Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
So, can you believe it? May is here already! It seems like this year’s going so fast. Actually, it seems like the older the kids get, the faster time seems to go. Right? It’s just, things go so fast.
But one thing never changes. Being a mom is always extra special, and I don’t think we should celebrate just one day out of May. I think we should celebrate “moms” for the entire month. So, that’s what we’re going to do. I hope you have a happy mother’s day, a very special day on that day, and a great happy mother’s month!
I was thinking of this month, in which we celebrate moms. I began to wonder, “What is the perfect mom?”
Right? How do we come up with our mothering definition?” And that made me think of how I arrived at my own mothering definition. I struggled with this idea for years. I really did. Back in the day, you know, I’ll be going to be fifty-five this year; Hispanic culture was really focused on the idea that if you’re a woman, your ultimate goal was to become not just a good mom but a great mom—the perfect mom. I used to think about it even when I didn’t think I wanted children, even when I thought I couldn’t have children. Certainly, once I wanted, an unexpected desire that seemed to grow within me, it became increasingly important. So, it was always a factor in my life.
And to be honest with you. Now that my kids are teenagers, I’m still struggling with that idea. Because who I was as a mother in the toddler years and later in their childhood is completely different than the mother they need me to be today.
So, back in the day, I began by setting myself an educational goal. I decided that no matter what, I had to be able to financially provide for my children. So, that meant that I had to go to college, and I had to graduate. At least, that’s what it meant in my head. So, despite the fact that I had to drop out of college because my parents got a divorce. Despite the fact that back in the day, as I said, I’m turning fifty-five this year, traditional students were not common. I mean, it was very difficult. The only classes that were really available for someone who was working full time, like me, were offered from 7:00 p.m to 10:00 p.m. After a full day of work, it was really hard to go to college for an additional three hours and try to sit through a lecture when the sun was already down. I was already tired.
much. I mean, what’s the divorce rate? 52, 53%? So, even if I got married, I didn’t know if I would stay married. So, I wanted that educational background so that if something went wrong in my marriage or became a single mother, I could financially take care of my children. So, that was the primary idea behind creating this definition of being a perfect mother.
The second component quickly became not wanting to be my own mother. And I think a lot of us relate to that. A lot of us say, “Oh! I don’t want to be anything like my mother!”
But what does that really mean, right? So, I actually started to dig in into that idea. You know, in my entire life, my mother only hugged me twice. She only hugged me twice. Maybe she hugged me when I was a child. Maybe she kissed me when I was a child. But I don’t have memories of that. My mother was not an affectionate person. I can remember hugging her as an adult once, and she was so uncomfortable. She was like a board inside my arms. This plank felt so stiff and wooden that I let her go. I knew I wanted to be affectionate. I want to hug my children and kiss them all the time. And yep, I do that! Even now, when it drives them crazy.
My mother was not also a very supportive person. The whole time I was going to college, I can remember her telling me that I really needed to focus on the important things. My mother wanted me to find a husband and get married. She was very old school, and she thought the whole idea of going to college was nonsense. Her big goal for me was that I should never work in a fast-food restaurant. I should be a secretary. For some reason, she had it in her head that this was a very nice position for a woman.
I really wanted to be supportive of my children. And that can be challenging when our children choose a path that is not conventional or that creeps us out a little. I have a kid that’s totally into forensic science, and people will laugh and say to me, “You know, I wish she wasn’t talking about death all the time.”
But my daughter is into forensic science. She’s into investigative shows, and she’s into determining why people become social monsters that kill one another. These are the things that interest her. So, instead of telling her that she should change her interest, I’m supportive, and I try to delve into her interest.
I have another child that’s exploring different religions. And I wasn’t brought up in that religion, but you know what? I’m exploring it with her because I need to support their ideas, their explorations, their search for their self-image, their identity.
Another thing that my mother did that I never want to do to my children is she constantly criticized my appearance. In Mexico, when you say to somebody, “Pareces en indio—you look like an Indian.”
It’s an insult. My mother, a very white woman with very white features, married a native American from Mexico. I look like my father, and she did not like that. No matter what I wore, what I did with my hair, how I did my make-up, she was always concerned that I wouldn’t look like an “india.” My mother would constantly say this to me. But short of having plastic surgery, these are my features. I cannot change them. She never appreciated my beauty.
Because here’s the thing. Our children are beautiful to us as mothers. If they are not, we really need to question what’s going on inside us because there’s nothing wrong with our kids. Every time I look at each of my children, I think they’re beautiful in their own unique way. I never think that they’re ugly. I never think that they should look differently. I think they’re gorgeous. They’re mine! They’re mine! And I tell them I think they’re gorgeous all of the time. They get a little annoyed but so what?
I also wanted to be the kind of mom that would admit her mistake to her children. You know, there are some parents out there that feel that if they ever apologize to their children for making a mistake, they’re losing authority. I never feel like that. I think that my children are learning by example. By apologizing, by admitting to my mistakes, they’re learning that it’s okay for them to admit their mistakes. It’s okay to apologize. And it’s okay if it takes us a while to realize that we made a mistake. Because let’s face it, we don’t always see it immediately. Sometimes we need to be away from the situation to understand that we’ve made a mistake, and sometimes we need time to know that we made a mistake.
One of the most challenging things that I never understood about my mother was that she never protected us from our father. My father was an alcoholic, very abusive, and she never did enough to protect us. And for years, I couldn’t forgive her for that. I’ll be talking about that later this month, but that really made it clear to me that one of my priorities should be to protect my children. That doesn’t mean I want to be a helicopter parent. I don’t want to swoop in and rescue them. Still, I did learn to advocate for them despite my introverted personality.
I don’t believe that my children are perfect. They might be beautiful, but they are not perfect. They make mistakes. They’re not always nice. I always stand by them because they deserve to know that I will always be a safe space, and we’re going to deal with whatever problem they encounter together.
It was a horrible, heartbreaking thing to say to her child. I don’t care how old your child is. I’m sorry you should never say that to your child. She broke my heart that day. She didn’t even realize it. I don’t know. Sacrifices for me, it started before my kids were even conceived. I sacrificed my body to them. I had to go through IVF. If you’ve been through IVF, you know it is a painful, chaotic, unbalancing process in which you feel you’re losing your mind. I sacrifice my free time to them. I have sacrificed financially for them. There have been many times that I wanted to do something or I needed something, and I didn’t do it, or I didn’t get it because they needed or they wanted something. But the funny thing is that, unlike my mother, I never feel it’s a sacrifice. I give it because I want to. It is born out of me to give everything that I am to these kids, and I never, ever regret it!
The other night I was thinking, you know, if the kids had not been born, then I could have… Could have what? The moment I said, “I could have…”
Could have what?! My children have given me so much incredible joy. Despite the challenges, despite the struggles, even though they’re driving me crazy as teenagers, I wouldn’t give them up for anything in the world.
The third part that made me re-assess my definition of mothering was when I actually became a mother. I began to struggle with my mothering ability because it’s one thing to have an idea of being a mother, and it’s another thing to actually be a mother. I really love that quote that says, “I knew exactly how to be a mother until God gave me three children.”
Theory is very different from reality. Right, ladies? I had a variety of challenges with my kids. I mean, come on, I have a kid with a tree nut allergy. I have a kid with ADHD. I have a kid that isn’t getting all their teeth in. I have a kid that lacks self-confidence and self-esteem. I have to help them meet their unique challenges. While at the same time, teach them to be self-accountable and always encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. My daughter Andy hates when I say that because it really makes them self-accountable. Think about it. I’m not asking them to be somebody else’s child. I’m not asking them to be like their sibling. I’m not asking them to be like some TV figure, some historical figure, something out there. I’m asking them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. And that’s a real challenge, that’s a reality that can be difficult to actually do when you’re dealing with your everyday life. Right?
Four, I came to realize that after being a mom for almost fourteen years, okay, my kids changed on me. They became teenagers. Teenagers! Holy cow! And I thought the first eighteen months of having twins was difficult. The teen years make those eighteen months look like a piece of cake or a Chick-fil-A cookie because I love those cookies. Oh my goodness… I don’t know how I don’t lose my mind. They’re perfectly happy one second. The next second, they have no self-esteem. The next second, they’re angry. They’re back to happy. The world is perfect. The world is ending. This is like being on the worst roller coaster ride in the world! I don’t like roller coasters, and I certainly don’t like going upside down. I saw a picture of this one roller coaster in Asia where there’s a piece of the roller coaster that actually goes off the rails and has to fly into the other set of rails. No, it’s not an optical illusion. Somebody actually came up with this. And I swear to you, there are days when I feel like I’m in that no-rail-piece all of the time.
But that really made me understand what it takes to be the perfect mother. I will share the definition with you now because it’s so much easier than all of the convoluted processes that I went through to get here.
Love your children. That’s the first and most important one. Love them. Express it. Make love a verb, not a noun. Be active in their lives. Be affectionate. Be supportive. And when they’re driving you crazy, and one of my daughters pushed just about every single button yesterday. I thought I would yell, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. I took a deep breath and looked at her face, and I just loved her. That doesn’t mean she didn’t get a consequence. It just means I kept my cool.
Second part. Never give up on your children. Don’t ever say it’s impossible. Don’t ever say it’s too hard. Don’t ever say, “I give up.” Say things like, “I need a time out. I need a break. I need some help dealing with this challenge.”
Because ultimately, the perfect mother is just a mother that tries every day. Tries to love their children when they are not being lovable. Tries to do the best for them when she’s too tired. When she thinks that she doesn’t have more to give… When she’s angry or when the world feels like it’s coming down on her. It’s the mom that tries is always perfect.
After fourteen years, what I found is that the perfect mother is not perfect at all. She’s just a mom who loves her children and tries every day. That’s it.
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