Parenting is not transactional.
Our kids don’t owe anything us as parents.
When we expect something in return, it’s business.
My dad used to say that he couldn’t bust me in the mouth because he spent so much on braces to fix my teeth. It wasn’t funny. I felt guilty that I had cost him so much money but confused that he wanted to hit me and was making jokes about it. I realize as an adult that my parents only paid to fix my teeth so they wouldn’t be embarrassed by my appearance. It was never about me.
My parents said all those horrible phrases to me about bringing me into this world and providing me with a roof over my head, utilities, food.
“Look at all we’ve done for you!” was said often when they felt I was being ungrateful about anything.
Nothing my parents ever did for me was for my own benefit. It always came with strings attached. I was supposed to “pay for it” somehow.
I was never allowed to make decisions. It was a difficult path to independent adulthood.
I was terrified of my parents. I was never enough. Nothing I ever said or did was enough. And I was a good kid. I did almost all the “right things.” They come back and tell me how ungrateful I am – still. I’m 46 years old and I’m still never good enough.
There are better ways for parents to receive gratitude from their kids than demanding it or trying to buy it or whining and complaining about it.
I am healing myself so I can be a better mother to my children.
I constantly look for ways to delight my children. I research all the time. I want my children to be the best they can be, healthy and happy and strong. I want them to have all the best foods, books, tools, everything – to become who they will be.
It’s not about who I might want them to be. I cannot live vicariously through my kids, no matter what losses I feel in my soul. My own lost little girl cries to sleep at night but I put on a brave face during the day to be a good mom to my kids.
Motherhood is indeed a thankless and often invisible job. It’s behind the scenes. Mothering work is only noticed when it is left undone or isn’t done well (by whose standards?). Moms don’t get to rest. There are no sick days or down days. There’s no such thing as self care for moms and those who do take time to care for themselves have a luxury to pay for others to do the domestic duties or let them slide. And there’s always, always, always blame and shame.
One day a year to celebrate mothers lets our society off the hook for all the lack of community and services and actual help. For the gift of a 6-week unpaid maternity leave that we’re supposed to be oh, so thankful for! Flowers, candy, brunch is supposed to be enough to show gratitude for the invisible labor of motherhood. I never get a day off, not even Mother’s Day or my birthday or any other day.
I enjoy spending time with my kids. I am learning to ask for and express what I want and need. It’s easier now that my kids are all over twelve years old. They’re not babies physically attached or toddlers with separation anxiety or young kids needing constant verbal and visual affirmation. They’re independent thinking, feeling, opinionated, compassionate, empathetic persons!
They’re understanding that I am a mother but also a person with needs, dreams, desires. I get tired and sick sometimes. I need alone time occasionally. I ask for help when I want or need it – trying to do so clearly without whining or exasperation. I can’t expect them to read my mind. I have to teach them to notice what needs to be done and show them how to do it.
It’s taken over twenty years for me to find a voice that was somehow stifled or lost by shame and guilt and humiliation and ridicule. I was a person before I was a mother.
I invite my kids to do projects with me, but I don’t make them feel guilty if they don’t want to or can’t right now or if they say later, in a minute. I ask for my kids’ input and I listen and I make adjustments and I take their considerations to heart without getting my feelings hurt or projecting my issues onto them. (Sometimes, my feelings are hurt, but I keep that to myself.)
It’s not your child’s job to appreciate having a better childhood than you did.Bonnie Harris
I don’t have to do it all just because our society says that’s what mothers should be and do.
For years, I felt shame and guilt and regret about my very existence. I didn’t think I was lovable. I felt I wasn’t worth anything unless I performed well – and I never felt that I performed well. I had so internalized the way my parents treated me that I projected that onto everyone else. I didn’t receive the love from my husband and kids.
I take a bath every single night with chamomile tea and a book. This is my me time – for thirty minutes alone. It’s important and everyone in my household knows it’s my time. I do try to make sure everything is in order so I can have that thirty uninterrupted minutes.
It took me years to start healing myself and realizing that my kids are healthier and lovelier than I am. They show empathy and seek relationship with me even when I don’t feel well. They are healing me. They are helping me find myself.
This is it, I thought. This is my life. And sometimes, living sacred just means being present—moment to moment, day by day.Rivvy Neshama
I could complain and cry about how my parents don’t love me in ways I understand. I really don’t want to focus on the negative. I have made bids for 46 years that are often ignored, thwarted, ridiculed. I am tired. I have set boundaries. I have received silent treatment. My parents are emotionally immature. They are 80 and I’m an only child. I focus on my four kids now. So much of what I do is an opposite of what I learned and how I was treated. I am sad my kids don’t have grandparents.
Ways my kids show me they love me every single day:
- Sending me memes, TikTok videos, and Instagram posts about foraging, plants, birds, cats, jokes, music
- Making me tea, just whenever
- Snuggling during read alouds
- Watching history documentaries, movies, and TV shows with me
- Riding along to the grocery store and helping (so fun with teens!)
- Planning and making meals or baking with me
- Planning, gardening, and doing yard work with me
- Sitting and talking at the table after dinner
- Helping clean up the kitchen
- Hiking and walking with me outside in nature
- A MYRIAD of other ways…my kids are loved and loving
My kids have been, are, and will be good people. They are thoughtful. They are learning how to be emotionally intelligent, loving, and kind. I am constantly amazed by their thoughts, words, decisions. I remember how I was at their age and I am so proud of who they are.
You might also like:
- Parenting with Depression
- Emotional Health
- Raised Better
- Parenting Teens
- Parenting Young Adults
- Disciplining without Control
- What Respectful Parenting Looks Like
- Breaking the Cycle of Negativity
- Parenting Doesn’t Just End
- Motherwhelmed by Beth Berry
- Jesus, the Gentle Parent by LR Knost
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay Gibson
- Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman
- The Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Life by Harriet Lerner
Linking up: Pinch of Joy, Silverado, Random Musings, Ridge Haven, April Harris, Create with Joy, Jenerally Informed, LouLou Girls, God’s Growing Garden, OMHG, Shelbee on the Edge, Soaring with Him, InstaEncouragements, Anchored Abode, Homestead, Life Abundant, Try it Like it, Katherine’s Corner, Imparted Grace, Slices of Life, Fluster Buster, Suburbia, Penny’s Passion, Modern Monticello, Answer is Chocolate, Bijou Life, Momfessionals, Eclectic Red Barn,
Paula Short says
Jennifer, I appreciate your raw transparency in sharing your heartfelt words here.