8 Very Important Questions We Asked Our Moms This Mother’s Day
In honor of Mother’s Day, the Frisky staff interviewed our moms to find out how their lives changed when we were born and what they learned about love and life as a parent. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, maternal figures and grandmothers out there!
1. What was the biggest sacrifice you made for us? Did motherhood take AWAY any parts of yourself or of your pre-motherhood life?
You sacrifice TIME that you perhaps would have spent in other ways (in my case, painting) BUT that is not to say I felt motherhood was taking away any part of myself. It was mostly taking TIME. But in fact, when I became a mother I felt myself develop as a person. So it felt like quite the opposite of having any aspect of myself taken away. But I did miss not being able to paint as much, but at the same time, I did feel like it was a very creative endeavor (being a mother). It was so fascinating to watch a person, my child, grow. To watch a child discover the world was tremendously enchanting. You fall in love with your child and it is wonderful to have one’s “sense of wonder” rekindled. And being an artist, that is very important to me. – Cheryl, Amelia’s mom
It took away my life of frequent travel, because I used to be really adventurous. I also used to go on temporary assignments for work in warmer cities during the winter, which I stopped doing soon after you were born. – Patti, Claire’s mom
I had to delay my education. I could have gone back to school earlier than when I did, at 35. I had my kids too young. Motherhood — I was so busy working, I didn’t have a life pre-motherhood. I didn’t really enjoy my life from 24-35. – Sui Fen, Megan’s mom
2. What do you think is the best parenting advice you’ve ever gotten or given?
From your ah-ma: what comes around goes around. That’s the best advice I’ve gotten. Ah-ma never taught me anything about parenting, but she said how I treated her would be the exact same way my children would treat me. The best parenting advice is to, you know, have kids when you’re ready. That’s all. – Sui Fen, Megan’s mom
When I was getting divorced, you were young and I was at a loss of what I was going to do and how I was going to deal with everything. My divorce attorney of all people gave me some great advice. He said., “just do whatever’s going to be best for your daughter and everything else will work out. I also got a lot of good advice from my older sister Jane, who’s also a mom. She told me that when your child becomes a teenager, keep giving them advice despite the fact that they act like they don’t listen. She said even though they might act like they think they know everything, keep giving them advice as much as you can, because they are listening, which you don’t always realize because they act like they’re not. Later on, you’ll see that they heard what you said – it might take years from now, but they will eventually. – Patti, Claire’s mom
3. What do you think is the most important lesson you ever taught me? What do you think is the best lesson I ever taught you?
Well I noticed – and I don’t know if that is genetic or emulation – the sense of duty with work and your work ethic. Not that I consciously meant to give that to you but it’s totally something that you have. Feeling bad when you have a sick day, etc. I’ve heard you stress out –okay, maybe that isn’t good. I don’t know if that’s by example? But you have good work ethic. A sense of duty. You don’t goof off. And as you grew up, you taught me to relax a little, in terms of how I reacted to you. I learned to be more forgiving. – Annemarie, Katrin’s mom
I would say the answer for both of those two is acceptance and of others. I think it’s very important, as a parent, to acknowledge that each of your children are completely unique and individual, and that has to do mostly with just who they’re born as. For me, that hasn’t been particularly hard. If I was a parent that had to deal with, for example, a child who had been born with severe challenges like disability, that would have been harder. I think, conversely, that children think that they should always be like somebody else, especially when they’re adolescents, to earn acceptance by their peers, and I think that they need to come to the understanding that they are who they are and that’s the best thing that they could wish for or want. And sometimes that comes with challenges. – Jean, Rebecca’s mom
One thing I’ve always told you, which is a lesson I still think is true, is to make sure that whatever you decide to do as your career is something you really love, because you’re going to spend a lot of hours of your life doing it. When you have a child, you learn so much about yourself from them. It’s amazing. You taught me that I had patience. You taught me how to fight for what I believed in because I did it for you. If I thought something was important for you, I would do whatever I had to do to make sure I could do it, whereas if it was for myself I might have had a harder time making it a priority or standing up for it. I didn’t think twice if it was for you. It’s just so different when you’re a mom, it’s hard to explain, you’ll just do anything that you can.
Another thing that really amazed me about being a mother is that when you were really young, I had a startling realization. I thought: “I am the manager of this person’s life, and what I do is going to determine what they learn and what they experience. Should she have swimming lessons? Should she learn how to skate? Should she learn how to a ride a bike?” You’re managing that person’s life! It’s really a big responsibility, and it was bizarre when it really hit me that that’s what I was doing. You’re deciding how healthy they’re going to be by what foods you give them, you’re deciding if they’ll go to the doctor or get their teeth cleaned or get their shots on time. You’re totally responsible for everything in that person’s life. It shows you how capable you are. It makes you feel good about yourself too. – Patti, Claire’s mom
4. What do you think about American parenting these days, in particular the various parenting trends that make headlines, like “birdfeeding,” unschooling, elimination communication i.e. no diapers, etc.?
I don’t even know about any of those what any of those are. What is unschooling? Letting them run around like street urchins? I don’t know. Elimination what? All three I don’t think I agree with. Ew. But I one thing I think is that kids are so scheduled nowadays They have too many things early on totally scheduled. The parents instead could maybe just be playful with them. – Annemarie, Katrin’s mom
I think children are given too much freedom. Children know too much these days because of social media, and parents should try to keep up with trends — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — in order to understand. Try to keep up with the trends with the kids, and set up standards. Parents need to have more flexibility to change with the trends. I think most parents are too soft, for me personally. – Sui Fen, Megan’s mom
I think it’s ridiculous how the world is so worried about protecting kids as far as ideas like “no one loses the game and they’re all winners” and how in elementary school these days everybody gets a ribbon no matter what just for participating. I guess that can be good in a way when you think about it, because then every kid can say “oh, I did it Mom!” But it’s not so bad to have somebody win! My generation of parents just wanted our kids to have everything, and I think in some ways we ended up making life too easy for your generation. – Patti, Claire’s mom
I have to admit I don’t know about these trends. I would encourage feeding of birds (if that is what THAT means). As for “unschooling”, I did oversee my children’s education as much as I could because I do think that the educational system does not encourage a child’s natural curiousity so much as they are preparing children to become very competitive and conformist “workers”. I did find myself trying to “undo” something you or your brother were taught in school. I don’t think there is enough focus on teaching children to think. I think there is an obsession with training the children to grow up and participate in pushing the national agenda in the global economy. You don’t want to get me started on what I think about the educational system. No diapers? What is that? Elimination communication? What is that? Are the two related? I could make a joke here but will refrain. – Cheryl, Amelia’s mom
5. What do you think about our society’s obsession with the “post baby body”?
I think it’s not fair to young mothers – the media is what fills that up and portrays that and shows those examples shortly after birth. It doesn’t do the new mothers any service because they have enough stress dealing with a new baby. The body will come back eventually anyway, it doesn’t have to come back so soon. That’s extra pressure. – Annemarie, Katrin’s mom
There is an obsession in general with people looking young and beautiful. The fact is, we live. We age. We die. This obsession is a childish failure to deal with reality. It would be far better for women to strive to be healthy in order to be strong and strive to be beautiful inside and be grateful one was able to give birth to a healthy child. There are mothers in Third World countries who can’t feed their children while we worry about the “post baby body”. But I do my ballet barre and yoga and I want to feel young and stay strong but I have always tried not to obsess over looking beautiful. I obsess over other things. – Cheryl, Amelia’s mom
6. How did parenthood change your friendships and your social life?
Actually, when you guys were small, it really improved my social life. I was parenting in a time when there weren’t a lot of babysitters and nannies, so I had a lot of interaction and made lifelong friends, because they were doing the same thing that I was doing, and by extension they became part of our social lives. You go through that period when you’re really young, in your early twenties, when you still have friends from school, but then things kind of fade apart, you start working, and you can become friends with your work friends, but it’s not sustainable. So it really created a really rich social environment for, like, twenty years. It was good. – Jean, Rebecca’s mom
I kind of found myself gravitating toward other mothers because we were experiencing similar daily routines, the same worries, etc. But in general much more time is spent caring for one’s child and there is less time for a social life, at least until children go to school. But then it was also demanding to oversee that the school experience was positive. The fact is, parenting takes a lot of TIME. I do admit that sometimes I find that the concerns some of my friends have who have not had children are very different from my concerns. – Cheryl, Amelia’s mom
7. What was the biggest lesson or takeaway you got from or challenge you faced by being either a working mom and/or a stay-at-home mom?
Being a working mom, a lot of times you have a lot of guilt and you worry that you’re not with your child enough, and that they’re being influenced by somebody else. That’s why it was really important to me for you to be babysat by family members most of the time when you were young. You had to go to latchkey sometimes but it wasn’t like you were at a daycare 24/7, and that was important to me. So you feel guilty sometimes if you’re going to miss some of the things that the stay-at-home moms get to do with the kids at school, like going to the lunch hours or helping in the classroom. That’s very hard. And it’s also hard to manage your time so that you don’t have to spend all your time off cleaning the house and getting groceries and things like that – you want to have time to have fun with your child too. The biggest challenge was finding the time to fit in quality time with your child, not just seeing them only when you’re making them do homework and go to bed. It’s important to find the time to really interact with each other and have fun. So how I balanced that was since I couldn’t help out at the school during the day and be a room mother, I decided I would do activities with your Girl Scout troop. That way I could be part of what was important to you but it was on my days off. – Patti, Claire’s mom
The challenge I faced was in dealing with the kind of physical and psychological stamina it takes to be there for the children and work at a job. If there was more support so that mothers (and fathers) didn’t have to struggle so much to do both, it would make it so much more joyful. I can’t imagine what it is like for mothers who can’t afford to stay home with an infant and have to go back to work immediately. It must be agonizing to know you may not watch the child take his or her first step, etc. I actually have students in my classes who work in the U.S. at low-paying jobs so they can send money back home to their country to put food on the table for their children…children they do not get to even see. Did you know that the original Mother’s Day was not just about being a mother BUT was about changing the world to be a more just and peaceful place? Look it up. The original Mother’s Day. And can I add how grateful I am to have such wonderful children. – Cheryl, Amelia’s mom
The balance is hard. I don’t have many guilty feelings about when I was doing volunteer stuff, because I think it really enriched your lives, too. I don’t think you guys would be the kind of activists you are if I hadn’t been doing all that stuff. Would you have? Maybe you would’ve.
I think I felt guilty when I was working at Expert Solutions [Rebecca’s parents’ business, when she was an adolescent], and maybe it was just that it was such a big change for you guys, but it seemed to be really difficult for you. In retrospect, what I’ve heard is that that was challenging for you, that I wasn’t there at home as much as I had been before. So that was the only time when I felt guilty. And man, I would get up at 2 o’clock in the morning sometimes to go to the office. It was crazyland. That balance – that’s one of the things that’s very important to me that one be able to achieve, is balance. I mean, that’s why I’m leaving this job and going to Texas, is because I hope to find a better balance in my life for what’s left of my life. – Jean, Rebecca’s mom
8. What do you think your life would have been like if you didn’t have children? Is there anything you wish you did that having kids prevented you from doing?
That’s so hard to imagine, because it’s like a whole different reality, it’s a philosophical question. Bereft. Well, that might be too strong, because that would imply that I wouldn’t have been OK with just being with myself. But I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t had children!think the only thing really that it did was it delayed things for me, but that didn’t stop me from doing them. Would I have been more financially successful? Maybe, but probably not in the time that I lived. I very much grew up with that mentality that I got from society, and from my parents, that girls were only nurses, secretaries, or teachers. That’s why I could never decide what I wanted to do, because I didn’t want to do any of those things. I think it was more a function of the time, and the mentality of the time, than anything else. The expectation was that you would have children. I mean, to this day I think I should’ve had a little red-headed boy, I would’ve really loved that!It sort of depends on how you define “successful,” doesn’t it? Because there’s a possibility that I would have been more successful career-wise, but maybe not! And your children make you fierce about what you want for them, and that also helps you define what you want for yourself, what you will accept and what you won’t. What I got in return for that delay was just the most wonderful people I know! – Jean, Rebecca’s momI can’t even imagine it. Eventually you can always do what you want to do. Go back to school, travel if you have the means. If I didn’t have kids, I think I would have a less rich life. We wanted kids. We wanted you guys. – Annemarie, Katrin’s mom