Top 5 Mistakes My Mom Made (and what she could have done better…)
This is not one of those articles written to blame my mom for everything that has gone wrong in my life. Nor is it an article to illustrate how terrible my mom was; it is simply an opportunity to look at things my mom did through my eyes as a child and how it was perceived by me; and what she could have done better so that each of us as parents can start thinking of how our actions look through the eyes of our kids.
Please know that I know that no one is ever a perfect parent. I truly believe we all do the best we can with the information we have at the time; and when we know better we do better. We will all make mistakes. My goal as a Mom is to just not make the same mistakes my parents made. Mistakes are wasted if we don’t learn a lesson from them, so, here are some opportunities for all of us to learn from the mistakes my mom made with her kids.
1. Invalidated my feelings – by saying things like, “If you don’t stop crying, I’m going to give you something to cry about.” Even as a very little girl I would think to myself, “That makes no sense…if I didn’t already have something to cry about, I wouldn’t be crying!” For me, it would have been so much better if my mom would have been able to say, “I know you are upset about something because you are crying, but I need for you to stop, and if you don’t I will have to send you to your room.” At least it would have been clear to me what was going on. Of course, even better would have been to have my mom be able to take a moment and talk to me about why I was crying and simply validate that it must be tough for me to be going through what I was going through.
2. Didn’t communicate with me about changes being made and how it would affect me. When I was 5 years old, my mother was forced to go to work to put food on the table for her 6 children (of which I was the youngest). Why? My dad had been in a car accident and he was unable to provide in the way he was able to prior to the accident. At the time, none of this was explained to me at all. I was taken to a neighbor’s house for day-care and left to figure it out on my own. As a 5 year old, I felt dumped. As an adult, I think, “Wow! My mom was amazing that she could get a job after being out of the workforce for 20 years and make enough money to feed her kids!” A little bit of explanation to my 5 year old self would have made all of the difference in the world. Something like, “Jennifer, I have loved being home with you, but I need to go make some money so we can have things like food and clothes. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you or wish I could hang out with you all day still, but I love you so much that I want to make sure you have some yummy food, some nice clothes and a few fun toys and to do that we need money. “ A bonus would have been to have her make time for me after work to talk about our days, or play a game, etc… Having been a single mom of 5 kids myself, I know that when you are working full-time, sometimes all you can do is the bare necessities. But talking to your kids, even when they very little, will make all of the difference in the world.
3. Did not acknowledge her own mistakes or apologize when she was wrong. We all do it. We all make mistakes, and sometimes it directly affects our children. What a huge difference it would have made to hear my mom say, “Jennifer, I am so sorry I yelled at you when you asked a question. You did not deserve that. It wasn’t about you; I was tired and hungry and still had to make dinner. I had no patience, but that was my problem, not yours.”
4. Did not take care of herself; therefore, she did not give me an example on what self-nurture looks like. The older I get the more this affects me. It is a known fact that what parents do is far more impactful that what they say in terms of teaching their children; especially in same gender parent/child relationships. Having a mother martyr her self-care to do anything else is damaging to the full development and maturity of a child. Why? Because what a child sees is what she does. A mom who diets to the point of starvation, doesn’t exercise, and uses sleep medicine to get a night’s sleep is not a good example of self-care. What I did was the opposite of my mom, until I realized there was a better way to take care of myself. It includes self-nurture, meditating, having good female friendships, eating healthy, exercising for recreation, taking time off, and relaxation.
5. Talked about my siblings to me, and visa-versa. This is damaging on so many levels. First of all, it affected the relationship I had with my siblings AND my mom. It put me in the middle. It forced me to choose sides. But the worst moment came when I realized that if my mom was talking to me about them; she must be talking to them about me. Ouch!
Truth be told, there are more than 5 mistakes my mom made while raising me.
Truth be told, there are more than 5 mistakes I have made while raising my kids.
Truth be told, there will be more mistakes we all make while raising our kids. The best we can do, is to do our best, learn as much as we can to do better, and own our mistakes when we are aware of them.
What did your parents do, and what could they have done differently that would have made an impact in your life?
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