What does it mean to be a mother? How has it changed our lives and what would things be like if we hadn’t had children?
It is a huge choice to have children and one not made lightly, as least hopefully not. I love that women do make that choice more consciously now than when I was a young woman. It seemed like everyone had kids, and women were not as aware of their different options then.
I’m so glad I did make that choice, though. I really loved raising kids: playing with them, watching them grow, trying to stay one step ahead of their current developmental stage, meeting so many of their friends and their friend’s parents, sharing stories, figuring out crises, watching them excel, dealing with the mistakes.
I was a single mother most of the time, so the responsibility was on me. It was never a burden, though. It always seemed easier to me, to not have to account for someone else’s ideas, opinions and often different parenting styles. Kids always need both parents, if possible, but in some cases, it may be better with only one.
At times, things could be very difficult, as we all know. There was a son who was not picking up on reading when he “should have”; the call from the police about drinking in the cemetery during the teen years; the mistreatment of friends; one son’s overactive energy that just wouldn’t quit; the illnesses and emergency room visits; decisions about classes to take and colleges that we could afford; etc. Sometimes tough love was the modus operandi, and that was hard, but worth it in the long run.
I think my kids helped teach me how to become the best person I could be. We have to be patient, kind, gentle and sweet, and maybe being a mom brought those qualities out in me more than if I had stayed childless. We must be good role models.
I also loved doing all the fun activities that kids do: trick-or-treating, birthday parties, baking holiday cookies, etc. Watercolor painting with my kids individually, for peace and quiet time with them was one high point.
Of course, their successes were powerful moments for me. We tend to take responsibility for all the failures our kids experience, and I think society really plays on that – it’s always the mother’s fault! But to stop and take credit likewise for some of the accomplishments is important. Our guidance can be the difference between hit or miss, and why shouldn’t we be proud that we helped?
Another unique thing about mothering is that I get to watch the generations continue. It is interesting to see what characteristics of me show up in my boys. Now, they have kids, and I love knowing the grandchildren and watching their dispositions, temperaments and traits come through. We are enabling the natural progression of the human race, and hopefully, we have raised good kids who are responsible and caring in the world.
A gratifying thing about having kids is that now that they are adults, they have a much more profound attitude on my mothering. They are parents themselves, and see the challenges that parents face, so have a much deeper appreciation of who I am. Also, they are not afraid to voice their recognition and gratitude for our early years together. It’s full circle love, coming back to me so many years later.
It seems like I will love my boys unconditionally no matter what they do. There have been some ugly moments, but I think we all love our kids to pieces even if and when they are in jail. They say that if we show this unconditional love to our kids continually, they have a much better chance of finding a partner who will also love them unconditionally. So far, so good in my world.
It’s Mother’s Day. This little inventory of my mothering has helped me appreciate how lucky I am. Have a wonderful day, and know that you are doing an incredibly important thing.
Martha McClellan has been an early care child educator, director and administrator for 36 years. She currently has an early childhood consulting business, supporting child care centers and families. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.