Like Mother, Like DaughterEmily McClements
Having kids is such a sobering experience sometimes. Do you ever look at your child and think, “Oh no, they are EXACTLY like me!”? This has been happening to me more and more with my daughter recently.
Whether it’s the way that she likes to put on singing and dancing shows for the rest of the family, just like I used to do when I was her age. Or it’s the tone of voice she uses when bossing her brother around, and then I say to her, in the exact same tone, “Kaelyn, don’t talk to your brother like that!” (Yes, admitting that makes me cringe.)
Or it’s a characteristic that suddenly appears, and I don’t know if she picked up from me, or if she just innately has it because she is my daughter.
The other day, I was helping my kids clean out their room as it had gotten a little out of hand. There were clean clothes to be put away, dirty laundry to wash, toys that needed to be sorted and put into the right bins, books that needed to be re-shelved, and just general messiness that needed to be picked up.
As we were getting started, I asked my daughter to pick up all the dress-up clothes and put them into the bin we keep them in. As she started to pick them up, she suddenly dumped the whole bin of clothes out and announced that she wanted fold and organize them all, before she put them away.
In the meantime, there are still toys, books, and their regular clothes all over the rest of the room. And she just made more of a mess by dumping out all the dress-up clothes.
A power struggle ensues, as I try to convince her to just pick up the dress-up clothes first, so that we can get the whole room picked up more quickly, and then she can go back and fold and organize them. She has already started to sort the dress-up stuff into piles, and has begun folding and rolling up some of the scarves. She is not buying into my logic. She really, really wants to fold and organize those clothes!
And it’s not that I don’t appreciate her folding and organizing things. I really do.
And I totally get it, because I do the EXACT same thing. Just ask my husband, because it drives him crazy. There will be a whole messy room around me, and I will decide that I really need to organize the sock drawer, or alphabetize a book shelf.
But, the issue was that I just wanted to get the room cleaned up, and whenever the kids decide they want to play dress-up they just dig through the bin and would mess up all the folding and organizing anyway. In this case, I can see the bigger picture, while she is focusing on a specific project.
Finally, I got her to stop folding and organizing, and help finish cleaning up the room. As we were finishing up, there was still play food and dishes that needed to go back into the play kitchen. So, she then decided that she wanted to clean out and organize the play kitchen.
And you know what, I let her, and she did a great job. She was so cute, sorting the stuff, and putting it back all nice and neatly.
Of course, it won’t last that way for more than a day or two. But it’s okay. Because who doesn’t love a little organizing project? I know I do. And I love seeing that my daughter does too. Just like her mama.
What trait or characteristic does your child have that is just like you?
More on Toddler Times:
“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you get more and more like your mother….”
These are the exact words I heard uttered by a new father to his wife. They were walking along Manhattan’s Broadway carrying their newborn in a Baby Bjorn. I had noticed them at a distance because of their palpable exhaustion. As a chronically sleep-deprived mom myself, I can spot exhausted parents at 50 feet. We’re like the owners of VW Beetles who feel a sense of kinship. VW Beetle drivers even wave at each other as they pass by. Believe me, if I had the energy, I too would wave at my sleep-deprived friends. Instead I give them the sympathy smile. The look that says “Who knew? And, if we had known, would we have bought a dog instead?”
Had I heard that comment before I became a mother, I would have winced on behalf of the mom who heard it (“ouch!”) and moved on. However, as a mother of two young daughters, that throwaway comment struck a chord deep within me. It led me to reflect on my own relationship with my mother and what I hoped for in my relationship with my girls.
Psychology of Mothers
Why is it that moms catch themselves making certain comments to their children and then grimace as they realize they are “becoming” their mothers? Why do so many therapy sessions and workshops end with mama taking all the blame?
My belief is that it stems from what psychologists call “mother wounds.” Our mother is our very first female role model and the primary relationship in our development. Motherhood is so difficult that it’s impossible to do it perfectly. As a result, many children grow into adulthood with unresolved feelings and emotional “wounds” caused by their relationship with their mothers.
As daughters, it’s oh-so-easy to bemoan what our mothers “could’ve and should’ve” done. In reality, in the generational quicksand of life, we’re often expecting them to teach us how to navigate terrain that they’ve never had to travel themselves. How can I expect my mom to help me juggle motherhood and working from home when she has no experience of such a life?
When I became a mother, I was shocked that the tables had turned and now I was being looked up to as a role model. I threw myself into motherhood, determined to create fun-filled, stimulating lives for my daughters. To be frank, I was equally determined that if my daughters did end up on a therapist’s couch in later life, I wouldn’t be the main villain in the drama of their lives!
As I lived my daughters’ wonderful lives with them (a social whirl of play dates, stimulating classes, and fun playgrounds), I met some amazing women who happened to be mothers. What I began to notice was that so many of us were putting our lives on hold to “mother” our children in what we thought was a very unselfish way. Although our motives were honorable, it struck me that we were teaching our children how to take care of others without taking care of their own dreams and desires. Was that really our intention?
I chose to work from home when I was pregnant with my first child, as I knew instinctively that I wanted to be at home with my children. After a couple of years, though, I had this awakening when I realized how sad I would be if my daughters were doing the same thing. It wasn’t the staying-at-home part, as that has been an amazing experience. It was the total immersion in motherhood to the exclusion of all other aspects of who I am.
In response to that “a-ha” moment, I reflected on the things I had always loved and took a stand-up comedy course. I found myself on stage performing at Stand Up, NY and Caroline’s Comedy Club and was amazed by how energized I was when I introduced a passion into my life. Energy is definitely something modern moms need more of! In addition to the energy boost, I felt that I was finally uncovering my true identity.
Innovative life coach Martha Beck states, “If you don’t keep your dreams alive, you are teaching your children to forget their dreams too. You set the example. Encourage your kids to pursue their dreams while pursuing your own.”
If immersing yourself in motherhood to the exclusion of the rest of yourself isn’t the answer, what should we strive for? Psychologist Alice Miller interviewed a number of adults about their mothers. Most said, “I know that my mother loved me, but ….” Dr. Miller then spoke to one man who, when asked about his mother, smiled and responded, “My mother loved life.” How powerful is that?
Motherhood as Wake-Up Call
The material mama herself found the prospect of motherhood to be a wake-up call. In an interview with Oprah, Madonna said, “After I made Evita, I won a Golden Globe and I was about to have a baby. I felt like I had everything, but something was missing—an understanding of who I really was…. I think that was my wake-up call. I wanted to understand how I was going to go about finding true and lasting happiness in my life and how I was going to teach that to my daughter.” She understood that she had to figure out how to love her life first so that she could teach her daughter from experience—surely the most powerful way for children to learn.
It isn’t a matter of neglecting our children’s lives or being selfish. Quite the contrary. When we are teaching our children by example, it is a win-win situation. The lessons you learn in uncovering a life that is uniquely your own will be invaluable as you help your children to chart their own course in life. What’s more important than ensuring your children have a happy, vibrant, inspired mother? If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your children’s mother!
Be a Role Model: Love Life
So, exactly how do you start to create a life you love? In Martha Beck’s book, Breaking Point: Why Women Fall Apart and How They Can Re-Create Their Lives, Beck interviews a woman called Joanie who is 80 years young. She says: “I’ll tell you something. If there’s one thing you should say to women, it’s this: Figure out just one thing that would make your life better, and then you go out and you make it happen. Once that’s done, then go ahead figure out the next thing, and do that, too.”
That’s exactly how lives are quietly transformed. And it’s one heck of a way to be a stand up mama.
So what is my greatest wish for myself and every other mom? It is that, one day, our daughters will be walking along Manhattan’s Broadway or London’s Oxford Street or past the Trevi Fountain in Rome—or wherever their dreams have taken them—and the fathers of their newborn children will turn to them with a look of true adoration and say, “I love the fact that you get more and more like your Mom!”