Any veteran mom is used to dodging the slings and arrows of the child who complains that she is the meanest mama ever, or that all the other mamas are better, or that she revels in making her children miserable. Most of my compadres adopt the same attitude I do, when this happens: We feign great glee and comment that our dastardly plans are finally coming together! (Bonus points for a crazed glint in the eyes and fiendish hand-rubbing.) I am accustomed to such rantings from my kids. Such comments truly no longer bother me in the slightest. I expect them and know they’re a good indication that I’m doing my job.
I was completely caught off-guard, yesterday, when a seemingly innocuous comment from my daughter cut me to the quick. We were having a great morning (indeed, the entire day was lovely), and after I consented to perhaps the third in a series of granted requests, Chickadee hugged me and then ran off, calling to her brother.
“Monkey! Come quick! Mama’s being nice today!”
I closed myself in my bathroom and fought back tears.
I’m able to completely shrug off being called mean, but hearing my daughter sound so SURPRISED that I’m being “nice” reduces me to hopeless melancholy.
I can assure myself until the cows come home that my children will grow up understanding what I’ve done for them, but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. Maybe what’s making the biggest impression in their little heads is that I say no a lot.
My job is to raise them the best way I know how, and I’m trying to do that. I don’t want to be the kind of parent who places greater importance on their kids’ WANTS than on their long-term NEEDS. Do I hope that when all is said and done, and they are grown and on their own, that we’ll discover friendship with one another? Absolutely. Do I think being their “buddy” at this point is the goal? Nope. Do I expect them to appreciate or even understand the sacrifices being made for them? Not really.
Maybe, when Chickadee said that, if I’d had a mate here to chuckle and rib me about it, I would’ve shrugged it off. If I had a partner in this parenting thing–a bit of perspective and a bit of support–maybe I wouldn’t, in my darker moments, worry that all the kids are processing is “Daddy is fun” and “Mama makes us do chores.” I can’t know for sure, of course.
[Also, I can hear that vein bulging in my ex’s forehead from here. I’m not saying that he never does anything, or that his parenting style is wrong. We have, in recent times, managed to come together productively on issues concerning the kids when we need to. But none of this changes the facts that 1) the kids are with me most of the time and 2) I am much stricter than he is. This is aside from the fact that his parenting style is wrong. HAHA! (Kidding; please no conniptions in the comments.)]
I did not set out to be a single mother. It’s harder than having an in-house co-parent, of course, in the purely logistical sense. Over the last few years I think I’ve largely adapted to where there’s very little about it that seems any harder than it ought to be. I’ve hit my groove, and things are pretty good around here. For them.
For me, the longer I’m on my own, the more keenly I feel the loss of having a someone around to reassure me that I’m doing it right, to help me recharge when I’m worn out, to remind me that a declaration that I’m “being nice” does not necessarily indicate an assumption that I’m usually a bitch. I don’t need a co-parent as much as I need someone that helps take care of ME, after I spend 90% of my time taking care of the kids.
Also, I would like my own personal leprechaun who periodically slides down his rainbow, chucks gold coins at me and tells me to buy myself something pretty.
(I never said either desire was reasonable or achievable….)
Anyway. It was a moment, and it passed. We went about our day–out with friends, running errands, walking up and down the aisles at the local craft store puzzling out a project Chickadee’s working on and what materials we’d need–and had a great time. Today we had a pajama day in the white glow of this morning’s blizzard, and by the time supper rolled around, we were in our familiar routine. I chopped lettuce and tomatoes while Monkey wandered into the kitchen, sniffing at the air with a distrustful expression on his face and peering into the skillet on the stove.
“Why do you always make things for dinner that I HATE?” he whined. I clenched my teeth and pointed out that he LIKES tacos, that in fact I had chosen tacos BECAUSE I know it’s something that he likes, and that I try very hard to make a nice dinner every night and– I stopped.
“I make things for dinner that you hate because I’m trying to kill you,” I told him. His whines turned to reluctant giggles as I kissed his neck.
“I like tacos, Mama,” piped up Chickadee. “In fact I like EVERYTHING that you make for dinner.” Her sucking up earned her a kiss and a squeeze as I slid past her to put milk on the table. And then she and I enjoyed our dinner while Monkey blew bubbles into his milk and whined until I excused him. Afterwards, he cleaned up in the playroom while Chickadee helped me with the dishes. Later, we all read together, and I tucked them both into their beds and bid them goodnight.
It’s okay. They’re okay. It’s only me who’s not.
Makes me wonder what I said at that age that hurt my mom… I know it’s not the same as having someone there with you, but we’re all here rooting for you. And remember, *I* like tacos, too!
When you say ‘no conniptions’, are you including old fashined hissy fits in there too? Not that I want to have either. Just a point of clarification.
Oh, and by the way, I was the mean mother today when I kept after my 16 year old daughter ALL DAY to please do the 30 minutes worth of chores I asked her to this morning.
So at 9 this evevning she couldn’t believe I kept making her come out of her room where she was reading to do the work. I? Am evil. Apparently.
Recently — after a whole weekend alone with my 2 year son, when I was sick and he refused to nap — I called my mother to tell her thank you and that I now think she is a saint. She was a single mom from the time I was 1ish to 5 — and most assuredly she was the strict one.
The fast forward moment to cling to is that I think my mother is a saint and did everything in her power to make me a productive, decent adult. The fun one? Well, what does it say that i never even thought about him when I was dealing with hyper 2 year old?
My kids aren’t at that point yet. My daughter has her moments, of course, as all 3 year olds have all kinds of MOMENTS, but not to that extent. My step-daughters, however, MY GOD. Sometimes, we are great together – hanging out, talking girl stuff, watching movies, eating popcorn, making fun of dad… and then, all of a sudden OMG! I’m TOTALLY RUINING THEIR LIVES AND THEY WISH MY DAD NEVER EVEN MET ME, THAT WAY THEY WOULDN’T HAVE HIT PUBERTY AND BECOME MINIATURE SYBILS!
Remember when our moms used to be like “You won’t understand until you have kids of your own!” and we were all yeah, whatever, what a cop-out. Then we had kids and we’re all DAMNIT! WHY MUST SHE HAVE BEEN RIGHT! GAHHHHH!
They’ll understand. Maybe not soon. But the day will come.
At least, that’s what I’m convincing myself.
Yeah, I’m the mean one over here too (I joke that “I’m going for the gold medal!”), and yep – it gets really tiring and lonely rowing upstream against a fierce wind by myself.
I console myself with the thought that I’ll need those muscles once my oldest hits teen-dom any minute now. Also with the rationalization that I’ve surely earned the adult beverage I indulge with post-battles.
Hey, whatever gets you through…
When I was about 9 or so I remember telling my Mom that I loved her but Dad was my favorite because he was more fun. And she said it was okay to think of people differently.
Now, realizing everything that my Mom did for my sister and me, the memory of that conversation makes me want to cry.
Perhaps I am wrong about this, but it *seems* to me that this particular post was more about you feeling lonely and less about you feeling like a bad mama. Cause let’s face it – we all know you’re a great mama. :)
But I wanted to say that I’m so sorry that you’re feeling alone. And sometimes we all need someone to take care of us, back us up, reassure us.
I am a mother, but I am not a single mother, so I will not pretend to know or understand what you are feeling. But I wanted to send along hugs and support vibes and other comforting stuff like that.
You won’t be alone forever. And I love tacos. :)
You do realise that there is most likely a causal relationship between
Man, Chickadee! I totally give you an internet time out. Bad form!
My wonderful, loving, pain in the ass, drama king, hilarious, whiny son lives in the moment. And occasionally one or two other moments. So I sometimes get, “You’re the best mummy ever!” just after I make him an icecream cone, even if we’ve fought all day, but I OFTEN get, “Why are you so bossy? Why are you mean?” after I say no to him about something for the first time in SIX HOURS.
I imagine your kids are similar??
It’s bloody hard not to take it personally, huh.
Oh wait, maybe that’s a good thing? : )
My daughter would say: but, all my friends have TV’s in their rooms, why can’t I have one in mine. To date she still does NOT have a TV in her room. Now that she’s 18 she feels the need for wireless router for her laptop. Seee…..when we were growing up we were satisfied with a roof and food on the table. LOL
These are the moments, sans partner, that call out for the Black Knight. He can remind you, “It’s only a flesh wound.” Maybe if you repeat it often enough….
There’s no replacement for a loving partner to share the slings and arrows with, but like everyone else has said, We out here love and support you from afar.
(Some preferably with afar, but for now you’ll have to get afar from KY-2.)
1. Years ago Steph and I were getting ready to play with her magnetic castle/kingdom set. There’s an evil-looking queen sort of character, so Steph said, “Mom, you know how you’re always ANGRY? You can be her!”
2. Once Steph looked up at me adoringly and said, “You know who’s my favorite person in the family?” “No,” I said, practically dripping with syrupy love for her. “Daddy!” she replied.
I am fairly certain I hold the award for meanest mama ever. I hear this quite often from my 5 year old. I have offered to find him a new nice mama – but he hasn’t taken me up on it, yet!! I know exactly how you feel, being a single mom and feeling like your on your own. My sons dad decided not to stay in his life after the divorce, so it is just me and grandparents. Try being compared to the ones who will give him everything!! We’ll survive and I hope it is true that they will realize why we do the things we do, why we are “so mean”. Somehow me saying “I do it because I love you” doesn’t work for him so well. I hear, but everyone else’s mom…fill it in – I have heard them all. I hope things will get easier, but I have this feeling the older they get the harder it might be!!
You may not be as happy as you deserve to be but you are OK.
As for corraboration that you are “doing it right”: I could easily ask everyone on your blog to voice their opinions of your parenting skills. You would be inundated with praise. Your ego would soar (at least for a while) but I suspect the issue would not be resolved in your mind. You’re too tough on yourself.
I’m not issuing a widespread call for kudos. You’re going to have to settle for daddy just telling you…You’re doing it right.
They say things without realizing what they just said. It’s hard not to let it hurt. It’s not your job to be the nice mommy. It’s your job to be the parent, and there are times that it sucks.
I think I’d be second-guessing myself if I didn’t have Mike around to confirm that I was doing ok, or telling me that maybe I was a bit soft, or a bit too tough on them…so that’s totally understandable.
From where I sit, you are doing a great job.
I can offer perspective as someone who grew up in a single-parent home with a Mom who was the strict one and a Dad who wasn’t. My relationship with my mom now is light years ahead of my relationship with my dad, and I think the fact that she was there, even when I sometimes did think she was the meanest mommy in the world, is the reason why. You? Are doing just fine. And *so* pretty!
Bless your heart, youngun.
I just got back from a week with my 80 year old mother–she raised me the hard way and unfortunately I made that road harder every step of the way. I am so grateful that she did, and your kids will thank you (and apologize) too someday.
*chucks coins* Go buy yourself something pretty!
Mir, being a single parent has its up times, and a lot of down times. But someday when Chickadee is in high school she will have to write an essay about her hero, and you will cry your eyes out to find you made all the difference in her world. I know I did.
Now I am going to go order flowers for my mom for my 50th birthday.
Oh, sounds like a rough, rough day. I can tell just from how you write about your kids that you’re a good parent. And when they grow up, they’ll remember the fun and the love, not the “no’s.” But your post makes me think that I should learn to enjoy Zoe’s baby babble and not be in a hurry for her to learn to talk!
I think you’ve taken on a noble hero’s role. And you’re doing it wonderfully.
It’s funny how only adults understand the power of “no”. And that “no” is a complete sentence.
The little ones will know that, too. And you will be the one to have taught them that. ;)
Go back and read the comment that your dad left. There. Now, don’t you feel all warm and fuzzy and loved? He sounds like a wonderful person and I can only imagine that you are following his example in raising your own children. So, if I’m correct in that assumption, you are most assuredly doing it right. Someday they will feel all warm and fuzzy whenever they think of you… and in the meantime, read Hebrews 12:5-11. Then the next time your children complain about your meanness, tell them it’s an edict from God. *HUGS*
If it’s any help, I have an extremely active co-parent, and I’m still convinced I do everything wrong! (perhaps because I get reminded more often, I dunno) Those pesky internal voices! If they’d just be quiet we could sort all this out.
I know EXACTLY how you feel. I’m the 2nd meanest mommy in the whole world (next to you of course!) and my kids think their life at home sucks. Because I make them do homework. And I make them do chores. And I enforce punishment. And their dad? Well, he’s the Disney Daddy. Fun time, play time, good time. They don’t have “rooms” at his house to clean. Out of 14 days they have 2 nights of dinner and 3 over-nights to his house. Of course I’m the evil minion. I don’t let this bother me. One day they’ll see which of their parents was the adult and made the hard decisions and sacrifices while the other went to live on their own because they felt unhappy and unfulfilled.
I’m sure you know this already, but I just wanted to point out: having a guy around doesn’t necessarily equal instant support. Sometimes I’d rather have a roaring silence than all the resistance I get from the co-parent (or is he the third kid?).
My oldest excitedly cries, “Mommy said YES!” in the same tone of wonder and excitement you would use to exclaim, “The whole world turned purple overnight!”
Try not to be so hard on yourself, hon. You are a smart, forward-thinking, caring, dedicated mother. With or without a partner to defuse those unthinking things that kids sometimes say.
I, too, have had moments like that….Big Hug!