I've always had a strained relationship with my parents. After years of emotional turmoil, there came a point when I wasn't sure I could have either in my life. I was just so drained from the constant effort to remain even on semi-good terms. I wasn't entirely innocent myself, to be sure, but those years exhausted me. Then my daughter was born and something happened. While the ways having a baby changed my relationship with my mom didn't happen overnight, they did happen. Honestly, at least to me, that's what matters most.
After the birth of my daughter, I was forced to come to terms with a lot of things from the past. Sure, my single, hard-working mother was imperfect, but I realized I'd probably make some of the very same mistakes she made now that I was a mom. In other words, I was going to be imperfect, too. We worked through the hurdles that had kept us at arm's length, went to therapy, and had numerous conversations about how to move forward for the sake of my child. I wanted my daughter to have the kind of relationship I'd had with my grandmother.
It wasn't until years later, when things really began to heal, that the layers of our fractured relationship started falling to the ground as we discovered new, healthy layers to build a new relationship on. When I managed to recover from two miscarriages and successfully become pregnant with my son, I was older and wiser. My daughter was 5-years-old when he was born and my mom was in the delivery room, holding one of my legs when I brought him into the world. I couldn't have imagined those moments as a young girl — when my mom and I couldn't hold a decent conversation about anything — let alone imagine actually experiencing it.
Becoming a mom meant accepting my mom's mistakes, forgiving her, and knowing I'll make mistakes, too. It's been a full circle learning experience I don't think would've happened had I not had children. On that note, here are some ways my relationship with my mom changed after I had kids:
We Talk Through The Past & Move Forward
Before I became a mom the relationship with my own mother was stifled so severely that we couldn't managed to talk to one another, about anything, without it resulting in an all-out argument. Too much had happened to our relationship and I'd suppressed a lot of resentment and rage for a long, long time.
Once my daughter was in the picture, though, our inability to communicate couldn't continue. I wanted my mom to be in my daughter's life, and that meant working through our past. As hard as it was, we wouldn't be where we are now if we'd continued fixating on the past instead of working through it so we could enjoy the future. Together.
We Spend More Time Together
When I was a senior in high school I couldn't wait to leave home. In fact, I got married right after graduation so I had a "good enough" reason to move out. I was lost, at best, but becoming a mother taught me that, while that time apart was necessary, I'm happy to be with my mom as much as possible now.
I Can Turn To Her For Help
I've been through a lot of friends and failed relationships through the years. I never felt like my mom was a person I could turn to for help or understanding, though. Having children, however, made her more accessible. Now she's someone I know I can ask for help, especially when motherhood feels impossible or I don't feel worthy. I know she's been there.
I See Her As Someone's Grandparent
I thought no one could compare the greatness of my own grandmother. It's a high bar she set, and through my younger years she could absolutely do no wrong. I never envisioned my mom could be on her level. Then I watched the bond between her and my two children grow.
We Realized How Alike We Are
I never thought I'd turn out to be anything like my mom. I rebelled against the notion. Then, as time went on and pushed me forward, I saw more and more of her in the way I mother my own babies. It's not a bad thing to be like her, and the older I get the more I see that my mother is part of who I am as a mom, a woman, and a person.
I See Her As More Than A Mom
In my youth I didn't realize that my mother was also a human being. Sure, it sounds silly now — and making and learning from mistakes comes with the parental territory — but I didn't understand that growing up.
Now that I'm a mother I see so much of her in me, so I empathize in ways I couldn't before. I know I'm more than a mom. I know I'm human, flawed and imperfect, but it doesn't change how much I love my kids. I never knew my mom as more than a mother until I became one myself.
I'm More Compassionate & Understanding Towards Her
Growing up wasn't easy, thanks to my parents' divorced and how they conducted themselves in the aftermath of it all. My younger brother and I endured quite a bit while our parents fought over custody, my mom entered into an abusive relationship, and as a single mother she struggled to make ends meet. In the midst of so much chaos, I didn't know how hard she had worked to keep us all afloat. I couldn't see how fiercely she was fighting for her family.
Since then I've pawned wedding rings to pay bills, and accepted every job under the sun to buy diapers. In other words, I get it. I so, so get it.
I Know We're In This Together
My mom isn't the enemy I thought she was. Instead, she's the friend I never knew I had. The friend I failed to notice until my kids came along. If anyone understands all I've gone through, it's her. Every time I watch her with my babies I see our relationship heal more and more. It's my hope that, eventually, there will be nothing left to heal at all.