So I was picking Jackson up from my mom’s house the other day and we had one of our fights. For those of you who have to listen to the ongoing saga that is my relationship with my mother on an almost daily basis, you know that these fights are much fewer now that I live 45 minutes away instead of ten feet. However, when they do happen, they are loud, mean, and a culmination of weeks and weeks of unspoken frustration. On my part, the reason I don’t bring up these frustrations right when they happen is that my mom will counter any of my frustrations with a list of excuses and reasons why she is right. Usually these reasons start in the middle of my sentence and continue until I give up on trying to calmly talk sense and start yelling- at which point I am reminded that only SHE is allowed to yell, whereas I, as her child, do not and will never have the same privilege. At that point I have been put in my rightful place as a twelve year old who has no right to an opinion and I am dismissed, always with a hug on the way out the door for appearances sake. The next day all is forgotten.
This latest unresolved fight brought up something that made me think, though. My mom told me that being a mother is about making sacrifices, then listed examples of how I do not make those sacrifices. I will admit I am a much different mother to Jackson than my mother was to me and Erica. My mom has not worked in close to 20 years- she quit her job when my sister was born and although she talked of going back to work a lot when I was a kid, it never happened. It was always, “oh, once the girls are in middle school (high school, driving, college… etc)” It’s the classic “I’ll do it tomorrow”, where at some point one wakes up and realizes that tomorrow will never come. Since she did not work, she built her life around me and Erica- she was the room mom, the Girl Scout leader, the volunteer at every school event and field trip, always THERE. Some people I know say they would have loved to have a mom like this when they were growing up- but there is a balance, with one end of the spectrum being my mom and the other end being the mom who is always off doing something else, too busy for her kids. My mom’s friends were my friends’ moms, her activities involved us… in fact, I’m trying to remember her doing anything for herself, going out in the evenings… and I can’t. Oh wait- PTA. One night a month she went to PTA and it was always the joke at our house that my dad was going to let us eat crap for dinner and put us to bed too late, as in the second her car pulled in the driveway.
I guess I just have a hard time looking at this as a sacrifice, when it was clearly a choice. My dad- he sacrificed. We were short on money when I was in elementary school and instead of my mom getting a job during the day he got a second job. So he’s working 16 hour days and my mom is running a household. I’m not minimizing the effort she put into keeping things organized at home, I’m just saying that the things she did are things that most people do along with a job. For her, they were her job. Even now, she calls watching Jackson her “job” and every time she says it I get a little anger inside of me. Then my dad was laid off for two years and again, nothing. I guess I do resent this some because I still see the toll that took on our family and I wonder- what leads a person to believe that their responsibility is to be at home with the kids ALL the time? I don’t remember babysitters because we never had them. Like, never. Except my grandma. My mom didn’t trust “strangers” and thinks it’s awful that anyone other than her watches Jackson. She’s always asking, “Are you sure they are taking good care of him? Are you sure they want to watch him?” like I would allow someone to watch my son if I thought they were going to neglect him. Seriously, what kind of mother do you think I am?
There is always something I could be doing differently. Actually, always something Bob could do differently too, only I hear about that too. She wouldn’t want him to think badly of her and apparently doesn’t realize that I pass everything along to him. We SHOULD HAVE started cutting Jackson’s nails regularly when he was a tiny baby. SHOULD HAVE started letting him feed himself because we WILL be mad at ourselves in a few months. SHOULD HAVE gone to the doctor about this or that. SHOULD teach him how to be nicer to the cat, SHOULDN’T hold his arms when we change his diaper. Apparently she’s never heard the saying “Don’t should on yourself”. You know what? I like feedback of what has worked for other moms as much as anyone but I don’t like feedback in the form of suggestions (which I know are not suggestions so much as a nicer way of telling me I have to do something). I don’t like underhanded comments worked into innocent conversation to point out my lack of parenting ability.
I know motherhood is about sacrifices, and I could list the things I’ve sacrificed for Jackson and my whole family already but there’s no point. The point is that I can make sacrifices and put my family first and yet still have an identity other than MOM. I can go to EDA and not worry that I am a horrible person for staying out till 11 at IHOP with the girls. I can even go to Minneapolis for the weekend and have a getaway with my best friend and still feel the same love and affection for my son, stepdaughter and husband as I did before I left. I am always going to be Jackson’s mommy. In fact, just yesterday he looked at me, said “Mom” in his little voice, and hugged me tight… I just about melted. He is a good kid, a happy kid, and that didn’t just happen- he is like that because Bob and I are doing at least something right.
So yes- I make sacrifices. In fact, I’ve made some pretty big ones. But also- I am doing what is right for me as far as being Jackson’s mommy- and so far it seems to be working out for the best, so I’m just going to go with it.