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Motherhood…today.

Last year I wrote a post about my mother. This is where I might link to that post but I’m not going to. I’ve had a rocky (to say the least) relationship with my mom. I’ve been angry. I’ve felt betrayed. I’ve felt unloved and unlovable. I’ve felt that everything I have and everything I am is in spite of how and what she thought I’d turn out to be. But, over the years I’ve slowly come to have an identity, parenting style and self image that comes from me – and isn’t just a reflection of myself through her all powerful eyes. You see, I clung to my mother for dear life because she was/is charming, intelligent, strong, independent, successful and beautiful- and most importantly, she was all I had. Her brand of love was the only kind I knew so I believed that if she deemed me unworthy, difficult, lazy, selfish etc. then I would need to hold on to her tighter or lose everything.

I didn’t want to have a daughter. I didn’t want to yield that kind of superpower over someone else’s life. And yet, at the same time I desperately needed a daughter because deep down I felt like I got it. And, when I was pregnant with Elby I was scared to death. I knew the responsibility I had to not fuck her up. It just seems so easy to fuck them up.

So I fed her little spirit. And I’ve tried to let her be exactly who she is. I try to answer all her questions without frustration even if I’m watching something riveting on MSNBC, I try to give her room to be sad, frustrated, impulsive, goofy, impossible, loving, compassionate and even mean without judgement, without trying to control her but with boundaries. Because as much as I might want to be, I’m not a pot smoking free spirit who could live on an organic farm and let my children spend their days exploring the acres of land with only their imagination as their guide. Not when she could go to preschool and Target and play with Barbies.

Now I have two more daughters and the demons of my past are back to haunt me. Will I be able to do it again? Is there enough patience in me? Am I strong enough to be a mother to a daughter who may have a few years of issues ahead of her? Is my mother correct? Am I selfish? I get so overwhelmed. I know what a powerful influence I am and will be forever.

I don’t speak to my mother or stepfather as I’ve posted about before. I can’t do it because every time I let them in, the seeds of doubt are replanted. Yes, they are that powerful. So I go about this with only myself as a guide –I worry I’m not the parenting Sherpa I want to be. Sometimes I just want to check out. Sometimes I don’t like my babies. Sometimes I blame them for bringing up all this insecurity in me. But, at least this time I know better because of Elby. She taught me that I have it in me. When I see her smile which could light the Disneyland Electrical Parade, when I see her dance the robot with all the serious intensity of a Soul Train performer, when I hear her sing all the words to Neil Young’s Old Man, when I hear her tell me “I don’t need any more hugs right now, mommy” I know I’ve already done something pretty cool. And as BHJ recently told me to say to myself when I’m in despair “I’m a mountain. I’m a motherfucker!” He rules. I’m going to hold onto that.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on July 1, 2008 8:23 pmUncategorized45 comments  

45 Comments

  1. Aunt Becky said,

    You put into words what I worry about if I have a daughter. And should that happen, you’ll be the first I go to for advice to how to work past those feelings.

    You’re doing a kick ass job with ’em all, Stef, you really are.

    | July 1, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

  2. Anonymous said,

    I’m now inclined to believe that we are given the parents we have (had) to build our character. I wouldn’t be the strong woman I am today without having experienced what I believe was MUCH LESS than stellar parenting. I needed the struggles for a reason. Not that I wanted them. But I sure learned what I needed (to do) later in life.

    | July 1, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

  3. Anonymous said,

    Wow-great post. I came on to comment about yesterdays post and my agreement about what a dumb ass John Mayer is and how Aniston keeps seeming to set herself up for more “broken hearted again” headlines and then…
    I am totally touched and almost cried(I’m six months preg so doesn’t really count)cuz I feel the same way all the time. It’s so damn difficult to know if you are doing the right thing or screwing them up.
    Just tell me this-is there anything “easier” about having more. Like, at least more distraction or something? anything?

    | July 1, 2008 @ 10:30 pm

  4. Stefanie said,

    I don’t think having more is making it easier yet. It’s better in the way that you know what you’re doing but it’s harder because your attention is so divided. But people do say it gets easier. So let’s just believe them shall we?

    | July 1, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

  5. Cheryl Lage said,

    To preceding anonymous…as another twin mama I DO feel there is something to be said for the “division” of focus…I cannot hyperdirect every ounce of my attention to one individual. Of course the equally challenging and guilt inducing corollary of that is I cannot hyperdirect everyounce of my maternal attention to one individual…at least with any consistency.

    Stef, you have such clarity…by acknowledging what you have, you’ve already dodged much of what has disappointed you in your mom-daughter relationship. You’ve got the lessons of history in your favor, you’re not doomed to repeat it.

    Granted as I see myself saying and doing things (particularly to my daughter) on more than one occasion I’ve thought, “Please Lord don’t let what I just said be one of her few retained memories from age 6.” Try, and try, try again. It’s all we can do.

    On a far lighter note, this “I don’t need any more hugs right now, mommy” so equates what my girl started saying at age 2 “Mommy, I need my space.”

    Maybe our daughters can meet in their teens and bemoan their huggy and overly-self criticizing mamas…as they plan to mother entirely differently….

    Love you–thanks for putting your thoughts to words with such candor.

    | July 1, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  6. Backpacking Dad said,

    I’ve been trying to write something soulful and honest here in this space for a little while, but I keep getting distracted by my 14-month old who is sitting on the floor in her mom’s sunhat, a diaper, and nothing else and you is trying to put my sandals on her tiny feet while also buzzing her lips like she is a sun-hatted-naked-motorboat.

    There’s something there…

    | July 1, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

  7. Mommy Melee said,

    I recently found out I’m having another boy. Part of me felt disappointed, since really we’ve always planned on having two kids. I have some weird mommy!guilt over wishing he was a girl. Like can he hear me??

    I am a girl. I remember being a girl. I crave the experience of sharing ladyhood with a daughter.

    It seems to be that just by acknowledging and voicing your fears, you are WAY ahead of the game.

    | July 1, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  8. Julie said,

    Your post packs a mighty punch, but with the photo of Elby at the end transforms it into knockout material.

    I sometimes think we are all the parents we are because of our parents — either because they were good ones and we want to be like them, or because they were crappy and we don’t. It’s a thought that gives me pause when I’m not at my best with Charlie. The responsibility not to fuck up carries such an awesome weight, not only unto our kids but unto their kids and beyond.

    And…well, I mean, yikes, right?

    | July 1, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

  9. goodmum said,

    Sounds like you’re “normal.” :) You don’t like your babies sometimes, but you still love them and want to do your best for them. I’m sure they couldn’t ask for more!

    | July 1, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

  10. Coma Girl said,

    Somebody once told me that because you, as a mother, worry about these things, it automatically makes you a great mother.

    Apparently shitty mothers could care less if they’re shitty mothers or not.

    | July 1, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

  11. LiteralDan said,

    I want my wife to read this, because I think she would get a lot of good things out of it… I’ll leave it at that.

    On second thought, are you sure you aren’t my wife’s secret lost sister or something?

    | July 2, 2008 @ 12:32 am

  12. MetroDad said,

    I don’t speak to my father because he’s a fucking asshole. However, my shrink thinks that having had an asshole dad is what made me such an awesome father myself. So much for small favors.

    We’re all mountains. And we’re all motherfuckers. That’s probably why we all turn to each other for advice and support when the shit gets tough. That BHJ can be a wise man sometimes.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 12:51 am

  13. Amanda said,

    I have a daughter as well, and it can be very scary! As far as I can tell, however, you rock.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 12:57 am

  14. Jenny said,

    To say the least, I have searched my life away to find the approval of my mother. That approval has not come and with time, I find myself each day realizing that though my mother was the be-all and end-all of my life as a child that now I am slowly becoming my own woman and my own version of a parent.

    I hope that my version of parenting is in the least less damaging, more loving, fun, stable, and accepting.

    If I achieve this by the end of my given time here on earth, then I will rest in peace.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 1:06 am

  15. jess said,

    Ugh. I haven’t commented in a long time, but I so get where you are coming from with regard to the toxic parent thing. But your daughter–she is adorable. Surely, the fact that you are even writing about this and thinking about it means you are ahead of the game.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 1:08 am

  16. CaraBee said,

    Beautifully said. I look at my daughter and my heart swells with love and pride for her. Every day I vow to be more for her than my own mother was for me. I hope I can help her build the confidence and peace she will need to navigate life, qualities my own mother was not concerned with instilling in her daughters. As Yoda would say, there is no try, there is only do or do not. So I do. And hope for the best.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 1:26 am

  17. zellmer said,

    Your honesty is outstanding, and so true. It’s so hard to know how not to repeat the same damaging patterns our mothers crippled us with. We are solely responsible for their self confidence, and that is so very frightening. I think your honesty and humor is a huge step in the right direction.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 1:55 am

  18. Black Hockey Jesus said,

    The image of Elby says more about your parenting than you can. Not an unhappy girl.

    And here’s a brutal fact. When individuals burn too brightly, people hate them. HATE THEM. And sometimes those people are their parents.

    It blows but it’s no reason not to burn.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 2:02 am

  19. Kyddryn said,

    Because you see how your mother carved you into pieces, you won’t do it to your daughters.

    They’re brilliant. You’re brilliant.

    You will do your best, and you will all have complex, beautiful relationships that change with time.

    One day they will think they hate you, and you will be stung by that, but they will secretly know that, despite their hasty word, despite their tears, despite the injustice of a mother who cares, they love you. Secretly, you will hold onto that and wait for them to admit it once again, to make peace.

    They will grow to be women who know what their mother’s mother was, and what their mother could have been but wasn’t, and they will be fearless in raising up their own daughters – at least, they will appear fearless. Like every mother who ever was, they will be awash with concerns, but they won’t let them show, because they will be mothers…and mother’s aren’t afraid of the bogey man, trolls, or things that go bump in the night, let alone of raising their children.

    Welcome to the circle – around and around and around we go, shaped and shaping by our pain, our love, our strength, our ability to heal and be healed, or to keep on despite the hurts.

    You’ll do fine.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 2:26 am

  20. Kristine said,

    I just wrote about my own mother yesterday.

    Although I always wanted a girl, in a way I was relieved when we found out Kiel was a boy. I don’t want to repeat the f’ed up relationship my mother had with her mother, and seems determined to have with me.

    Elby is stunning and everything I read has me believing you are doing an awesome job as a mom!

    | July 2, 2008 @ 2:31 am

  21. Rachael said,

    I believe that just by the fact that this is something you worry about, you are not your mother. Worrying about it means you care and you’re doing great.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 2:31 am

  22. Petunia Face said,

    I have a powerfully complex relationship with my mother, too. She is strong and beautiful and crazy (I mean seriously loco) and weak when all I ever wanted her to be was normal. So I find myself sometimes with my daughter overcompensating, being TOO normal, like a mom in a commercial because I’m so afraid that if I just be ME I will turn into HER, my mother.

    I loved this post. Then again, I love all of your posts. Your blog and your books are such an inspiration to me (clue the sappy muzak). But seriously–you commented on my blog today and I felt as if Davey Jones himself had kissed my cheek. Thank you.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 3:27 am

  23. dana said,

    I think your honesty, and your willingness to admit you have fears is what makes you a great mother. A wonderful mother, because without addressing that reality, it’s hard to jump some of the hurdles of motherhood.

    You’ve shared with us something that we can relate to (even though I have a son — but I hope for a daughter someday), it’s brilliant.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 3:46 am

  24. andi said,

    This was amazing. Thank you for writing it.

    I actually have a good relationship with my mother, but one thing I’m struggling with lately is how to let my daughter be who she is (strong-willed, independent, intelligent and inquisitive) because I think those qualities are so important for a woman to have. Sadly, those qualities can be frightening in a three-year-old. Sometimes I just want her to be “nice” and not question authority. Then I have to remind myself that that is the exact opposite of who I want her to be.

    Ugh. This parenting gig is so hard sometimes. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job, despite your shitty role models.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 4:07 am

  25. gmcountrymama said,

    Of course, in my case, my mother is not beautiful, intellegent, or successful but she still kills a little part of me everytime I see her.
    So I see less and less of her.
    Your girls are lucky to have you as their mom.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 5:25 am

  26. reneedesigns said,

    I have a good relationship with my mom and she still manages to plant some seeds of self-doubt in me about my parenting ability. But I only have to look at my daughter to know that I am doing the right things, even if I doubt myself all the time.

    I love Elby’s look of pure joy. You can’t fake that. It didn’t happen by accident but because of the parent that you are to her. So hang on to that when you are feeling low.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  27. Threeundertwo said,

    Great post. You are a clearly a great mom because you do think of these things.

    Raising girls is so hard. Actually, raising boys is hard too. It’s all set up for disaster. We just do our best.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  28. Kelsey said,

    I echo the idea that being thoughtful about your parenting already puts you ahead of the game. All your girls are lucky to have you.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  29. Elise said,

    I think the very fact that you are aware and concerned that you could possibly have a negative effect on your baby girls is proof positive that you’ll never have THAT kind of negative effect. I mean sure, they’ll hate you for a second for not letting them stay out past curfew that one time, but they’ll never wonder if you love them. Or how much you love them. What matters more than that, really?

    | July 2, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  30. Becky said,

    It’s amazing how much our mothers affect our lives – just remember, don’t be so hard on yourself all of the time! Your children will flourish (just like you have).
    :) Becky
    http://www.stinkylemsky.typepad.com/

    | July 2, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

  31. Kate said,

    Thank you for sharing this. I have never thought more about my mother and her mothering until having my own daughter. Since becoming a mom my relationship with my mom has really changed. Not for the better or even the worse but it’s just different. I sometimes feel sad for the childhood that I had and wonder why my parents didn’t want to give me the kind of life that I want to give my little girl. I want to give her everything and shower her with affection and praise. You’re a great mom and your girls are really lucky Steph!

    | July 2, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  32. Lynsey said,

    Ok well I think you rock as a mom and I think we will all screw up our kids in one way or another BUT moving forward and always striving to be a better mom will keep your kids happy, sane, and out of counceling. It’s so scary to be responsible for another human being that sometimes we doubt ourselves just as we would climbing a mountain…can we really do it? Yes we can if we want to.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

  33. Becca said,

    From what I can tell, you’re a wonderful mother to all three of your children. Elby seems to have turned out wonderfully and that picture of her is adorable!

    | July 2, 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  34. Heather said,

    Typical BHJ stealing my comment. But, I’ve seen you with Sadie. I know how much you worry about all three girls. You’ve been through a lot and I know how overwhelming all the shit you’ve been through is. But, bottom line – you are a great mom.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

  35. ChicMama! said,

    Oh, I so identify. Beautiful, beautiful post about this tough issue.

    I’m pregnant. I had actually hoped and blogged about wanting a second boy because my relationship with my mother is challenging. Sadly, I’d just as soon have another boy and dodge the mother-daughter dynamic. So of course as soon as I put this in writing for the Internet to see, I find out it’s a girl. After initial freak-out, I’ve come to terms with it. A friend with older girls and similar mom-daughter relationship to mine said this: “You are not your mother, and your daughter is not going to be like you. It will be fine.” It’s become a mantra. Hopefully I remember that after she’s here.

    You’re doing the best you can, and you’re mindful of your history. That already gives your girls an excellent start.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

  36. iheartchocolate said,

    The further I am from my mother, (geographically) the less power over me she has. When I met my husband 4 years ago, she had a wicked-weird power over my mind and my life, things have improved with distance. If I lived with her, it would be mind tripping weirdness again though..for sho. I really relate to what you said, I fight the echo of my mother’s voice in the back of my head telling me I am lazy or selfish. Now, how the heck do I NOT repeat her mistakes? I don’t have the answer to that one. Yet.

    | July 2, 2008 @ 11:47 pm

  37. insanemommy said,

    I connected to this post on some many levels. Crazy freaky mom. My mom, not me. Well, that’s not true either. They don’t call me “insane mommy” for Nothing. Raising twin daughters, who some days I don’t like. BUT, yes I love them with every breath I take. I enjoy reading your blog! Good stuff…

    | July 3, 2008 @ 2:11 am

  38. momomax said,

    I can’t believe that post was a year ago. I remember that post. As much as I adore my mom, she can still reduce me to tears for exhibiting characteristics of my father. Despite my rocky relationship with her at times, I’m excited to be having a daughter. I know that I’m going to fuck up somehow but its going to be my greatest accomplishment if I don’t…too much. Elbe is a rock star with that smile. Wow

    | July 3, 2008 @ 2:50 am

  39. Piccinigirl said,

    wow, that post was amazing. I think you’re a fantastic mother. A Fucking Fantastic mother.

    I had boys and somedays I am so happy that I won’t have a daughter to screw up and then I wonder if I could do it better, wiser, with all the mistakes behind me …I guess I’ll never know.

    | July 3, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

  40. LD said,

    See it’s posts like this that make me love you! It made me laugh and sympathize at the same time.
    I’m close with my parents, so different experience, but I still believe that you make a choice every day as a parent.
    Anyway, seriously, kids bring out the best and the worst in us.

    | July 3, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  41. supermom said,

    I haven’t been reading your blog long enough to really comment on your parenting. What I read from this entry though…you love your kids. You care what happens to them and how they will cope with things emotionally. I think that’s all that really matters in the end.
    That’s a real sweet photo of her

    | July 4, 2008 @ 5:12 am

  42. ct said,

    Wow, not even sure how I ended up reading your blog, but this post has me hooked. I love that there are women out there who are not afraid to be real about motherhood and realize how important we, and all our baggage, are to our children. I’ve just read a few articles so far, but thank you for being that beacon in the night for us moms out here that don’t feel like playing Mrs. Brady.

    | July 7, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  43. Mom to the Girls said,

    WOW! Amazing post. I read your guest post on ‘Dad Gone Mad’ and just had to read on! You probably here this a million times a day, but I’ll say it anyway. I totally relate! The simple fact that you ‘get’ where you come from means ‘you don’t gotta do what they did’ and shit woman… YOU WON’T. I dig your spirit! Here’s to bitches who make it out alive! Can’t wait to keep reading!

    | July 7, 2008 @ 10:30 pm

  44. courtney said,

    Wow, thank you. I just found you today from a link to a link. Anyway, I do not yet have children, but have finally gotten to the point of wanting children, but still have this baggage from my “mother” (my mom died when I was two and my step mother adopted me) and am scared that I want children for the wrong reasons or that I will mess them up more than I was.

    Everything you have said about your mother is what this woman was/is to me. I too have cut her out of my life, and some days I start second guessing myself about it even though I know that it had to be done, but, it was a long road to get to that point.

    Anyway helps ease some of my fears to see someone who is “breaking the cycle”.

    | July 9, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  45. Izzy said,

    Elby sings the words to Neil Young’s Old Man? Dude. That kid RULES.

    | July 10, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

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