How to be a great mom

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If you happen to have the answer, please let me know because apparently I don't have an f'ing clue.

Oh, you thought this was  "how to" piece? Clearly you don't read my blog much.

In my pre-mommy days, the rules of the road were relatively straightforward. Study hard, put in the work, get the reward. Sure, there was some luck and really good timing thrown in there somewhere, but 9 times out of 10 hard work lead to some type of reward. In school, it was good grades. At work, a positive review or promotion. When training for marathons, it meant crossing the finish line without passing out.

And then I had kids.

While it should have been relatively obvious that my formula for success in life would not have many direct applications to mommy-hood, I continue to find it REALLY HARD to shake the method that's worked for the past thirty-ish years (OK, closer to 40 but who's counting...). The first, and least obvious challenge when applying the "hard work = success" method to parenting is the definition of parenting success. What does it mean to be a good mom? Does it mean perfectly behaved kids? Ivy League admissions? Kindness? Playing well with others? All of the above? The challenge of defining parenting success is that the definition is ever-changing and highly case-specific. If your ultimate goal is to create strong, independent adults who have something more than reality-show fodder to offer the world you won't really know if you've succeeded for a good 20+ years - and by then it's probably too late to do anything.

The second challenge to my method-to-a-successful-life-thus-far is that the model assumes efficiency - that there is a relatively straight line correlation between parenting input and kid output. Well, anyone who has ever had kids (or been around young kids for anything longer than 15 minutes) can tell you that with kids NOTHING happens in a straight line. They learn through repetition - and no, I don't mean the neat-and-tidy writing your lines on the bulletin board over-and-over-and-over again repetition, but by asking the same question 15 times in a row to see if they get the same answer. Or dropping a spoon from the high chair over-and-over-and-over again to see if it always makes the same noise. Kids learn best through experience, and experience takes time, repetition and a boat load of mommy-patience (things that are in woefully short supply at BadAssMama Central, but I'm working on it...).

I think the biggest difference between mommy-success and career-success is that parenting is truly about the journey. Yes, I know that sounds like a corny Hallmark card, but the longer I'm in this mommy gig the more I realize that it's not about how old my kids were when they learned how to walk or write their name, it's about how WE got there as a family. The joy in Angel's eyes when he realized that the newborn Victor was "his baby" (and not just some random kid that we brought home for the weekend). The monkey-see-monkey-do act between big brother and little bro. The sense of accomplishment they feel when they realize they can do things on their own.

And the realization that they go from babies to teenagers in the blink of an eye, so we should focus on the journey much more than the final destination.
A said...

As a working mother of five, those catch-phrases are really important, like "keep your eye on the end result" and "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how much fun you have playing the game." One of my friends summed it up best for me, though: "All you have to do is teach your kids to respect themselves and have respect for others. The rest follows naturally."

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