Mother's Day

I recently had the pleasure of joining the Mocha Moms on National Public Radio's Tell Me More program to discuss how our moms shape us as mothers and what gifts we'd like to pass on to our children, in honor of the upcoming 100th Mother's Day on Sunday.

I talked about an epiphany I had when I started my anthology Mommy Wars, which explores the challenges women face in juggling work and family, I didn't ask any of the 26 contributors to write about their own mothers. But all 26 did anyway. I learned a good lesson: Our stories of motherhood start with our own moms. Sometimes we replicate what our moms did right; at times we rebel against their mistakes. But our mothers imprint upon us a template of motherhood that sticks with most women for our entire lives.

I was lucky that my mom took to motherhood easily, giving birth naturally and breastfeeding in the 1960s when both were rarities. She openly enjoyed being around her four young children. She took us for long hikes, read to us for hours, and let us adopt any pets we wanted (including a skunk, a raccoon, snakes, mice, cats, fish, turtles, and a monkey). She found us fascinating and relished our company. Her easy, confident approach to motherhood helped me immeasurably 32 years later when I first became a mother.

I also learned from her mistakes. Despite how much she liked raising young children, after ten years her frustrations as a stay-at-home mom were plain to see. She eventually went back to school and became a full-time teacher specializing in the demanding field of educating children with autism. As a teenage witness to her joy of teaching, I learned early on that many women need to juggle work and time with their children in order to be truly happy.

I couldn't appreciate one of my mom's later gifts -- at the time. After three decades of marriage, she and my father called it quits. Although my mother had made years of sacrifices for his career as a successful attorney, my father was less than generous with proposals for financial settlement. Instead of quietly accepting divorcee poverty, my mother fought for herself, arguing that she deserved to be taken care of financially, given her long-term support dating back to my father's days in law school. At only 22 myself, I was bewildered and, at times, embarrassed by her insistence. Their fights, over the phone, in person and in court, were far from genteel. But now I am grateful to Mom for standing up for herself and proving that her years of child care and stay-at-home motherhood merited respect, financially and otherwise.

What about you? This Mother's Day, tell us what your mother taught you about balancing life and parenthood. What gifts do you hope to impart to your children? Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Note: On Balance is taking Friday off.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  You Go Girl!
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My mother's a saint; she set all kinds of good examples for us.

And given some of the previous discussions of divorce settlements, I'm interested in some of the reactions to Leslie's mother's battle to get a good settlement.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 8, 2008 7:43 AM

My mother worked for most of my life and juggled before we talked about juggling - oh wait that's another blog ;-) Like Leslie's mom she showed tenacity when my father left - fighting for what she knew she was worth and even filing the divorce papers when he was punishing her by refusing to pay household bills. She has a reserve of quiet dignity that I am constantly in awe of.

Oh and FIRST!

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 8, 2008 7:44 AM

Living with my mom gave me strength, independence and excellent hearing. I also learned how important it is for parents always to let their kids know how much they are wanted and loved.

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 8, 2008 8:07 AM

My mother herself had a borderline abusive, alcoholic mother who frequently stated aloud that she hated kids. But who also managed to love her own anyway, encourage them all in school, and basically set them up for success despite the craziness (she mostly accomplished this by locking them out of the house except for mealtimes and homework and bedtime).

Anyways my mother improved a lot on her past. She is not an alcoholic and she was not abusive in the same way. I love her a lot. However it was really hard on her to try to give what she had never had.

She stayed home with us because she thought it was best, and she did a great job in many ways - but she was deeply unhappy and thwarted in ambition and a lot of that made our home tense. Coming home I never knew what mood should would be in, and frequently the hours between school and when my father got home were rage-filled ones.

Also since my sister and I were and still are her "accomplishments" there is zero tolerance with my mother for failure or for us to do anything that she feels reflects negatively on her. Although my mother was supposedly home and attentive, I think this unwillingness to deal with anything negative had a big impact on how silent my sister and I were about the incest that was going on in our extended family. And she still is like this - she's still heartbroken that I didn't get a PhD, for example, even though I'm quite happy and successful in my field.

Anyways what I learned from all of this is that love is a huge part of the battle, and kids know it. I know my mother did the best she could out of love. But it's not always enough to make it to "pretty decent childhood."

As the parent I feel that I need to try to keep myself and my son separate, so that I'm not walking around in a rage, or confusing his success with my own.

Part of the reason I've continued working is that I have such strong memories of that underlying frustration that would break through in anger that permeated my home growing up. In my view even though I had the security -- and it was -- of a parent always available on one level, it made my mother inaccessible on another level. I wish she had had more balance.

Still I think we are all human and we all will have blind spots. My hope really is just to improve the family legacy and have a home that is comforting, not tense.

Posted by: Shandra | May 8, 2008 8:37 AM

My mother tried her best to be a martyr. She hasn't succeeded yet - she still living.

Posted by: Gutless | May 8, 2008 8:38 AM

My mother was very loving and devoted but did not have the ease and joy of our company that Leslie describes. She was unhappy as a SAHM, went back to work p/t as a travel agent and was happier but then my parents divorced. I was 10; my father was a divorce lawyer and the settlement was ok but not great. He was part of a group of lawyers who helped to create the equitable distribution law that governs divorce settlements in NY now. Under these laws, many spouses have received settlements based on the value of their spouse's career, similar to what Leslie's mother fought for. So, if a wife helps put her spouse through law or medical school, they are entitled to a settlement based on the value of that career. My mother did not get this kind of settlement, ironically. My father had no trouble fighting for it for his female clients but didn't hand it over to his wife. My mother struggled initially but then found her way into a marketing career that was very satisfying intellectually and good for her economically.

I took away a lot of lessons from my mother's experience. I was very proud of her for her career accomplishments and grateful for how hard she worked to keep things going smoothly in our house. My father visited us religiously and we spent a lot of weekends at his home. He was very much a part of our lives but let my mother be the primary caregiver and set the rules. They maintained a united front for us and my father never hesitated to give her credit for her skill at motherhood. I am grateful to both my parents for rising above the divorce to do that for me and my brother.

My mother felt she gave up a part of herself to be the supportive spouse and a SAHM and really impressed upon me the importance of an identity apart from one's children and spouse. To her the only way to do that is to work outside the home. I know a lot of SAHMs who are very happy and have retained their identity without a job outside the home. But it was a different time when my mother was doing this and so, of course, her experience is affected by that. Leslie is right though that our stories of motherhood start with our moms. My mother's prospective on identity and career very strongly influenced my decision to keep working after I had kids. It is working well for our family. I am so curious to see what stories of motherhood I am passing on to my kids. Since they are only 5 and 8, I've got a while before I find out!

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | May 8, 2008 8:38 AM

I can't say that I learned a lot about parenting from my Mom. She parented under difficult circumstances and didn't necessarily rise to the occasion.

Despite that.... I love my Mom and have great respect for her.

My Mom loves to read and so do I. Maybe my step-children will learn to love to read also. We have been going to the library recently at my initiation and bringing home lots of books. They don't seem to read on their own but if you suggest it... they are usually amused for longer than you want to read to them.

Posted by: Billie_R | May 8, 2008 8:44 AM

My mother is certainly no saint, but I have absolutely no doubt that she loves me and is proud of me. She's not passive-aggressive, she gives me the space I need to live my life on my terms, and she's never given unasked-for advice. Growing up I never felt pushed, but I knew that I was smart and capable, and my education was the single most important "thing" my parents could give me. My mother never let me forget that. She's also incredibly loving. My sister and I aren't especially close to each other, but we're very close with our mom, and that really brings us all together. While she wasn't perfect I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Posted by: atb | May 8, 2008 8:56 AM

Hmmmm, good question today; it's not something I've tried to put into words. Very high on the list, I think, would be no guilt about working. Of course, it's not like she had a choice. But she was very clear that she would work even if she could afford not to. She frequently told me that I was the most important thing in her life, but not the only thing in her life.

On the flip side, my daughter has taught me -- and my mother -- that sometimes, it's not that simple! I was apparently an easy baby -- would happily play in my crib for hours, and as an older kid would disappear up a tree with a book all afternoon. So when I was thinking about having kids, my mother didn't understand why I was considering working part-time -- she'd managed full-time and kids, so why couldn't I? (Of course, she was a professor, so she got to WAH long before that was allowed for office jobs).

Then I had my girl. The exact opposite of everything I expected. Very extroverted and energetic, always "on," always wanting attention, always talking -- no way to explain it other than just "more." It's like a record player permanently set at 78 -- like she was born without a volume control. For the first 4 years, she always had to be in the same room as I was, would NOT watch more than 15 minutes of cartoon, etc. -- and even at 6, an itchy tag in a shirt could spark a 45-minute meltdown. My 2-yr-old can already entertain himself longer than his 7-yr-old sister!

So the lesson I've learned from both of them is that you need to be flexible and not get too caught up in expectations of what things "should" be. It's good to pursue your own dreams, but it can't be at the expense of something/someone else; you need to be able to change things around when you see what you actually have to work with.

Posted by: Laura | May 8, 2008 9:01 AM

My mother was a single mother and objectively she gets a A+ from me for providing for us economically and for not living in poverty. I was able to have summer vacations, extra cirricular activities, and my mother was involved in my upbringing. Just to be fair, she had help: her mother and her MIL helped with taking me to the park, to activities, staying with me after school and so on. My mother has an artistic career so for her to be able to provide for her family financially was not easy and I have nothing but admiration for her to this day.
I was raised to be an educated successful woman who can support herself just like her.

However, her parenting style is not something I would emulate. She was very strict, she spanked me, she was often impatient, and she certainly had a funny way of building up my self-esteem by rarely praising me. She was really demanding of me in my studies. I was afraid of her judgement more than anything. In fact, I tried smoking when I was 12 and she found out and I quit because she said she was "disapointed" in me. Today, she says that because of how she raised me I am what I am so in her words "the judgement is still out" whether she was wrong to be so "mean".

Posted by: dc reader | May 8, 2008 9:04 AM

Such interesting and thoughtful posts. The candor is wonderfully reassuring, especially given the deluge of "give Mom an XYZ to show her you care" on tv and the radio right now, as if one present one day a year can capture how important, flawed, and loving most moms are.

Posted by: Leslie | May 8, 2008 9:08 AM

My mother raised us as a military wife while my father was frequently deployed, or always working. She handled every crisis, day-to-day issue, including a chronically ill child, and didn't cry too much about it. She had and still has great faith. I admire her deeply.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 8, 2008 9:17 AM

My mother raised us as a military wife while my father was frequently deployed, or always working. She handled every crisis, day-to-day issue, including a chronically ill child, and didn't cry too much about it. She had and still has great faith. I admire her deeply.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 8, 2008 9:17 AM

This is a nice time to remember my mom. I don't usually do so on Mother's Day, oddly enough. She died almost 14 years ago, hard to believe, and I think I learned more about her after her death than I when she was alive. In retrospect I think she was clinicaly depressed for most of our lives and she took refuge in religion, which hurt all of us because she took it to an extreme. Some of the things I learned NOT to do from her were - keep secrets, be isolated, be contemptful of your spouse, turn your anger and misery in on yourself and hurt others in the process. BUT - I still owe so much to her, which is the part I don't usually remember. My love of cooking & sewing comes from her, my interest in self-development and understanding myself and the people I love for who we are, my ability to speak French, my body & physical self-image, are all things I get from her. I know she loved us, I just wish she could have loved herself. I'm lucky to have met a friend who has become a surrogate mother to me who taught me what love is, and how unconditional love can absolutely transform lives. I guess all in all, I'm lucky to have learned everything I did from my birth mother, including what not to do which is useful information to have, and to have gotten all that unconditional love from my surrogate mom. Anyway I am grateful for both of them.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | May 8, 2008 9:24 AM

I was raised by a SAHM who really did not "take to it". Volatile, unpredictable, unloving. I spent most of my childhood trying to hide from her. Hard-working dad - away a lot- clueless about what my childhood was like, and I don't think he wanted to know or would acknowledge it if faced with it. Learned a lot about what not to do from my mother and really try to give my child a completely different experience. I do have some of her temper, so I know it can be hard to control. But that's my job, so I have to; she didn't. Her memories of my childhood, of course, are happily oblivious to reality. I have to admit, though, that her life was harder when she was young and she improved upon the example she had growing up, so I do give her credit for that. And we get along fine now that I'm grown and not subject to her controlling whims.

Posted by: tough topic | May 8, 2008 9:26 AM

Of course, my mother was the original sainted mother. Why you say? Try raising 8 boys and maintaining sanity or anything for that matter!

Posted by: Fred | May 8, 2008 9:28 AM

My mother was very good, but she seemed to lose her mind every Mother's Day. Thus, while motherhood in general is very positive for me, the holiday is not. I was repeatedly told that I "would feel differently when it's your turn" but I don't. My son is twelve, and we don't celebrate. When he asked me why, I told him that "Every day with you is Mother's Day."

Posted by: gem | May 8, 2008 9:28 AM

My mother grew up with an abusive father (though it wasn't considered abuse at the time) who never once in her life hugged her. She in turn verbally and emotionally abused me until I was in my mid-20s, telling me how much I ruined her life (I'm an only child). It took me years to come to terms with what my mother did and let the anger go. Now, as a first-time mom to a toddler son, I am making sure that the cycle of abuse ends with me and that I do not pass on to my son the horror of feeling unloved and unwanted.

Posted by: firsttimemom | May 8, 2008 9:31 AM

This is a tough topic for me. I definitely have learned more since she has passed away, and now being older and wiser would want to ask her many many questions.

Why did she stay with my dad so long? Well, I kinda know the answer - the conventional wisdom at the time was to stay together. I think she also didn't want to be seen as a 'divorced woman' and she probably knew her standard of living would decline.

Why did she have not one, not two, but three kids with dad? Because she wanted to? Another reason?

Why did she marry him in the first place?

All questions I never would have asked her at the time, and now I can't.

I definitely got a lot of good from her. She could pinch a penny better than anyone - so I've learned to live frugally/within my means. We only had anything we had (including money for our educations) because of her. Dad would spend every penny he had at every opportunity (still does). She grew up in a time where women weren't likely to be educated, quit jobs when they got pregnant, etc. She did not want that for her girls. She did not teach us to cook, clean, take care of a house - she wanted us to focus on our educations. Part of it might have been that she wanted to be a martyr (i.e., I do it ALL), and part of it was how her mom worked more than full time, from the time my mom and her sister were little, and my grandmother did all the housework to perfection. Of course, my mom grew up in a small apartment and we had a big house, but...

My mother was very critical, and I now see how destructive that was. And I see in my sisters how everything they say is critical. Kinda like the mom on Friends - when Ross tells his parents about Carol being a lesbian and pregnant and them divorcing, then mom turns to Monica and says: and you *knew* about this?

So I try to praise my kids - I may do it overly so, because I know that I can be critical (I'm definitely most critical of myself) - so I try to not do that, knowing how tough it can be to hear. Especially since I see the special way the kids look to me as the most important thing to them - that is a responsibility I have to them to get them to be the best people they can be.

Posted by: atlmom | May 8, 2008 9:37 AM

I don't know why your parents divorced (b/c that might change my opinion), but your mother was right to stand up for herself. A woman's value to the household must be respected. And I wish I could stay at home for 10 years. That would be a dream. But my mother was the breadwinner in our house, and my dad was financially irresponsible. So she didn't care what happened to him or his money after the divorce. One thing I will change with my children: I will spend more intimate time with them. My mother was goal-oriented. I'm proud of her, but I turned out to socially inept because of it. I want to have a more intimate, personally involved relationship with my kids.

Posted by: dcp | May 8, 2008 9:47 AM

Leslie - I am grateful for your candor re: divorce between your folks. I would like to know how it went and what the takeaway is. I am trying to get more than $372/month in child support for one child from a guy making $250k/yr. In the state we divorced there are old tables set in stone, top wage to use for child support calculation is $70k/yr. He is sticking to this. How do you face down an economic bully?
If you feel this is intrusive then of course do not answer. But it is a common issue too often glossed over in parenting blogs that can get a little happy-face. I think his child deserves more than 2% of so of his income (he also "gives" her health insurance he gets free from employer) and have paid $22k so far in legal fees trying to get more.
Am I throwing good money after bad? He hasn't seen her since New Years (lives across the country.) He is ditching her and I am frantically job hunting.
Blog about this pls.

Posted by: more info | May 8, 2008 9:50 AM

It is funny, because what I remember from my mother is how all-encompassing mental illness can be. What I learned from her, after her death, really, is how not to let mental illness be a lifestyle choice. I chose to enter the hospital 8 years ago determined not to end up like my mother. Now that my mental illness is well managed, I find that I want to be like my mother when she was 'well'. We went to the park, and on days that dipped to the 50s (we grew up in Texas) she met me at the door with hot chocolate. I also think it is striking how my sister and I got very different things from our mother (hi tsp!), but how we both have learned so much from the unconditional love that our surrogate mother gave us.

Posted by: canary28 | May 8, 2008 9:57 AM

My mother worked briefly before I was born and never again. She was happy at home and devotes herself to numerous community activities and organizations.

She told my sister and I we could do anything we wanted to, and put her money on the line to make sure my sister and I were properly educated.

She has more friends than anybody I know and taught me a lot by example about how to be a good friend so that your life is not empty.

Posted by: RoseG | May 8, 2008 9:59 AM

My mom just seemed sad a lot of the time. She wouldn't really laugh, ever. Very stoic. Everything was serious.

My DH has gotten me to be more 'freewheeling' and laugh more, and for that I am grateful.

Posted by: atlmom | May 8, 2008 10:02 AM

"I am trying to get more than $372/month in child support for one child from a guy making $250k/yr. In the state we divorced there are old tables set in stone, top wage to use for child support calculation is $70k/yr. He is sticking to this. How do you face down an economic bully?
. . . I think his child deserves more than 2% of so of his income (he also "gives" her health insurance he gets free from employer) and have paid $22k so far in legal fees trying to get more."

Child support is not about what someone deserves, it's about what it takes to raise a child. Is your ex committed to paying the full freight for educational expenses, including grade school? Does your child participate in sports programs that have registration and insurance fees in excess of $1K? You sound as though you think that simply because he makes X, your child should get Y. It's not alimony. It's child support, and it's about support not enrichment. If you have a story to tell the court, tell it, but stop talking about "deserve" and suggesting that birth equals entitlement.

By the way, I gotta wonder what your lawyer has actually done if you've only paid $22K. That would perhaps pay for one decent brief and attendance at one very short hearing. It wouldn't cover expert fees or analysis or multiple settlement conferences.

Posted by: Janine | May 8, 2008 10:27 AM

to babsy1: are you sure you aren't my sister from another mother?!? ;-) My mom was a military wife too. My parents had been "in country" in Germany for less than a month when my dad went on field training exercises. They banked at the same place as my paternal grandparents and my dad's paycheck went into my grandparents' account. Dad's words when he called in from the field were "fix it - that's what I married you for." Fred's mother might be the original saint but all military wives are heroines in my book (army brat I know you agree!)

Interestingly enough we had a rule that if my dad wasn't home for mother's day (and until I was 9 he rarely was - peak training exercise time), we didn't celebrate mother's day OR father's day. My friends in HS and college were HORRIFIED that I didn't automatically get her a card.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 8, 2008 10:33 AM

more info: I don't know what state you're in, but in PA the tables only go so high. If you make more than the table, then there is a percentage. The percentage is set by law. The tables illustrate that percentage and law. So don't use the tables alone...find the law that states the percentage in your state. It is the real basis...not the tables. The tables are there only because most lawyers are not mathematicians...he he he.

Posted by: dotted | May 8, 2008 10:34 AM

My mother was a great role model for me and a great parent. She worked full-time, when it was still more mainstream to be a SAHM, and had a hard time finding daycare. But she knew herself well and knew she'd be unhappy as a SAHM. She found great accomplishment in her job and in being a mom and a wife. She is also an equal partner in her marriage (which was something I observed and decided was important when seeking a life partner) and taught me to be an independent person when the time was right.
She was definitely not always filling the 'typical' mom role - wasn't into baking for my birthdays, kept my hair cut short because she wouldn't learn to braid, we ate out a lot because she doesn't like to cook. But in so many other ways, she is the perfect mom.

Posted by: pipette | May 8, 2008 10:35 AM

OT, but the American Time Use Survey just released a survey about how married parents spend their time--some of those pesky statistics folks are always looking for on this blog! Thanks canary for sending this to me.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | May 8, 2008 10:42 AM

Fred's mother might be the original saint but all military wives are heroines in my book (army brat I know you agree!)

I certainly agree with this statement! When my AF dau went overseas last year, there were more than a few military mothers who went with her.

Back to my sainted mother, just recall that she was never a military wife but actually in the military. She was a Marine until the day she died. Had the 21 gun salute and taps and other military honors at her funeral.

Posted by: Fred | May 8, 2008 11:04 AM

To "more info" and others asking the very good question about how my mom did it -- how she got my father to pony up financially. Well, I'm in a tough spot here, because I'd love to tell you because I think it would be useful, but I feel like I would be invading my parents' privacy if I were to tell too much.

Let's just say my mom is very smart and she was angry and determined. All of that worked to her advantage. My father was emotionally done with the relationship, and ready to move onto another relationship, and so he was vulnerable. My mother had a good lawyer, but she had to fight for herself. She did not rely on the lawyer to do so.

She confronted my father, quite often and in ways that were wonderfully unladylike, about what a turd he was being. That's why I have so much respect for what she did: she was very alone, and outside her social circle's norms, but she fought for what was right, for herself and in turn, for us. It reminds me of how Katharine Graham fought for The Washington Post ownership when her estranged husband tried to wrest it from her control. Like Graham, my mother is very dignified and WASPy. But those "ladies" sometimes are made of steel. Fortunately that strength served my mom well.

I wish you the best of luck in your battles.

Posted by: Leslie | May 8, 2008 11:17 AM

"Fred's mother might be the original saint but all military wives are heroines in my book (army brat I know you agree!)"

Yup, as I said (First! Sorry PoaWM :-) the woman was a saint. She worked full time as a teacher (high school, English and Latin for the most part) her whole life, in addition to running the family when Dad disappeared for any length of time. (The only times I can remember her not working were when Dad went to Korea unaccompanied for 13 months and when he went to Vietnam for 14 months.) She could move the family to & from Germany by herself; organize and run the house; take care of the three of us and do her job so well that she was selected "Teacher of the Year" three times.

Plus she taught us a lot about saving and the benefits of hard work (doggone it, despite the meager pay they both collected they saved for almost 20 years so that they could buy their first house when Dad retired. A house of their very own!) and the benefits of an education. (She went to college on a full academic scholarship, and the three of us all got academic scholarships, too.)

"Writes long novellas and bad family chat" Yup, that's me all right. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 8, 2008 11:19 AM

She could move the family to & from Germany by herself
Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 8, 2008 11:19 AM

When a friend of mine who is a military wife (and ex-military herself) told me she could move and set up her whole household in 48 hours I was blown away. It took my husband and me a year and a half to pick paint colors!

Posted by: tsp 2007 | May 8, 2008 11:25 AM

I was raised by a single mom (father died on my first birthday). Mom did not remarry until I was 7. Like the other poster, she was very strict, she spanked me using all kinds of implements (switches, belts, spatulas), she was impatient, hyper-sensitive, hyper-judegmental and she rarely praised me. Feedback from her mostly consisted of a heavy hand of guilt. She was very demanding of me in my studies, B's were unacceptable. All A's were considered par for the course and I was never rewarded for grades. Like the earlier poster, I was afraid of her judgement more than anything: I was a constant "disapointment" and source of embarassment. To this day, (I am 47) she tells me that I am "bad". She refuses to allow me to discuss my view of my childhood and in her view, she is a sainted mother who did the best she knew how to do. No, I am not bad. I do not have a criminal record. I pay my taxes, am debt-free, college educated, well-travelled, and a sucessful professional woman. The dysfunction stops with me as I have chosen not to have children (yes, I am good with this). I no longer communicate with my mother and will not do so until she stops with the judgement.

Posted by: otis2008 | May 8, 2008 11:27 AM

Leslie, how did all of this affect your relationship with your father? Did you feel a sense of solidarity with your mom?

Posted by: Moxiemom | May 8, 2008 11:38 AM

This is for dc reader. Please love your Mom and be greatful for this fantastic woman. You will miss her when she's gone.

My mother was perfect to me although growing up I thought she was strict. She had to be for me to have become what I am today and to have these values.

Your mother was single yet, she found a way to find the resources to give you a good education and instill the values of a good education in you.

She made sure you 'lived big' by going with you on summer vacations. Even today, not many well to do parents can afford that.

You were lucky she had a good relationship with her MIL so you were doubly blessed.

Sometimes, kids have to be spanked to get them to behave themselves. It is not always abuse! As long as the child is not hit with a fist, a stick or worse, burnt with cigarettes, it is not abuse. A little tapping with two fingers goes a long way in letting a child know the parent means business and also keeping the mother sane.

If at this age, you fear going against her judgment, it means she was a great success.

Thank her for psycologically nipping your potential smoking addiction in the bud.

Your mother was fantastic. Thank her, love her and stop whinning. In fact, I hope you emmulate her values when dealing with your own children.

Posted by: Happy | May 8, 2008 11:38 AM

tsp2007: "When a friend of mine who is a military wife (and ex-military herself) told me she could move and set up her whole household in 48 hours I was blown away. It took my husband and me a year and a half to pick paint colors!"

Hey, you learn to deal. Besides, there was no color but OD - Olive Drab, to you non-Army types. (Actually, the ceilings were always white, the walls were always pale blue. The floors were always tile or wood. Appliances were white - even though it was the 60s and 70s, "Avocado" and "Harvest Gold" were unattainable. :-)

Now you know why my wife does all the decorating (or at least makes all the design decisions).

otis2008, I'm sorry to hear about your unhappiness with your upbringing, and at the risk of offending you and maybe some others, I did want to address a couple of things you listed:

"Like the other poster, she was very strict, she spanked me using all kinds of implements (switches, belts, spatulas),"

Umm, Dad was a First Sergeant, but he was the softie of the family. Mom was strict. Yes, we were spanked with whatever was deemed necessary. You know, I still don't consider that "abuse". We knew she loved us very much, and that there were rules and consequences for willful violation of the rules. I've never spanked any of my own kids - haven't had to.

"She was very demanding of me in my studies, B's were unacceptable. All A's were considered par for the course and I was never rewarded for grades."

Anything less than "the best we could do" was unacceptable. That generally meant all A's, for all of us. And there were never any rewards for grades; just consequences for not doing the best we could do. But there were reasons for that. My parents both came from very poor backgrounds, and my mother especially wanted to escape that and have her children go farther. Education was the way to accomplish that. Work hard, get a good education, and you can accomplish things that those who went before you could never even dream about.

"Like the earlier poster, I was afraid of her judgement more than anything: I was a constant "disapointment" and source of embarassment."

This may be the biggest difference. We got positive feedback when it was deserved, and we always knew that they loved us unconditionally.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 8, 2008 11:39 AM

otis 2008.

Read the message directed to dc reader. It applies to you too. Do you think it is easy to raise a child in this world?

Your mother is proud of you and you should be proud of yourself too.

What is the matter with you? Why do you need someone to praise you? If you are successful, fine. Your mother is only trying to make sure that you continue to get the best from life. It is an unspoken fact that most sane parents are proud of their children's successes. Why do you expect her to tell you that you are doing something right? You've got brains to help you figure that out yourself.

Look here, you've learnt you ABCs, while you were learning, she probably said, "good job, now lets start forming words with these".

What is wrong with you? You won't love your mother until she stops giving you motherly advice which you call "being judgmental". Grow up.

If you'd had children of your own, you would understand where she was coming from.

Some people are just not good at giving unnecessary complements.

I give them to my kids.. but that's me. Not every one finds that easy to do. I also chide them for bad behaviour.

Grow up and love your Mom. It's one of the ten commandments.

Posted by: Happy | May 8, 2008 11:49 AM

The commandment is to "honor" not love. Not all adults deserve love.

Posted by: 10 commandments | May 8, 2008 11:54 AM

And I suspect that not all adults deserve "honour".

Although I have reconciled with my mother and made peace with my less than happy childhood, I have not reconciled with my father in the slightest. I think part of my success in reconciling with my Mom is that she admits that mistakes were made but she did the best she could. With respect to relating as adults, she is respectful of the life I have developed as an adult. Is she perfect? Absolutely not but she is who she is and I can live with her - flaws and all.

My father on the other hand sees absolutely nothing wrong with what he did either as a father when I was a child or as a father when I was an adult. He is deceitful and only out for #1. Even a child is not safe from his games. And despite all that... how I wish we had a different relationship. I still love him but know better than to get close to him to let him hurt me. Honour him? Sadly, not at all.

Posted by: Billie_R | May 8, 2008 12:05 PM

To ArmyBrat the spanking was an almost daily event when I was young. I am not talking about a swat to the bottom. I am talking about red marks, raised wheals, and skin cuts (from the switching). As I was the oldest, I was responsible (and took the spanking) for my sibling. The spankings stopped when I was backhanded across the face at 15 and tried to go to my room (with mom hitting me all along the way). At that point I threatened to hit back and the spanking stopped, but not the verbal abuse. Spanking is violence and violence begets violence. Is there any situation in your daily life that is solved with hitting? What it does is teaches kids to hit. My single goal was to get out via an education. But to this day, the verbal guilt trips have never stopped and I am tired of listening and hoping for a transition that will never come. My mother and I are an emotional disconnect.

Posted by: otis2008 | May 8, 2008 12:09 PM

Wow, happy, you sure don't sound very happy. Pretty quick to presume you know someone else's childhood better than they do.

Yes, we owe it to our mothers to understand that they did the best they could. We owe them respect for all the things they did for us. But no one can demand love. You can only earn it -- which you do by giving it yourself. The whole judgmental/disappointment/martyr complex doesn't cut it. After all, who in their right mind would want to stay closely connected to someone who only sees their faults?

Posted by: Laura | May 8, 2008 12:23 PM

BTW the definition of honor is a showing of usually merited respect.

Posted by: otis2008 | May 8, 2008 12:25 PM

Thanks to those who posted a message to me and referenced my message. I have a good relationship with my mother. We talk every day. I brought up the smoking example to show how powerfull her opinion was to me growing up. I totally disagree with the way she rarely praised me. Especially as a girl growing up in world where self confidence and how you carry yourself matters, it took me YEARS to finally realize that I am a worthwhile being. I am not going to do this to my children. However, in my mother's defence, she did what she thought was best. I never had to see a therapist to deal with my relatioship with my mother :-)

Posted by: dc reader | May 8, 2008 12:30 PM

"To this day, (I am 47) she tells me that I am "bad"." otis

"Your mother is proud of you and you should be proud of yourself too. . . . What is the matter with you? . . . . What is wrong with you?" Happy

Happy, you have a wee bit of a reading, listening and hearing problem.

Posted by: MN | May 8, 2008 12:38 PM

To add a little levity here... my mother left my dad home with the packing crew for a move exactly once, 20+ years into their marriage. When she came home the head of the crew said her "ma'am, the colonel never done this before has he?!?" I guess dad had no clue how to deal with them.

moxiemom: I could write volumes about being the adult child of divorce - allegiances to one parent or the other seem to develop. Probably a consequence of there being no formal parenting/co-parenting decisions to be made. The other dynamic that comes into play is when one parent remarries (dad in my case)...

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 8, 2008 12:44 PM

PoaWM: "When she came home the head of the crew said her "ma'am, the colonel never done this before has he?!?" I guess dad had no clue how to deal with them."

Well, DUHHH! He's an officer. He has no clue how to deal with anything.

Now, if your father had been an NCO, he'd have had the moving crew spit-shine their boots and polish their brass, then pack all the gear to regulation and have it cataloged and stowed away in record time. Then they'd have unpacked it and done it again, just to show that they'd listened. Then they'd police up the area before leaving just before "Retreat" blew.

Not that I'm, you know, biased or anything like that. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 8, 2008 12:49 PM

Ok, to put this to rest. I love my mom. Until recently, we spoke often, visited regularly, sent cards, and gifts for all the appropriate occasions. But, I don't love her behavior. I am tired of the continuing verbal stuff. There is a difference. Like BillieR's father, my mom will not admit mistakes. She deliberately blocks from memory any unpleasantness. She is not one for self-reflection and won't go to counseling as I have. I have struggled with self-loathing, anger, and depression for years. This is the legacy of physical and emotional abuse. But the difference is I do something about it. What sane person wants to hear a constant stream of faults? I have pleaded with her to stop it, but this behavior is a fixed pattern for her. I can only change myself, I cannot change her. I have 2 choices: live with it in my life or not in my life.

Posted by: otis2008 | May 8, 2008 12:53 PM

Army Brat - so true. My mother's other favorite story is the time his first sergeant had to remind him to pick me up at day care. As in sir, you need to go pick up your daughter NOW. (After 20 minutes of trying to gently push him out the door). The officer thing didn't translate so well in his first civilian job. ;-)

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 8, 2008 12:54 PM

"Well, DUHHH! He's an officer. He has no clue how to deal with anything..."

Well, ain't the damn truth!

The only officer in up and down my family tree was my grandfather. But then he went to Purdon't!

(not the same for Mustangs, enlisted men who get battlefield commissions such as my Uncle Enry the Nazi hunter!)

Posted by: Fred | May 8, 2008 1:04 PM

Wow - Great subject. I do think our mothers and mother figures have a powerful effect on our lives, on how we see ourselves, and on how we see and relate to the world around us. I have two mother figures: of course, my own mother, but also, my paternal grandmother, who in her own way, may have turned out to be the more formidable force in my life. My parents were divorced when I was quite young. My dad was a nice guy, but not such a great husband to my mom. Not abusive -- just young, irresponsible, and unfaithful. When I was 4, my mother called it quits, left him, and quickly remarried. So did he. I then had 2 stepparents, neither of which, at the time, seemed particularly fond of me. This is where my grandmother stepped in. She was my advocate and protector. I lived with her during the week, and spent weekends going between the other parents' households. My mother seemed unable to assert herself with my stepfather, who has moody and dictatorial. My dad was equally ineffective in dealing with his wife, whom I now think was mentally ill. Still, I loved my mother deeply, and worried about her constantly. She just seemed so fragile and unprotected, with a husband that was unpredictable and often quite verbally abusive, as well as alcoholic, and three little children to raise with him. I don't know how she survived those years when they were little. The weekends with them were fraught with arguments, drama, and all sorts of tension. I am so glad I could retreat to my grandmother's during the week. My grandmother came to the US in the 50s from South America, because land reform in her country basically left her family impoverished. They lost their farms and my grandfather lost his mines. He died soon after, and my grandmother pulled together her remaining assets and brought her two kids to the US to start from scratch, by herself. I can't imagine how hard it must have been for her, as a woman in her 50s, who did not know the language, who had been used to a very comfortable life, and who had never wanted for anything material. She began working as a housekeeper and nanny, and eventually, the family got on its feet and settled into a basic middle class existence here. I got an education. She treated me like gold, was ever affectionate and kind, regaled me with stories about the old days, and basically made me feel loved and special. She also taught me that where there is a will, there is a way. She was not stoic -- I saw her cry a lot -- and when my father died when I was a teenager, she was heartbroken. I don't think she ever got over it. In fact, she pretty much wore her emotions on her sleeve. Even so, she kept going, and her pain never took her over for long. In the end, she was enduring and strong, and her ability to love, forgive, and work hard are what defined her. It pretty much tears me up to write this, although I lost her over 10 years ago, because my admiration, love and respect for her are so much a part of who I am now. I like to think that I am like her, in some ways at least, and I hope to give my children the same kind of love and support that she gave me. I still feel that she is with me and my family, and that her legacy of strength and compassion is something that I will be able to pass along to my own kids.

I don't mean to diminish the importance of my mother in this tribute to my grandmother, because I love my mother with all my heart and am very close to her these days. She seems stronger, now that her kids are grown up and her husband is mellower. In hindsight, I see that she is patient and enduring in her own non-confrontational way. She is now my friend and confidant, and a beloved grandmother to my kids. So I guess I have been lucky, to have had 2 mother figures that have enriched my life.

Posted by: Emily | May 8, 2008 1:06 PM

I too learned how to move a household quickly and efficiently. I learned that patriotism is more than saluting the flag. And sadly, I learned that in my mother's eyes, my accomplishments will never measure up to her grandchildren.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 8, 2008 1:07 PM

Hilarious, touching, sweet website:

Think of all the nagging, funny, worrisome, kvetching, loving, TMI, humiliating email/letters from Mom. People send them in here!

(Thank you to Newsweek, fo writing a story on this!)

Posted by: BL | May 8, 2008 1:15 PM

Emily, you have me crying here. Wonderful tribute.

Posted by: Laura | May 8, 2008 1:15 PM

I'm the child of a Chief. Everyone knows its the enlisted, especially the senior enlisted, who keep things going. But I'm an officer, my sister is an officer, my brothers are an officer and an NCO. The successful ones were not successful because of rank, but because we were women.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 8, 2008 1:18 PM

(damn officers!)

Posted by: Fred | May 8, 2008 1:25 PM

(Medical officers whether dr. nurse or other health professionals get a pass on the officer quip!)

Posted by: Fred | May 8, 2008 1:26 PM

Well, it is time to take Frieda to chemo. See you guys later!

Posted by: Fred | May 8, 2008 1:27 PM

And sadly, I learned that in my mother's eyes, my accomplishments will never measure up to her grandchildren.

Babsy - of course you know your mother better than I do, but let me share something with you. My dad's sister always felt that my grandmother loved me more than she loved my aunt. It was (and still may be) an issue with her, since she did not have any children of her own. But sometimes, parents don't demonstrate that love to their own children, even though they feel it intensely. I always knew that my grandmother adored my aunt. She spoke proudly of her to others. She was always at her side, supporting, helping, and advising. Yes, my grandmother also adored her grandchildren, but I don't think it diminished what she felt for her own kids. In some ways, when you have kids and your parents shift their attention from you to your kids, then it does not feel like they are turning their love away from you, it feels instead like they are amplifying it. But I can see how you might feel slighted if these grandkids are not your own kids. I always felt bad that my aunt was not able to see the love that her mother felt for her, because she was always a bit resentful of the love her mother felt for the grandkids. But it does not mean that her mother did not love her.

Posted by: Emily | May 8, 2008 1:30 PM

My mother makes no bones about it. It is what it is. I find many things admirable about my mother, and I am grateful that she raised me. I have a good life. But in her eyes, I have never measured up, and I never will. It bothers me, because you really never stop trying for your parents' approval. But not as much as it did when I was younger, and not as much as it did before I moved a continent away. Distance makes many things easier.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 8, 2008 1:40 PM


Emily - there's a speck in my eye. Damned allergies.

Posted by: MN | May 8, 2008 1:44 PM

MN: we know there's a softie in there.

Emily: what a lovely tribute to both women in your life .

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 8, 2008 1:46 PM

I completely agree about the child support. It costs a certain amoutn to make sure the needs of the child are met, this does not change just because the parent earns more. Because all that ends up happening is the mother gets what is left over after taking care of the child's needs. I don't believe that is fair. But I also don't really believe in alimony. i do not understand why someone is entitled to a certain standard of living. if you enjoyed a good life because your spouse worked hard to make that possible for you, if you are no longer together, you are no longer entitled to that. If you want it, there is nothing wrong with you goign out and getting it yourself. There are certain cases that I agree with - if 1 person works to support both of them and put the one through school, for example, then it makes sense that if they divorce, the other party should repay that in some way - alimony or then paying for the other person to complete school etc. But I don't see how staying how means you supported him. Cooking, cleaning, and taking care of kids is not a job, its called life, and its the life you chose to have. What about those of us who have to work full time and don't have the luxury of someone supporting us while we ge tot stay at home? It just means what you get all day to do, we have to do after 6 when we get home.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2008 2:00 PM

to 2 PM:

Well, let's not completely go off topic here, but realistically - to the first point - it is a father who needs to care for his child(ren). YES it should be based on what he makes. Of course, mom *could* live on $350 a month - but why should she have to - why should the kids suffer, because he wants to punish all of them? Ridiculous.

And, my DH and I agreed *together* that staying home would be better for the family. We pay tons more in taxes, for one, for me to keep working, so what's the point? And we agreed, together, that it is better for the kids, for the house, for HIS sanity, for me to be home. So if we were to divorce, I should just expect nothing? That's ridiculous. I could go back to work - but if it's good for a parent to be home with the kids when parents are together, isn't it also good when they are apart?

I just don't see the logic there.

Posted by: atlmom | May 8, 2008 2:15 PM

I have no idea how one would go after the father so to speak but I am curious where the people are that lambasted me for inquiring if it was normal for child support to be well over 50% of the father's pay. My husband is paying $700+ on a salary of 17k a year and several people told to me deal with it. Where are your comments on the travesty of this guy making many times over my husband's salary and paying less than half of what he is paying?

Posted by: Billie_R | May 8, 2008 2:31 PM

I don't see the logic of using child support to support the mother's lifestyle. It's not called "Ann Taylor support" -- for a reason. What does it take to support 50% of the child's needs? That might be $4K a year for some children and $30K a year for others. Child support is not mom's new fun budget.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2008 2:33 PM

"costs a certain amoutn to make sure the needs of the child are met, this does not change just because the parent earns more."

But do you buy the jeans at Walmart or Nordstroms? And if the father is earning enough money to allow the child to shop at Nordstroms why should they be required to shop at Walmart?

The idea is that the parents should share thier lifestyle with thier children. Yes sometimes the custodial parent may take some of the money for themselves, but usually it is going towards family needs. Yes the custodial parent may benefit as well - the house in the better school district will appreciate more, the nicer meals get shared by all, etc. But as child support ends when the child reaches adulthood the custodial parent will need to figure out how to fend for themselves.

On a practical level I would persue the legal battle.

Posted by: Mom_of_1 | May 8, 2008 2:43 PM

"costs a certain amoutn to make sure the needs of the child are met, this does not change just because the parent earns more."

No, but children do not become less expensive as they grow older. As a rule, their clothes become more expensive (adult sized), they eat more (adult sized) and just because you can live on a diet of bread and water doesn't mean you're going to thrive upon it.

Child support is not a way to yank around the custodial parent, it's supposed to be A way to support your child(ren). Some things require more than lip-service.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2008 3:01 PM

Sorry, I forgot to mention that inflation also takes its toll on child support. What cost $1 five years ago may well cost quite a bit more.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2008 3:02 PM

Not sure what it says about us that much of today's discussion has been about divorce and child support! Maybe all those companies selling Mother's Day schmaltz should take note: this is what moms really want for Mother's Day -- child support!!

But I guess I started it with the story about my mom.

And I do love the honest tributes to our moms here, as well.

Posted by: Leslie | May 8, 2008 3:08 PM

All I want for Mother's Day is for the kids to complete any undone homework and tidy their rooms.

But I'm greedy, I want that to happen (almost) every day. Not just on some cr@ptacular Hallmark Holiday where Madison Avenue is trying to get more people to part with more cash.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2008 3:16 PM

That was me at 3:16 p.m.

Have a lovely weekend, everybody.

Posted by: maryland_mother | May 8, 2008 3:19 PM

All I want for Mother's day is to not have to make my own coffee in the morning.

Posted by: Emily | May 8, 2008 3:29 PM

The scene is set.

kitchen: a bit of a mess as it is the end of the day lots of snacks have been prepared and supper is on the stove.

Harried woman stands at counter. 3 kids are randomly milling about. they keep, in turn, bumping up and standing close to the woman.

Woman: Please get off my foot.

Kid #1: Mom I'm hungry.

Woman: I'm cooking dinner. See that stuff on the stove.

Kid #2: Mom can I have some chips?

Woman: No. I'm cooking dinner. See that stuff on the stove.

Woman grabs bag of chips from Kid#2 and tosses it on the counter. Kid #3 pulls on the woman's shirt causing it to stretch and show her bra.

Woman: Don't pull on my shirt! Hey you kids, get out of here. I'm cooking dinner!

Kids continue to mill about kitchen. Woman sighs. Woman begins to clean up and again notices liquid on the counter. She takes her finger to wipe it up and puts it in her mouth.

Kid #1: Mom? Whatcha doin?

Kid #2: Mom!!! That's cat food!

Kid #3: Ew. Mom eats cat food!

Lights go down

Sounds familiar, anyone?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2008 3:37 PM

Maybe I'm naive/idealistic, but even if my wife and I were to split up (unfathomable thought that might be), I cannot imagine shortchanging my daughter in any way. I know people (men, mostly) do this, and I've never been able to understand it.

Posted by: DCD | May 8, 2008 4:17 PM

Emily: my nine year old makes me coffee every morning (and it is GOOD). If she is in a good mood she makes breakfast for everyone. I have gotten wonderfully spoiled. Motherhood gets better with age!

Posted by: Leslie | May 8, 2008 4:22 PM

Leslie - That sounds lovely. I need to teach my son. He is 8.

Posted by: Emily | May 8, 2008 4:24 PM

Leslie's mom's story is exactly why I never want to be a SAHM. Of course, part of it is that I don't think I'd be happy as a SAHM, but it's also because I firmly believe in supporting myself financially. I don't trust anyone, not even a husband, to take care of me. There's just too much that could go wrong. I am definitely not wealthy, but I will always work.

Off-topic: sorry I haven't posted hardly at all. How is everyone? Law school is no fun at all, of course. My penultimate final is tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Posted by: Mona | May 8, 2008 4:25 PM

DCD, I hear you. And on the flip side, I have trouble imagining myself using child support/alimony as a weapon to get revenge, rather than just for what it is supposed to be. Like you, I know people do this, but I don't get it. Then again, I've also been lucky enough not to go through a divorce -- much less a nasty, drawn-out, ugly one.

One thing I will always respect my mom for is how insistent she was that my dad's child support was ONLY for me. As early as she could, she started saving as much of the child support as she could for college. And by the time I was in high school, she had him write the checks directly to me as my allowance for the month (with STRICT instructions that the bulk of it went right into the college fund, of course).

Posted by: Laura | May 8, 2008 4:29 PM

I hear you Laura - divorce can make people raving lunatics. When I hear stories, I just shake my head and think "you used to love that person and now you act like this?!?"

OT to Mona: Welcome back! Good luck on your final.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 8, 2008 4:43 PM

Hi Mona, nice to hear from you. Good luck on the finals. Like you, I think one of the reasons I did not become a SAHM was that my mother's experience really scared me. I just did not want to become dependent on any man the way my mother was dependent on my stepdad. I don't think there is anything wrong with SAHMs though. In fact, my husband is a SAHD, and I am glad that he does not have the emotional hang-ups that I do, because I really like our arrangement and think it works well for our family. But personally, I just need to be independent financially, and to know that I can support myself. Otherwise, I would feel way too vulnerable.

Posted by: Emily | May 8, 2008 4:51 PM

Emily, I can understand both sides, I guess, maybe too well--well enough to understand why I only want one side. I personally don't feel one way or another about SAHPs, but if I try to think of myself as a SAHM, I just don't see it happening. It also scares me a little. I've just seen way too much go wrong, even with someone who always seemed trustworthy (like my stepdad, not that my trust kept him from running off with someone 20 years younger). It's just too risky for my taste. ;-)

Posted by: Mona | May 8, 2008 4:55 PM

A question for another day: at what age can you reasonably expect your child to make coffee for you?

My 9 year old just started. I think 8 is too young to handle hot water. I didn't ask her -- she just knew how much I like coffee and started doing it. Teaching her to make it really strong was a challenge. She had to get past the "but you are wasting the coffee" thing.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Posted by: Leslie | May 8, 2008 5:06 PM

Leslie - I just noticed you are taking tomorrow off!! Slacker!! :)

I guess I will actually have to work tomorrow.

Posted by: Emily | May 8, 2008 5:23 PM


You've given your daughter a key life skill PLUS the water's cold when it goes IN the coffeepot, LOL. Isn't it? The worse that can happen is a little water's on the counter.

Answer: 6. If you can teach them to grind the beans, it's even better.

BillieR: off topic, but if I recall correctly, the deal with it comments related alot more to the fact that your deal isn't court mandated - sort of a handshake deal -- and that skeeved a lot of us and struck us as imprudent. Maybe I'm remembering it differently than it was.

Posted by: MN | May 8, 2008 5:26 PM

Emily -- we can just continue our discussion tomorrow. Work is very overrated!

And I agree, MN, that making coffee is a great life and wife skill. I'm sure her bride-price just went up!

Posted by: Leslie | May 8, 2008 6:14 PM

My mom taught me firsthand the general personality and conflict problems that children of abusers/alcohols have. Which is great because I happen to often be attracted to them.

My mom rocks. She's a person, she made tons of mistakes, tons of problems, was not an ideal mother at times and at times was downright oppressive.

But she did the best she could every single day and I will never be able to show her how wonderful she is.

Posted by: Liz D | May 8, 2008 6:26 PM

Liz -- I agree totally, that moms' imperfections are often what teach us the most. Which comforts me to no end now that I am a mom myself, a highly imperfect one!

Posted by: Leslie | May 8, 2008 8:15 PM

I wonder how my kids' see me. One day will they write, "She did XYZ wrong but I always knew she loved us?" I wonder what they can see and sense about my approach to motherhood. I hope they know how much I love being their mom.

Posted by: Leslie | May 9, 2008 6:10 AM

Leslie, I can pretty much guarantee that one day, one of your kids will write, "She did XYZ wrong, but I always knew she loved us." :-)

I remember being a teen and thinking my mom knew nothing about anything. That's what a teenager's job is!! There's no such thing as perfect. Our parenting is shaped by our own experience with our parents. Maybe our "perfect" mom ideal doesn't work with our personalities (or our kids'). Or maybe, if mom had serious problems, we go too far in the other direction -- we avoid those mistakes, by gum, but in the process make a whole new set of mistakes. Or maybe what works so well with one kid doesn't work with another. All you can do is love them, stay consistent, and adapt to each kid's needs as much as you can.

Like you, I wonder what my kids will see as my critical flaw(s) (I'm sure there will be many!). I suspect my girl will think I didn't pay enough attention to her. But she's insatiable -- I could be with her 24/7, and it still wouldn't be enough. Put that together with the fact that I'm an introvert who needs downtime as much as she needs me there all the time, and whaddyagonnado? I give her as much as I am physically and emotionally capable of giving her -- and tell myself that the rest of the time, she's learning a valuable lesson that the world doesn't revolve around her. :-) And yet somehow, I'm sure she won't quite see it the same way, LOL.

Best summary, from Maya Angelou: "You did what you knew how to do. When you knew better, you did better."

Posted by: Laura | May 9, 2008 7:44 AM

MN: That was true. It is a handshake deal. But when I said something to the effect that I thought maybe it was a bit much, several people came back to me and said that he should be paying what needs to be paid. I knew going in that he was going to be paying child support and I shouldn't be getting in the way of his supporting his children.

And as a side note - apparently I shouldn't be getting in the way of their personal relationship either. Little "Mr. I don't like to talk much" just spent 1500 minutes last month talking to the ex according to the cell phone bill. And to think that the ex actually had the nerve to complain to me that he never talks to her on the way home from work. Instead of sympathizing with her about how he doesn't talk much I should have been saying "No sh*t... he probably said everything he had to say in the 1 hour plus phone call he made to you earlier in the day."

I am not one to get angry but I am highly angry and feel like fool. I will be talking to him him tonight. His excuse had better be something like "She is dying and we are trying to figure out what to do" because no other explanation is going to be acceptable. They already see each other from Monday to Friday for at least 2 hours each day. The kids are good kids. They don't need to talk yet ANOTHER hour on the phone every single day about how to deal with them.

Posted by: Billie_R | May 9, 2008 8:26 AM

Billie, my recollection is the same as yours -- I was surprised by the number of "you knew he had kids, they should be his priority, suck it up" comments given your situation.

Sorry to hear about the recent turn. Please consider counseling if you can find a way to swing it -- it's sounding more and more like he's just using you until he can get his ex settled and his feet on the ground.

Posted by: Laura | May 9, 2008 8:47 AM

Billie: sending a virtual hug your way. Second the suggestion on counseling from Laura. Keep your chin up and Happy Mother's Day to you - since you seem to be the mother glue holding this whole thing together.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 9, 2008 9:07 AM

Billie: I'm with Laura's sense of what's happening here. I hope we're incorrect, but in any event, I wish the best for YOU. You've been beating your head against this nail for some time now and have so much more to offer yourself and the world.

Re: past comments about how you should just suck it up: just as in politics, the person who yells the loudest and most frequently doesn't necessarily speak the truth.

Posted by: MN | May 9, 2008 9:27 AM

Billie or should I say the new Chrissie - Exactly what is it going to take for you to realize that your "husband" is using you and is actually still with his ex? He is with her 2 hours per day? While you work 2 jobs to support them? And aren't you the person that posted that he hates the zoo and you love it but he took her with the kids to the zoo?

If you're going to bury your head that fair in the sand and repeadetly ignore peoples comments to seek counseling - its been months - then please stop writing about it.

Posted by: Seriously | May 9, 2008 9:46 AM

Thank you Seriously for talking so authoritatively about what you don't know is going on in my life.

I have not been ignoring people's comments although I have not gone the counseling route. Past experience has told me that counseling if of little use to someone who doesn't want to do it. I wrote him a letter and spoke to him at length in a conversation. I then decided to wait to see if either of those two things gave him a clue. He had two months to try to turn things around. If nothing changed then he was out the door. This past month, I have been busy gathering my thoughts and documenting actions/feelings etc. I am not one to make a quick decision without thinking it through thoroughly. It might take me a while to make a decision but once it is made... it is made. But in the course of being more analytical about this relationship and less emotional, I have discovered things I wouldn't have thought to have looked at previously - like the phone bill.

I have no idea what the upshot of this confrontation will be tonight. It might very well end with him walking out the door to only return for his things. It might end with trying counseling. But it won't end with the status quo. I told him a month ago that I would no longer accept the way he had been treating me and I would be making my decisions accordingly.

What makes me sad is that this evidence along with something else that happened last weekend has basically destroyed my faith in him and our marriage. How does a marriage recover from that?

Posted by: Billie_R | May 9, 2008 10:15 AM

Billie -- Only you can decide what a marriage can and cannot recover from. Some people can recover from serious betrayal. Others have to move on. It is so totally up to you! Good luck.

Posted by: Leslie | May 9, 2008 10:33 AM

Billie - You are right. You cannot force your husband to get counseling. But you can get counseling for yourself. Just because he won't go does not mean that you shouldn't. Good luck.

Posted by: Emily | May 9, 2008 10:47 AM

Billie, I want to be clear: I am not suggesting marriage counseling for you and him. I am suggesting counseling for YOU, to help you work through all those thoughts, maybe give you more objective insight than you can have when you're in the middle of all of it (and that we can give here, given that we can't know the whole situation).

If the result of that counseling tells you that you want to try to save the marriage, then you can talk to him about going to marriage counseling. But from what I've heard here, I'm not sure you would (or even should) get to that second step. Maybe what you really need is a trained, disinterested observer to tell you you're not being unreasonable and help buck you up to do what you need to do.

Let me add to Leslie's: yes, some people can recover from a serious betrayal. But that only happens when the betrayer takes responsibility for his actions and commits to changing.

Posted by: Laura | May 9, 2008 10:50 AM


Happy mother's day to you. My heart goes out to you. I hope everything went well with you and hubby yesterday.

Please give your decisions a lot of thought befor acting. Pray to God for guidiance. Gently ask your hubby to explain his actions. He may not know that he is hurting you.

Pray, pray, pray. Only through prayer can you make the best decision.

God bless.

Again, happy mother's day.

Posted by: Happy | May 9, 2008 10:56 AM

OT - I saw the Duggars on the Today Show this morning. They are expecting their 18th child!!!! I don't watch their tv show, and was pleasantly surprised to see them so well put together. The kids were well-behaved and looked adorable. Even the mother looked good. I would be a raving lunatic if I were in her shoes. I just don't understand how they do it. Can they really be as normal as they seem?

Posted by: Emily | May 9, 2008 11:03 AM

One of my greatest fears is that I will be the same type of mother that my mother was. When she died last November, her three surviving daughters were not speaking to her. She never wanted children--she simply kept marrying and having children under the mistaken belief that it would tether a man to her. All three husbands ran like hell, and the children suffered.

I am certainly not a perfect mother, but my daughter does not doubt my love for her. I hope I will remain close to her as she grows into an adult.

Leslie--good for your mom and good for you for recognizing her predicament. Like Mona, I always feared making myself dependent upon a man (again...didn't work so well for my mom and I grew up in poverty as a result). Plus I am insanely independent.

Posted by: pepperjade | May 9, 2008 11:24 AM

Emily, this is my take:

Some people can handle 18+ children. They are very unusual, but they do exist! Like mutant frogs.

Other people can get it together to look sane on tv for five minutes. Behind closed doors, watch out.

And then there are the rest of us, who candidly admit how hard parenthood is! And that looking perfect on the outside only serves to make everyone else feel terrible about ourselves. So I say, here's to being open about how messy, chaotic and unbalanced motherhood is, whether you have one child or 18!

Posted by: Leslie | May 9, 2008 11:26 AM

OT - I saw the Duggars on the Today Show this morning. They are expecting their 18th child!!!! I don't watch their tv show, and was pleasantly surprised to see them so well put together. The kids were well-behaved and looked adorable. Even the mother looked good. I would be a raving lunatic if I were in her shoes. I just don't understand how they do it. Can they really be as normal as they seem?

Posted by: Emily | May 9, 2008 11:03 AM

If you truly believe that you're only purpose in life is to procreate, then yeah, I guess she looks great.

The only way I could go along with that sort of plan is with a lobotomy and thorazine.


The situation sounds increasingly nightmarish. I'm so sorry. I join in the general call for therapy for YOU. Not just to have an advocate, but also for the documentation that goes along with it.

Best wishes!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 11:39 AM

OT to the lawyers on the board (& Leslie): WSJ Law Blog and The Juggle are talking about the SF lawyer at Paul Hastings who was dismissed a week after her miscarriage. She declined to sign a non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement in exchange for severance. She's even gone so far as to release her previous glowing performance review. Not sure what to make of it all...


Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 9, 2008 12:15 PM

"If you truly believe that you're only purpose in life is to procreate, then yeah, I guess she looks great."

I don't get that. I thought she looked fairly typical. She looked healthy enough, her face did not seem stressed, she smiled and seemed happy. She was well-groomed. Considering she is pregnant with her 18th child, she looked spectacular.

Posted by: Emily | May 9, 2008 1:06 PM

"If you truly believe that your only purpose in life is to procreate, then yeah, I guess she looks great."

I don't get that. I thought she looked fairly typical. She looked healthy enough, her face did not seem stressed, she smiled and seemed happy. She was well-groomed. Considering she is pregnant with her 18th child, she looked spectacular.

Posted by: Emily | May 9, 2008 1:06 PM

Right. She seems to feel that she has or is fulfilling her divine mission.

For those who feel that there is more to it than cranking out kids, the only way to look that serene is with a little elective surgery. It's not that difficult, it can be done with a local and at home.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 1:31 PM

Perhaps it is her own divine mission. I'm not saying it should be everyone's divine mission. In fact, it probably should not be. But for her, it might be ok. If she can handle it, and her family can handle it, and the kids are ok, which they seem to be, who am I to judge?

Posted by: Emily | May 9, 2008 1:39 PM

Product of a Working Mother, That's an interesting story. Thanks for the link.

Posted by: MN | May 9, 2008 5:32 PM

Please give your decisions a lot of thought befor acting. Pray to God for guidiance. Gently ask your hubby to explain his actions. He may not know that he is hurting you.

Pray, pray, pray. Only through prayer can you make the best decision.

Posted by: Happy | May 9, 2008 10:56 AM

Speaking of Chrissie . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 5:40 PM

If I did some of the things to my kids that my mom did to me, social services would take them away.

Posted by: Next Generation | May 12, 2008 11:55 AM


I have seen their show on tv and they worry me. Their children are homeschooled and kept solely within their family and home base. They are clearly very religious and have rather backwards beliefs. My concern is for these children and whether they are capable of actually surviving in the rest of society (when they go to college and beyond) or not.

Their father also talks about wanting his children to marry, live on their land so they can build a family compound. It's just not healthy to keep yourselves so isolated.

Posted by: kallieh | May 12, 2008 1:46 PM

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