You don’t have to give birth to a child to be a mother. Plenty of women who cannot have kids are excellent mothers. They exude love and kindness and that motherly charm for friends, family, coworkers and even complete strangers. If one of these women adopt, they provide a warm, secure home.
But there also exist many women who do give birth to children who fall short of proper motherhood. Mother’s Day to some of us who didn’t have a very caring mother, can feel torn when the holiday rolls around.
To be a good mother, it requires much more than simply giving birth. You can be a biological parent and not actually be present or have the necessary skills to raise a child. Because, being a parent is hard work not just physically but mentally. Many people are physically able, but not mentally capable. Despite shortcomings, we do the best that we can even if our own parents disappointed us. And it isn’t until we are parents ourselves do we understand the challenges they faced. Parenting comes with an enormous amount of responsibility; you are in charge of another human life. Sometimes you feel guilty for not doing enough, because we want to be perfect. But, none of us are, of course.
Even if you had a challenging childhood, you can still choose how you live as an adult. If you don’t have a mother around anymore or you have one that didn’t give you what you needed as a child, then you can find it in yourself to give that nurture and support to yourself. If you do have a mother in your life, even if she wasn’t so perfect, then know that she likely did the best that she could at the time. It’s all any of us can do and none of us are without flaws.
Being a mother is a humbling experience and it’s the best challenge I’ve ever encountered in my life. I’ve learned a lot about selflessness and putting my daughter first. It’s an awesome responsibility to know that what you do or don’t do can affect this little human into their adulthood. You can be responsible for idiosyncrasies, hang-ups, obsessions, discipline or lack there of. In our hands as parents is the task to be a role model for our children, to set an example and lead by our action. One thing I know for certain is that the cliché “parenting doesn’t come with a handbook” is true. However, there are plenty of great books and resources out there that do help.
There are parenting classes we can take and experts that can help guide us. But, in the end, what kids need, and I’ve learned this from experience, is consistency. I didn’t have consistency in my home growing up and I have had a difficult childhood. This is putting it mildly. So, I decided to be a different parent. I decided to stop the negative cycle and I have. I also decided to give back. For 7 years I worked with abused kids who lived in group homes while going to film school at night. I was also a youth mentor for behaviorally challenged children and worked with a team of psychologists, social workers, and therapists. I learned a lot from those kids and learned a lot working in the nonprofit sector. I often worked 2 jobs and graveyard shifts to pay for school all on my own.
What I learned is that no matter how bad a parent is…kids still yearn to be with their parent(s). Inside, they have that yearning in their soul to have that unconditional love, that consistency of care. But, not everyone, as I learned, grew up with the best role models or examples of loving relationships. Still, we can choose to overwrite any toxic cycle that has been passed from generation to generation. We can choose to be the best example for our children.
If you do anything, show with your actions and not with your words what unconditional love is.
If there was one rule in motherhood, I’d say it would be to demonstrate your love by what you do and not just what you say because words come and go. From my former days working with group home kids and from personal experience, I can say that kids don’t forget. They’ll hold you to your words. As the saying goes, “talk is cheap.” Provide your child with a stable, loving home one without toxic strife and one without abuse or violence. This might sound like a given, but you’ll be surprised how many homes do have chaos. Parenting requires patience, discipline, and a sound mind. Most of all, it requires quality time spent with your children and ridding yourself of selfish tendencies.
I work full-time now, like many of you and many homes these days have 2 parents that work full-time. It’s not so much the quantity, as it is the quality. As long as you do what you say and lead by your actions, not merely your words, as long as you provide consistency and healthy boundaries with your children, then you set the stage for success. The child knows where you stand, they know that you mean what you say and they know the rules of the home. It doesn’t take much to lead children astray, but it doesn’t take much to turn a broken home into one that is fused with love.
The Bottom Line:
May you heal from your childhood if you had a terrible one. Every situation is different, so only you know where you stand with family. I like to say that there’s an exception to every rule…usually.
May you find gratitude if you had a wonderful upbringing. And may you forgive your parents for their imperfections, knowing Mom and Dad did the best they could at the time. And if they didn’t, or you still hold a grudge for past transgressions, let it go. Let it go in love. And on Sunday, if you can, tell your mother how much you appreciate her.