03.23.10

THE “IMPERFECT” MOTHER

Posted in Family and Friends, Memoir Writing, Motherhood at 08:00 am by admin

It seems that most of the book clubs I have spoken to are made up of women in their 30’s to 40’s. Most are young mothers and I recall that when I was their age, I was always reading about motherhood, asking questions, and looking for any kind of information that would help me be a better mother.

In writing my memoir “Divine Betrayal” it became evident that my mother was not the ideal model for anyone. Mother’s mission was to serve Jesus and my father, as a mother she made sure that we did not stray from the teachings of the Bible. She read the Bible to us daily, and watched everything we did to make sure we didn’t sin. That was her duty. I always felt loved by Mother, but she was extra strict with my sister Dorothy, which was confusing to me. Not only did their personalities clash, but Dorothy was outgoing and friendly to everyone, she had an amazing sense of humor. Mother was sure that she was evil—she carried the “sins of her fathers.” Dorothy had been adopted, her birthmother had had her out of wedlock. When I became a mother I was sure that I did not want to be like my mother.

My teenage years were very restricted. I was often embarrassed and angry that I could not do the things my friends did. For instance, Stella, who lived with us for over a year, had curly, short hair, she went to movies with her friends, and I had to explain to everyone why I couldn’t go. I loved the Brazilian music, and especially during Carnival I had to stay home and try to explain to my friends why I couldn’t go to any of their parties or dances. I was forced to wear my hair in braids, my dresses had to cover my arms and were extra long. I couldn’t wear any make-up or jewelry. As a teenager this was mortifying to me. I could not see the sin in doing these things, and I vowed my children would never go through this and be restricted in this way.

When my children were very young, I was fortunate to have live-in nannies. For several years we had Brazilian women who lived with us. This was during the first years of my marriage, which I describe in a recent blog, called “The ‘Perfect’ Wife.” I worked full time, and when I came home all I had to do was be with my girls, read bedtime stories and listen to them tell me about their days. All my house work was done. Later on, when my youngest daughter was seven-years old I became a full-time mother and we no longer had a nanny.

The best way I can describe my mothering, is that it was very similar to being a “stage Mom.” I loved every adventure my children had. My oldest daughter became interested in English horseback riding. We bought her a horse. I drove almost daily 17 miles to the stables, went to horse shows all over the State, and loved being part of this scene. My middle daughter was interested in Skating. I did not resent getting up at 6 a.m. to take her to the ice skating rink, as that was the only time the rink was available for practice. She loved to skate, and described it as a feeling of being free. I vicariously shared this feeling with her as I watched her dance, twill, and skate to the music. My youngest girl was into Gymnastics. She also became a varsity cheerleader in High School. I loved every minute of it, and was right there experiencing her joy.

I loved their teen-age years. Prom night was just as exciting for me as it was for them. A common thing I would say as they left the house for a party or date was “Have fun, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t enjoy doing.” That sounds very permissive, doesn’t it, but our girls always knew the difference between right from wrong.

We moved to a house on a Lake, had a ski boat and sail boat, a big yard with a trampoline, and a large house that was always full of kids. My daughters’ friends were always welcome in our home. This gave us the opportunity to know their friends and sometimes it was obvious that a few were not the most positive friend, and we told our girls this. Eventually they came around to our way of thinking.

Of course we were tested. That is part of “cutting the cord” and growing up. But when our girls were old enough to drive, we had one rule that really worked. On weekends their curfew may have been midnight, but if they were having a good time and wanted to stay longer, they needed to call us, and let us know how much longer they wanted to stay. This worked so well that not once did we spend a minute worrying where our daughters were and when they would return home.

Church was also important for me and my husband. We attended a liberal Presbyterian church near our home. This was a social experience for the girls, although they attended youth group infrequently and we did not create pressure or mandate them to attend church.

I loved being the mother of three girls. It gave me a second chance to experience what I was never allowed to experience in my own childhood. I am thankful that it turned out well, and today all three girls are “best friends,” who work together, and live within two miles of each other. I enjoy being with them and I enjoy their families. For this I am grateful to my mother and father who indirectly and unintentionally taught me that it was okay to do it my way.

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