Can you be a good parent even if you had a broken childhood?
I don’t often talk about my mother. In the language of a Facebook relationship status, “it’s complicated”. Other people talk to their mothers every day and share photos of their children’s basketball games or report cards. My mother and I haven’t spoken in years. When I’ve tried to reach out, it just devolves into screaming and name calling.
I try not to dwell on it or think too much about it, but once you become a mother, motherhood is the lens you view the world through. And so much of our own idea of what a parent is and does is based on our own parents.
I don’t mean to compare. And I want to move on but reminders of my own childhood constantly reappear.
There are so many school events that I go to for my daughter. I’m so happy to be there for her but so often it brings up my own lack of parenting. School plays, PTA events, teacher meetings. So many times I wished my mother could have been a “regular mom” and just shown up for me.
How do you parent when you don’t have a parenting role model?
I went to therapy starting in my early twenties and have gone off and on since then. That helped me work out lots of my own issues. When you’ve had an “unusual” childhood, you need to figure out your own inner crap lest you unknowingly foist it off on your children.
I’ve taken parenting classes that helped me figure out some parenting best practices, and I’ve read parenting books too to help me have a vocabulary to work with, a road map to follow.
Watch Mothers I Admire.
I ask mothers who seem to have happy, well-adjusted children how they manage situations. (If you are a parent and I’m questioning you, just know it’s ’cause I’m doing my research.)
What Would RoRo Do?
Thank God for my grandmother who raised me for much of my life. When I’m not sure, I usually think to myself, “What would RoRo do?” How would she help with homework? How did she handle teen attitude? Channeling my unflappable grandmother usually works well.
Do the Exact Opposite.
Many times I do exactly the opposite of what my mother did for me as a child. With my history, that’s usually the right direction, and probably the best idea for anyone coming from a broken childhood.
When in doubt, I go with my gut. I don’t make the choice guided by my anger, or my fear, but my true gut feelings that are usually based in love and compassion.
So that’s my parenting magic for the thirteen years I’ve been blessed to be a mother to my daughter.
It sounds so childish at my age to discuss these things, to still long for the kind of mother that I never had. But I’ve learned our longing for love never really go away no matter our age.
Maybe by being the kind of mother I never had for my own daughter, I can find the love I always wanted too.
If you had a difficult childhood, how do you handle the impact on your own parenting?