A month after I became a mom, my own mother came to visit and I distinctly remember a moment where she said to me, "See, this is what it's like," and everything clicked into place. I instantly understood my own mother better, viewing her through the eyes of a mom. Honestly, I couldn't believe she had done it so gracefully. Over the last year and a half, I've run through this whole list of things you'll want to say to your mother after you have a baby of your own.
I think the biggest thing I didn't understand before I became a mother myself was how all-consuming motherhood is in your own head. I called my mom at one point, when my daughter had been sick and we weren't sure what was wrong, and she said, "It's just the worst, isn't it, when you can't fix it?" At that moment, all of the times I had called my mom in tears or upset about something that she couldn't possibly have fixed, rushed back to me in a flash. I felt awful for putting her through that, and grateful for the patience and calm she had always shown when I needed her. I was in the thick of panic about my daughter's first fever, but she had been dealing with me — and my siblings — for over 30 years.
It certainly put my worry into perspective awfully quickly, and also reminded me that motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint. If I'm going to survive these motherhood ups and downs I'm going to have to get a little tougher, just like my mom.
Thank you for raising me, thank you for loving me, and thank you for putting up with dirty diapers and the stomach bug and the late nights you waited up while I was out with my high school boyfriend. Thank you for still answering my calls and talking me off the ledge when something goes wrong, without question and more than 30 years after giving birth to me.
"Please Help Me"
When I became a mom I just wanted my mom's help. I wanted her there to let me know that I was doing well and I was OK and I wasn't messing up my baby. From 3,000 miles away, she managed to assuage my fears pretty darn well thanks to FaceTime.
"How Did You Survive This?"
There have been moments when I just couldn't believe my mom survived raising three kids without losing her mind, or even letting us know how tough it was. Having my own baby made me realize just how much grace my mom had in enduring all our toddler tantrums and high school drama without losing her cool.
"I Love You"
The minute I became a mom, I felt like I should have told my mom much, much more often how much I loved her and how much I appreciate all she did and does for me.
"What Did You Do When...?"
There have been so many times in my daughter's short life when I've called my mom to ask what she did when I wouldn't eat anything other than blueberries, or what she did to help me learn to talk, or what she did when I refused to get in the carseat without a screaming battle. I'm so grateful that she's just been a phone call away in those situations, ready to share her parenting wisdom.
"Please Never Leave Me"
When my mom came to visit, I definitely didn't want her to ever leave. She was such a calming presence and I did not want her to leave me to my own, much more limited motherhood skills. Thankfully, she gave me a great pep talk before she left that made me feel like I was going to be OKon my own! (Spoiler alert: I was.)
"I Get It Now"
Once I became a mom, and once my child started growing into her personality a little bit, I started to really get it. I started to get why she parented the way she did, why we had rules about screen time (even in the '80s), why she insisted on curfews when it seemed none of my friends' parents did, and why she waited up until she knew I was home every single time.
Now I understand that being a mother is like having a part of yourself walking around outside your body. You can't control it, and you can't always protect it, and it's darn exhausting to worry about it all the time.
For breaking curfew and for challenging your rules and for being disrespectful when I was younger. I'm sorry for making your hard job any harder than it had to be.
"How Did You Ever Let Me Leave Home?"
Ha! My daughter isn't even 2 yet and I'm already wondering how any mother lets their children go out into the world on their own. Or get into a car with another teenage driver. Or stay over at another kid's house. Or go to college!? I'm hopeful that when that time comes, my mom will be there to remind me, repeatedly, that I turned out OK.