How to Become A Mom in Ten Easy Steps
Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? Just follow these ten steps and you, too, can be Mom of the year! Well, as most of us know, it isn’t quite that easy – no matter how many self-help and parenting books you read.
Most of you know that my husband and I raised two sons, Greg and Tony. Greg will turn 30 this month, and Tony is 27. They have both launched out into this great world of ours and are busy making Mom and Dad as proud as can be. But – as I reveal my childhood background bit by bit to my friends and extended family, I have had many ask me: how did you do it? Talk about a loaded question!
I became a mom at what some consider a young age – I was 25 when Greg was born. John and I had been married just a bit over two years, and I felt it was time to get going. I wasn’t getting any younger! At the same time, we knew that we would both need to work to afford our small townhouse, a car for each of us and the new baby. So, I became a working Mom.
The very first day we brought Greg home, I learned that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and neither did John. Greg had been born via “Vacuum Extraction”, which causes a bruised, cone-shaped head. He cried almost continuously and literally screamed every time we laid him down. Diaper change was excruciating on all of us. His pain overwhelmed me, and many days I spent the day holding him tightly to my chest, crying right along with him.
I wanted a solution. I talked to my mom, who herself was still working. I talked to my mother-in-law, who in my opinion had mostly wacky ideas. I read Dr. Spock and anything else I could get my hands on. “How to stop a baby from crying” would have been my top Google search had it been available.
And then, one day, the crying stopped. I had a 3-month old that was all smiles, eager to meet and greet everyone we met.
Then, about three years later, we decided to “try again”, and, nine months later along came Tony. I made sure the doctor and every nurse involved in my labor knew that the vacuum extractor was not to be used – and I was assured it wouldn’t be. And yet, after only pushing for five minutes or so, I heard the doctor tell the nurse to prepare the extractor. I was horrified that my wishes were not going to be granted, and Tony was out with the next push. As a result, Tony did not cry continuously and napped regularly so I was not nearly as sleep-deprived as I had been with Greg.
Though John and I talked constantly about how to raise the boys, the primary parent was me, and I admit that at times I felt overwhelmed by it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that because of my background I was going to screw up big time and ruin these two beautiful boys in my care. The good news: I didn’t!
Though I continued to read any parenting articles or books that came my way – the primary way I learned how to be a mother was by observing other moms. It wasn’t that I was comparing myself to them, but I needed to see moms in action to figure out how to do it myself. I learned from the neighbor moms, co-worker moms and friends of mine that were moms about everything from signing up for ECFE classes, baseball and swimming lessons to how to handle a tantrum. I watched how some moms spent almost every minute with their children, and how others were a bit more stand-offish. By doing this, I developed my own, unique “mommess".
There were many occasions where I didn’t think I was doing it right. Every time I yelled at them, I felt like I was turning into my dad. Every time I left them alone, I wondered if I was neglecting them. I remember several instances where I tried to convince a counselor that I was a terrible mom – and each time the counselor helped me see that I was, in fact, a pretty good one. I needed that affirmation from a professional to let me know that I was on the right track. My mom and I also forged new relationship, and, oddly enough she became one of my go-to persons for mom related issues. Her advice was almost always on-target and encouraging.
I set out some early rules for the boys hoping to prevent situations that I grew up in. No hitting. No toy guns. No lying. No going anywhere without my permission. But, I also insisted on a lot of fun being woven into daily life. We read books, sang silly songs, went for walks, rode bikes together. Every birthday and milestone was celebrated with the utmost fanfare.
When they started school, I maintained my presence in their lives but did not hover. I knew I didn’t want the boys to become dependent on me – if they forgot their homework or lunch, they had to deal with the consequences. Part of that was because as a working mom I wasn’t around to run things up to school, but mostly it was because I wanted them to develop problem-solving skills.
John and I were first generation college graduates and both of us felt strongly about the boys obtaining college educations. I had them dreaming of dorm rooms, roommates and beautiful campuses by the time they were ten years old. My message was: You are a smart, capable person and I’m counting on you to do wonderful things in this world!
And then, in a flash, they were gone. Off to college and more. Travelling to places like China, South Korea, Boston, Seattle, Germany, Hungary, Washington D.C. Learning about communication systems, technology, statistical analysis. Obtaining scholarships and campus appointments that caused buttons to burst off my coat. Continuing to educate themselves even after obtaining their baccalaureate degrees. Falling in love with the most adorable young women I have ever met.
And, now, when I answer a call, and hear the deep, mature voice of one of my sons on the other end: “Hi, Mom!” – I beam. As they fill me in on what’s new and exciting in their lives, I listen, just as closely as I did when they were three, ten, fifteen. Who could ask for anything more?
I’m proud to say that Greg and Tony grew up witnessing a strong, loving marriage. They spent considerable time with their grandparents and other extended family. There was no violence. There was no neglect.
And, though I know Greg and Tony would have to make the final proclamation on my success as a mother, I think it’s okay for me, on my 30th Mother’s Day, to give myself a pat on the back for a job well done.
For all the mom’s out there that I have observed over the years, thank you. I know I couldn’t have done it without you. Two of my favorite moms, Elise and Mary, have passed on. For them I hope they feel my love for them travelling through the universe.
And for my own mom, who believed so strongly in God and Heaven – I hope that it’s true and that you are seated near God surrounded by your loved ones. And I hope that you can feel, through my writing and my actions, how truly proud of you I am for all you did in your life – for yourself and for us.
Happy Mother’s Day!