Five Ways I Would Mother Differently Today

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It’s Friday and thus…time for my “Friday Five.” Since Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend, I’ve been reflecting about mothers a lot this week. In many ways, it has been bittersweet as I see my own mother continue to decline. I know this might be the last Mother’s Day I have with my mom and this also has a way of pushing me fast forward into my own future, wondering how my own children will view my end days, when they come.

Dee and Mom on Hassock

When we become a mother, we take more than a nightie to the hospital. We lug all the baggage from our own childhood. We may think we’ve laundered every experience, mended every heartache, and discarded every mothering experience we DON’T want to repeat with our own children, but somehow, those past experiences have a way of sneaking along for the ride. Don’t you wish each child came with a personalized training manual, a British nanny, and a decent desire for sleep during the evening hours? It’s a wonder our children even speak to us at all when they’ve grown up, considering all the mistakes we make along the way during our lifetime on-the-job training. Thankfully, most kids declare a wary truce with their parents by the time they reach their 20’s and I’m banking on the hope that when they have their OWN children, they will throw their arms around my neck and beg for forgiveness for ever doubting my good intentions as I raised them. But I must admit, there are some things I would have done differently as a mother, if I were to do it all over again today.

1. I would NOT go back to work after my children were born. When my first child was born, my husband insisted that I go back to work. We lived in the Washington, D.C. area and he was sure we couldn’t survive on one income. Luckily, the Navy gave me six weeks off to stay home with our daughter but boy, it was horrible to have to return to work and leave her with a sitter. I feel like I missed out on so much of her first two years. When I found out I was pregnant again, this time I put my foot down. There was no way I was going to leave a baby again. So when our daughter was 20 months old and our son joined the family, I became a stay-at-home mom. I was amazed at what a difference having that time to bond with my son made and horrified at what I had missed out on with my daughter.

2. I would take more home videos and then WATCH them when the kids weren’t around. This may sound strange but let me explain. About a year ago, I was watching a lot of our old home videos as we were transferring them to CD. As I looked at the interaction between myself and our two children, I was dumbfounded to realize that I was acting quite differently towards one child than toward the other in more than one of the earlier home videos. I could even see the hurt in the other child’s face, as I’d brush them off and turn to the other and hug or cuddle them. I was HORRIFIED. My gosh, why hadn’t I noticed this at the time? Well, maybe it was because I was too busy just trying to keep everything moving along on an even keel, too exhausted dealing with two kiddos under the age of 2 while my husband was at sea, too close to the situation to recognize what was happening. But by watching yourself interact with your children, as captured on film (or digital camera), in a quiet setting where you can watch uninterrupted and really see yourself objectively, this gives you a whole new perspective. I wish I had done this back when they were toddlers but I never did. We’d take the movies and then later, the kids and my hubby would watch them while I was in another room washing the dishes or doing other chores.

3. I would spend less time thinking that my children – their accomplishments and their misbehaviors – were an extension or a reflection of me. My mother insisted on perfection from me and I vowed that I would never do this to my own children. Doggone if I didn’t fall into this trap again and again with my children, especially the firstborn. I would be more laid back, allowing them to make mistakes as they learn and try new things. I would STILL insist on good behavior but not because I didn’t want to be embarrassed, but because they needed to learn the skills needed to live and work alongside others within a moral and just framework of laws, behaviors, and attitudes.

Laura and Jason in Basket

4. I would spend more time playing with my children. When both children were small, they were very good about playing with each other. In fact, they could entertain themselves for long periods of time at a stretch. Consequently, I spent a lot of time doing things like housecleaning, reading, hobbies, and shopping with the kids in tow. I remember once feeling slightly annoyed when my son asked me to build something with Legos with him. But I sat down and dutifully put together a structure. Feeling quite proud of accomplishing this, I went to get up and was surprised when he said, “But, Mommy, we’re not done.” “What else do we have to do? I asked him. “Now we have to PLAY with them,” he said. Good grief! Who knew? Really, though, isn’t it those playtimes that give us such a sweet glimpse into our children’s imagination and into their personalities? Take the time to play with your children.

5. I’d encourage my kids to bring their friends home. This would be a hard change for me because I’m someone who likes quiet and order. I’m pretty shy, too. When the kids were growing up, they could invite friends over but only 1 or 2 at a time and almost never on the spur of the moment. I always preferred advance warning so I could steel myself for having “intruders” in the house. That’s how much of an introvert I am. Plus I always felt VERY responsible for anyone that was over at our house and would spend the whole time feeling like I couldn’t let my guard down for a minute, in case something should go wrong. Not exactly relaxing. So my daughter ended up going to her friends’ homes most of the time. Now with my son, he had several friends that were like brothers to him. As he grew up, I relaxed the rules because his closest friends were like my second sons. One had the funny habit of coming up to me after church and saying, “Mrs. P., you’re looking mighty fine today. Did I ever tell you how nice that dress looks?” It got to be a standing joke. I’d say, “So I guess you’re wanting to come over today, eh?” The boys were like a litter of pups. They’d be downstairs watching goofy movies, practicing songs for their “band”, or good-naturedly horsing around. Nowadays, when my son and his wife are home from Canada, his friends and their wives (and a baby or two) come over and laugh and reminisce. My hubby and I are the ones now sitting in the basement and we look at each other and smile. I love to hear them all up there. My daughter hasn’t really stayed connected with any friends from her school years. Maybe if I’d been more relaxed with her, she’d have that camaraderie to enjoy, too.

I would NOT change all the laughing with my children, acting goofy with them, being strict (sorry, kids….we’d STILL be the “strictest” parents in the church. Yeah, right!), being honest with them, not being afraid to let them know when I’d made a mistake, always being quick to tell them I love them, ….the list goes on. There’s a lot I did right, some things I could have done better, but all in all, I did my best and God took care of the rest. Happy Mother’s Day!

To read more Fave Five lists, visit Susanne’s site .

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4 Responses

  1. So honest – thanks for sharing. I think we do our best and that’s all we can really do. And I am sure you are the best mom for your children.
    Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!!

  2. This is a great post, lots of good advice. I hope a few young mothers get to read this.

  3. I could echo some of those ‘do-overs’. Thanks for posting so honestly. Happy Mother’s Day!

  4. Good list of observations from Motherhood! I think we can all look back and admit to many things that we’d do over if given the chance. But all of us Mothers are basically in the same boat. None of us are perfect, and never will be, and all of us are on job training. I know for myself just when I think I’ve got it down pat one of the kids will throw a whole new thing in there. LOL. Keeps me needing the grace of God for this whole parenting thing, that’s for sure. Happy Mother’s Day!

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