It took me well into adulthood to realize I’ve unconsciously absorbed many lessons from my mother about motherhood. And if I’m being honest many of these lessons were never formally taught but gained through observation of how she navigated motherhood. As a single divorced mother of three, I saw firsthand how easily life can shuffle the deck and leave you with a hand of unfavorable cards. In this case, it was my mother left to raise her children unsupported with no immediate family around to help.
The intent behind this article is not to bash or criticize my own mother, but to give perspective on how my upbringing molded me into the mother I am today. So with reading this even if you disagree you can see how different perspectives can also bring forth teachable points.
1. There is no perfect balance between work and family
This one may come as a shock and some people may beg to differ, but trust me there is no perfect balance, and let me explain to you why. I watched my mother work from 7 am to 10 pm most days for the majority of my childhood. I used to resent that she always had to go to work. But the older I got and started a family of my own I realized just how expensive raising children is. I thankfully have the help of my husband, and could only imagine how expensive things would be if I had to foot the bill alone. The reality is that it may not be a deliberate choice if parents can spend time with their children but more of a necessity to survive.
From this lesson, I learned to make each moment count. Don’t wait for only special occasions to show love to your children, but create joyous moments in everyday living.
2. your kids come first
The one thing I can say for sure was I never saw my mother do anything for herself. She didn’t party, didn’t get her nails done and I’m sure she had no idea what it meant to have a self-care day. In fact, the only thing I saw my mom do outside of work was the occasional trip to the mall. It was there I would see her face light up when it was time to get a warm Cinnabon from the kiosk. We would sit in the food court after she replaced her work uniform and it was in those moments I could finally see her relax. I remember her always saying that she couldn’t do things because she had to work because if she didn’t work who would pay the bills? I always wondered if she regretted having me because of this.
Not really knowing how to feel, it seemed like a life that wasn’t very enjoyable because once you have children you must dedicate every moment of yourself to working to make sure you can provide for them. So I grew up always struggling to let go… always wondering how much time is enough time? Is it wrong to take time for yourself? Is self-care really selfish?
3. Never Leave Your house dirty
As I mentioned earlier my mom grew up in the Caribbean and moved to America in her adult life. Having a clean home was something that she took pride in.
This meant everything was always in its place. There were no dirty dishes in the sink and no dirt on the floor. People would compliment her on how nicely kept our home was. Little to be known the upkeep was extremely traumatizing. This meant that there was never a time to play with toys because they were not allowed to be on the floor (yes even while in use). This also meant no matter how tired you were you would mop and sweep every day.
I learned that in order to be a good mother your home had to reflect that of a magazine. Anything less was a reflection of your poor homemaking skills. In my own home, this took a long time to unlearn especially with children who were constantly playing with toys in the living room. Let’s just say as a rebel my messy home is a sign of happiness.
4. there’s always something to do
Without words, my mother taught me that working hard was the way to measure productivity. When she would get off her job she would immediately begin dinner, which by the way was always from scratch. She would do laundry and fold the clothes immediately after (I know creepy). I remember as a child relaxing on the couch and her always walking by asking me “is there nothing for you to do besides just laying around?”. I remember always feeling like “exactly what is it that you want me to do?” This lesson taught me that it was not ok to rest because rest meant laziness.
5. learn to figure it out
Learning on my own was something that was ingrained in me from before I could remember. Everything from cooking to cleaning was something that I was expected to already know. There was never any time for training or explaining. My mother would say something once and the expectation was that I should do whatever it was she was asking. What happens if I didn’t know? Then I would just have to figure it out. I wasn’t allowed to ask for help. I wore this like a badge of honor well into adulthood. Only to reach burnt out and realized there is strength in asking for help. Whilst figuring things out alone builds character and turned me into an autodidact there are some lessons that are easier learned from those who already made the mistakes.
As a woman now with three children of her own I am able to find the blessings in these lessons taught to me by my own mother. I realize she was only able to teach me within her own scope of understanding. But now that I have lived and experienced life I have my own responsibility to teach my children, especially my daughters those important lessons about motherhood. I want them to never feel burned by the responsibility of raising a child. I aspire for them to take personal time in order to be the best version of themselves. I want them to know that mistakes are learning opportunities and are the best life lessons. But above all I want them to know that once they lead with love there will be no pressure to be a perfect parent because one doesn’t exist.