Since I was a toddler, my biggest ambition was to be a mom. I’d carry around my cabbage patch in a wicker bassinet, pretending to feed her and change her diapers. Before long, I was 21 years old, married and looked forward to starting a family. It was finally my turn; however, I wasn’t prepared for the rocky road ahead. Month after month I went from hope to heartache as the typical monthly cramping began and the redcoats invaded. After riding this roller coaster for four years, I was emotionally depleted and ready to get off. I looked into alternative ways to grow our family and after five years of waiting and hoping, our family of 2, became a family of 5 when we welcomed three foster children into our home and eventually adopted them.
I was so excited to finally have children in my home! And I really thought I’d be a good mom, until the tantrums, fighting and countless nights of crying convinced me otherwise. This was nothing like Family Ties, The Brady Bunch or Full House! This wasn’t my dream! All my friends had a good relationship with their kids and their kids obeyed them. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for motherhood and should’ve taken the hint when I wasn’t getting pregnant.
Years passed and we were managing, but to be honest, I began to dread the day-to-day. Worst of all was Mother’s Day. First, it was because I couldn’t get pregnant. Then when I was a mother and breakfast in bed didn’t come, the cards were sparse, or no other gesture of gratitude came from my kids, I made it mean that I must not be a good enough mother to warrant it. My day would often end with the question, “Why don’t my children care about me?”
I had so many ideas of how life should be with my kids and when it wasn’t, I blamed myself and fixated on my flaws. The older my kids got, the more strained our relationships became and I found myself spiraling deeper into depression and anxiety.
- I truly felt I was a failure as a mother.
- I tried everything I could think of.
- I read books, took classes, sought out professional help, to no avail.
- I was officially lost and completely at the mercy of their behavior.
- I resigned to believe I was an ultimate failure.
Then in a twist of events, I began training as a life coach and learned a different way to look at relationships. Was this the answer I was looking for all along? It was different then what I’d learned from other professional help, and it didn’t require me to rely on my children to follow through on anything for me to feel better. In fact, the only person I needed to rely on was me. I went from feeling like a victim to becoming the hero of my own story.
The first thing I worked on was identifying the running list of instructions I had for my kids and for myself. I had taken my own life experiences, what I saw in my friends’ families, and what I watched on TV and then created a very long list of rules in my head of how my children should act and who they would become. My story determined that I’d do these certain things and that meant my kids would treat me this way, and accomplish these certain things, and become these kinds of people.
It sounded like, “My kids will go to school and get good grades, go to college, and get a successful career. Chores will be done, maybe not great, but they’d get done. We’d support each other at sporting events and music recitals. ‘I love you’ was said often, and respect given freely. Family fun nights will be the best!” And the list went on and on. These are all very lovely ideas, but when they weren’t happening, I made it mean I was failing as a mother. As you might imagine, thinking, ‘I’m a failure,’ was defeating. I discounted myself and my abilities and began to shame myself. The list in my head needed to be trashed.
Second, I had to stop comparing my life to everyone else’s. Battling my own self-criticism was an uphill climb, but then throw in the obstacles of wondering why my family couldn’t be like so-and-so’s, and the inner battle turned into an all-out war! As humans, we tend to compare our worst to everyone else’s best. Nothing good comes from that practice. When you find yourself comparing, stop it! There is no upside to it. Next, I made a list of what actions I defined as “being a good mom.” My only rule was I couldn’t define my role based on anyone else’s actions but my own. For example, being a good mom is not determined by the college my child goes to or if they fight back when asked to do chores.
Now Mother’s Day holds a different meaning to me. It’s a day for me to celebrate the mothers in my life, including myself. I’ve decided if I’m showing up as the mom I want to be, at least 80% of the time, I’m amazing, and any external validation is a bonus!
I’ve come a long way in my relationship with my kids, and although motherhood still isn’t a breeze, I’m finally enjoying the journey. To learn the difference between having a list and having expectations for our children, click the QR code. I’ll also teach you how to love them without getting sucked into their drama. See you soon!
Connect with Amber: https://taplink.cc/myinnerlove.com.
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