Virginia to move here, my kids made me promise something. It took me a little over a year to start making good on that promise.
I think the reason it took a while was because I was grieving. I moved around a lot as a kid, and well, it sucked — I never had a chance to form any lasting friendships. For my own kids, this was my oldest kid’s sixth move. they lost so much. We lost so many things from our old home that we couldn’t take with us. We lost our small business, something I worked really hard on. I lost Team RWB. I felt like I lost myself.
Eventually — maybe it was the fact that I turned 41 — things finally clicked. I had to be the kind of mother that I am, not who society and everyone else said I was supposed to be. For me, it has been a long journey of self-rediscovery. I can’t say that I always keep that promise to my kids, but I’m doing a lot better at keeping it than I did when we first moved here.
A few years after our daughter — often referred to as Mountain Kid 1 on this blog — was born, my husband wrote a column saying the first time he ever knew love was when she was born. Yeah, it hurt — still does — but now, I completely understand where he was coming from.
Being a parent has allowed me to re-explore the world. With each rock my kid try to eat and each bizarre question I scramble to answer, I learn something new about the world, about myself and these mini-humans God entrusted into our care. I admit, I was a bit more naive and less aware of what’s going on around me before the children came into our lives.
They are who they are. I am who I am. I am driven to be a better version of myself because of them.
They watch how we treat their siblings and others. They can tell how enthusiastic we are about certain activities, and sometimes we pass those feelings onto them. They all can read what we write — thank you so much public school teachers — both the good and the bad.
Being a mother is a constantly evolving job — just when you figure your kids out, they have a growth spurt or birthday and can act completely different. The relationships change, but you are always their parent.
To all the new moms, congratulations. You join a special group that understands what it’s like to raise tiny humans. We don’t have all the answers, but we will help you with what we know, you just have to ask.
To those of us who have a few years under our belts, keep it up, you’re doing great.
To those who struggle with this whole parenting thing — you’re not alone. There are tools at local healthcare centers and in the community that can help you. You can always set up a time to talk with another mother over a cup of coffee. Just be kind to yourself and get some help. It will pay off.
To those whose kids have left the nest, but still act as mother figures in our community — thank you. We need more people helping the younger generations.
The most important part is to be the best at what you are, not who you or society thinks you are supposed to be.