Being a mother is not for everyone. Once upon a time, I was convinced it wasn’t for me. What did a girl from a broken home know about being a good mother?
Before you think I’m disparaging my mother, think again. My mother worked herself to the bone to make her marriage to my father work. She loved my sister and I through the divorce.
Single parenthood wasn’t her thing, so she remarried. It took me a long time to stop resenting her for that. In my mind, our life in those months of fatherlessness was better than anything I’d experienced for many years.
Blended families are difficult. Add to the mix the fact that my mom returned to college to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse around the same time and things get ugly.
On May 11, I will celebrate the first Mother’s Day without a mother. She passed away in January. She went out fighting cancer, strong until the end.
We learn mothering from our mothers (aunts, grandmothers, sisters). The way we see them act shapes our ideal for motherhood. Good and bad, we absorb it all.
In the end, we decide how we will handle being a mother. Through diapers, chicken pox, broken legs, moving, homeschooling and a myriad of other events, we exhibit our ideal of motherhood. Or not.
Here’s a list of things I learned about mothering that are worth passing on:
- Admit when you make a mistake. We’re only human. We will mess up. Don’t let your children think it’s okay to brush aside errors without apology or accountability.
- Set an example. The thing is, you’re setting an example. Your kids will watch you and mimic you. Believe me, when you see your actions and hear your words from them, it’s an eye-opening moment. If you want them to be hard workers, work hard. If you want them to attend church, take them to church.
- Don’t make comparisons. I got good grades and my sister was great at sports. I wished I was better at sports and she thought I was a genius. If I got an A minus, I was grilled. How did that make my sister who got a C feel? This is a difficult thing, but every child will have different strengths. Praise their strengths rather than criticizing the weaknesses.
- Hug your children often. This was easy when they were little. Now there might be some eye-rolling when I hug them as they head off to college. Doesn’t matter. There’s no such thing as too many hugs.
- Choose your words wisely. Words cut. Words spoken in anger can scar a formative child. It took me too long to learn to button up my lips. Accentuate the positive. Data shows we remember the negative more easily, so try to eliminate negative words.
- Teach them independence. In order to do this, you have to give them freedom to make mistakes. No mother wants to see her child fall down and get injured. I decided I didn’t want to be cleaning their rooms and doing their laundry when they were 18 either. Give them responsibilities and reward them with freedom of choice when they meet them.
- Listen to them. Hear what is beneath the words. Most women are more discerning about the emotional state of other people. When a teenager slams their bedroom door and yells at you, it’s probably not even about you. Don’t get angry. Make an opportunity for them to talk.
The list of advice could go on, but studies show the attention span wanes. God gives a great example of motherhood in Proverbs 31:10-31.
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed” (Prov. 31:28a). I’m waiting, but I can look at my successful sons and know I must not have been too horrible. Both of them serve God and work hard.
Next Week: Comparing Scars:? No Contest, Jesus Wins