The Power of a Mom

Whether you are a mom or just have a mom, you know that all mothers have flaws. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t be perfect.

Sure, there’s that one mom from the PTA meetings who seems perfect. But rumor has it that she blew a gasket last week in Target when her toddler decided to remove his diaper and run full-speed past the checkout lines. On a crowded Saturday.

So while most days begin on a good note, things can take a turn at any moment.

Take a few minutes too long in the bathroom when you have a crawling infant and you may find your potted plant has been un-potted.

On the carpet.

Babies teethe, blow-out diapers, and don’t sleep when you need them to. Toddlers rip pages from favorite books, overturn coffee mugs (wasting precious caffeine), throw epic tantrums, and terrorize pets. Older children bicker with siblings, whine, miss their carpool pick up, whine some more, make extreme messes, flunk tests, leave laundry on the floor, and argue with you about it all.

Most of these things on their own aren’t so major. But combine a few, and even the best of us might blow our tops once in a while. We may yell a little bit, say something we don’t mean, send someone to their room, or simply grunt and clench our fists in frustration.

Then the mommy guilt sets in. Melissa at Confessions of a Dr. Mom wrote a great post about this just last week. We all set such high standards for ourselves that when the inevitable scolding/yelling/sending the kids out of the room/morphing into The Hulk happens we immediately go to that place inside that labels us as a bad mom.

These are the episodes of parenting that have led to many a spirited playgroup discussion. We lay our mommy indiscretions at the feet of our friends, looking for redemption and hoping they’ve done the same thing.

But today I am going to let you in on a little secret. A secret that may change the way you look at those little rugrats, those unruly but adorable toddlers, and those sulky teens.

Our biggest cheerleaders may not be our other mommy friends.

They are our own children.

The very children who say we are the meanest mommy ever, who roll their eyes when we ask them to clean their rooms, and who want nothing to do with us when we shop together at the mall. Children who most certainly think they are being reared by none other than Attila the Hun and his wife Bertha the Horrid.

They are the ones who want us to succeed the most.

That’s The Power of a Mom. These little pieces of our heart walking around in dirty socks with messy hair and runny noses really, really love us. And they want us to do a good job.

I work with young children who are at-risk for difficulties with school adjustment. Each year, I have at least a handful of students who have experienced first-hand some of the worst mistakes a mom can make: drug or alcohol abuse, incarceration, neglect, verbal or physical abuse.

And without fail, time and time again, these little children still put their mothers on a pedestal.

Because they want them to succeed at being a mom. Their very being depends on it.

They draw pictures of their beautiful, smart mommies. They create visions of what their life will be like when mommy comes home or brings them back to live with her. They gloss over details they don’t know I am aware of, creating excuses for their moms who have taken a path not consistent with motherhood.

The Power of a Mom.

We are, most of the time, someone our children can count on. Whether it’s a peanut-butter sandwich in a lunchbox, a hug after a fight with a friend, or someone to check your spelling homework: mom is there.

So even when she’s not consistent, not physically or mentally able, or not even particularly interested in being a mom, her children are still her biggest cheerleaders. They want their mommy to succeed.

So the next time you yell at your little one because she spilled milk for the tenth time or send your teenager to his room for being surly and the guilt sets in, remember this.

Without fail, these little ones are your biggest fans.

They expect you to make mistakes, they accept your apologies, and love you in spite of it all.

Even if their facial expressions and eye rolls don’t show it.

How-To Book: Not available in stores

When I was pregnant with my son, I spent lots of time wondering about this impending new job they call motherhood. Well, maybe wondering isn’t quite the right term. Daydreaming? No, that sounds pretty nicey-nice and well, dreamy. So probably not.

I think the term would be obsessed.

I obsessed about this new job classification and title. Because that’s what I had always done at work. There were always so many questions that came along with new responsibilities. Jockeying for position within the company, figuring out where on the proverbial ladder you now stood.

Or if you were just holding the ladder for the others.

So the questions about motherhood kept streaming through my mind (probably when I was supposed to be, well, working). Some of the answers didn’t come for several more months, when I had secured the job and was firmly entrenched in it.

Job probably doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like a mild form of indentured servitude.

Is this a promotion?
Well sort of. You’re not the youngest one in your department anymore.

What’s the title?
Chief Executive Purveyor of Milk and Diapers/Head Nurse/Child Psychologist/Sanitation Supervisor. The title doesn’t matter; it changes daily hourly.

How will it look on my new business cards?
Your business card becomes the scrap of dried-out diaper wipe you write your phone number on and give to that nice mom at the park, hoping beyond hope that she’ll call because she seemed to think you were normal.

Well, she did smile and nod a few times when you described that horrible, sticky rash. Which in retrospect was a bit awkward, since it was your rash and not the baby’s.

What will I DO?
And there it was. The biggest question about this whole motherhood thing, and it couldn’t be answered by simply combing the pages of What to Expect When You’re Expecting (first edition…yeah, it was that long ago). Because I spent a lot of time doing just that; trying to find that answer so I would be prepared.

Sixteen years later, I am still figuring it out.

There really was no way to prepare for any of it. Because the thing nobody tells you is that nobody has ever raised your kid. So there’s no book, no podcast, no DVD series that will prepare you.

You will find great advice that may or may not work for you. Sometimes the sheer volume of information overwhelms you, especially with the ever-present Internet. And those well-meaning grandmothers at the grocery store whose advice is so ancient that if you followed it, CPS would likely get involved.

So you just take it as it comes. From diaper rashes to teething; odd crawling styles to pronating feet; speech delays to pronoun confusion. You research, commiserate, whine, drink wine, and do some more research.

At times you are just plain bamboozled.

And through all of these phases and crazes you are actually doing it. You are parenting.

Good for you.

If someone had actually been able to give me, in great detail, the job description for this motherhood gig, I may have laughed. Or asked for a raise.

Maybe I would have been scared.

The benefits of being a parent can’t be quantified, and are unimaginable until you actually become one. These benefits far outweigh some of the tasks required of you that previously would have made you gag.

Sucking gallons of snot out of little noses. Cleaning up vomit-laden sheets and baby at 3am. Driving around the block to quiet a fussy baby. Crazy play dates that result in goldfish cracker sediment ground into your new carpeting and family pets missing large clumps of fur. Picking up the pieces of your child’s broken heart and piecing them back together when friendships go sour. Helping with Algebra homework.

You get through these tasks because you reap the benefits. Cuddling at 3am when your baby is sick. Watching your toddler smile and laugh during that crazy playgroup. Seeing that adorable little face light up when you walk into the room. That look of triumph when they learn to tie their shoes or ride a bike. Those I-can’t-squeeze-you-any-harder hugs.

If subsequent kids come along in your family, they are never the same as the first. Your new-found parenting expertise doesn’t apply to this new kid. But now you have more tools to roll with it, and it’s not as daunting. You start to feel like you can really do this motherhood thing.

You might even find that you start doling out advice in the grocery store.
This post is linked up to Word Up, YO!, which is masterminded by KLZ, Natalie, and Liz; The Word of the Week is:

bamboozle

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Mother of the Year – BK (Before Kids)

Kludgy Mom
 

This post is part of my homework for Gigi at Kludgymom‘s Back to School, Back to Blogging extravaganza. Maybe that’s too big of a word. It’s really more of a workshop, without the horrible catered food and boring keynote speakers. And there’s no dress code.
I chose the writing prompt “How were you a better mom BEFORE you had kids?” which was suggested by Cheryl at Mommypants. Who, by the way, is hysterical and shares my love of candy corn pumpkins.
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Before I had kids, I rocked the parenting world. At least in theory.

I had fairly strong opinions about everything from pacifiers to breastfeeding; stay-at-home mothering to cloth diapering; potty training to driver’s training. I was sure I had this whole parenting game down even before I suited up for the kickoff. Carol Brady would have nothing on me.

Then I gave birth.

And the walls on my Mommy Castle turned out NOT to be made of stone, but of sand. Or maybe they were made of glass. People in glass castles shouldn’t throw diapers.

Or use pacifiers.

But from the very first few days at home with a new little one, you are tested. He deprives you of sleep, nutrition, and personal hygiene. Simple daily tasks remain undone after hours spent doing what? You aren’t even sure you can answer that question. Your whole world revolves around his needs. And his cries. You love, love, love him but your love affair with your pillow has become a thing of the past.

So in a sleepy stupor you consider trying out the pacifier, the one they sent you home from the hospital with.

I told the nurse (rather smugly, even), “We won’t use a pacifier! It will cause nipple confusion! Damage the alignment of his future teeth! Delay his acquisition of speech and language! We won’t need it, so save it for some other mom.”

Yet, in the no-so-quiet of the night, after rocking and feeding and changing his diaper and driving around the neighborhood in a stupor….it called to me. The pacifier that somehow came home with me despite my protestations.

Just give it a try. What can it hurt?

And that little bit of flexible plastic, that ugly-as-heck nipple-like thing becomes the best.thing.ever. Because it helps calm the baby. He is instantly more content and drifts off to sleep.

I felt naughty, almost like I cheated at The Mom Game.

But then I slept; we all slept, and I never looked back.

The pacifier was one of many, many things that I swore I would do/never do as a parent. I am still finding new things now that I have a tween and a teen. I firmly believe that there is no right or wrong way to parent. Nobody has ever raised your kid. This is your stint on The Apprentice: Parenthood.

And Donald Trump can’t fire you.

So while I may have considered myself quite the perfect parent before I had kids, I was wrong. But I have grown into the perfect parent for my kids. And I’m still a work in progress.

Oh, and Carol Brady? She had Alice.

I rest my case.