When we were little it seemed as though mom had magic powers. If you had a boo-boo, she would kiss it and make it better. If you had a hard day at school, she had milk and cookies that would comfort you when you got home. She even seemed able to heal inside hurts as well as outside hurts. Somehow when we got bigger, as one little girl said sadly, “It doesn't work anymore.”
Sometimes we may feel mad at mom for losing her magic powers. The price of growing up is that we have to learn how to make things better ourselves. Too often mom gets blamed for doing the things she has to do to help us grow up, so that we can take care of ourselves. At first she puts us to bed when we want to stay up. Then she tells us when we have to be home — even though we want to stay out with our friends. She makes us brush our teeth and wash our hands before meals. She makes sure we do out homework. She helps us learn to share our toys — first the little toys and then the bigger ones.
What mom does is teach us how to live in the real world with other people. These lessons can be hard to learn at times, and so we may think it is mom's fault that we had to learn hard lessons. At times it almost seems as though there are two mothers: the good mother who heals the hurts, and the bad mother who makes us do the things we would rather not do. Maybe that is why there are so many jokes told at mom's expense. That may be a way of getting back at her for the hard things we had to do.
As children, we don't realize how hard mothers are trying to do the very best they can for us. If we become mothers ourselves we begin to see things differently. Most mothers worry a lot about whether they are doing the right thing for their children. They feel guilty if their children seem unhappy, or want things they cannot give them. These days many mothers are working at jobs outside the home to help support the family, as well as doing all the jobs at home. One thing they often cannot give their children is enough time — or as much time as they and their children might like. Mothers feel guilty about that.
Many mothers say that the hardest thing about being a mother is never knowing if you are doing a good job of raising your children. At other kinds of jobs you know when your work is good. You may get praise, a raise or even a promotion. But mothers don't get raises or promotions for mothering. Children will tell you what they don't like, but rarely give you positive feedback. And we can never know ahead of time how they will turn out!
Page 2 of 2 - The challenges of mothering are the same no matter who you are. We all want to do the most for our children and sometimes we can lose sight of what is enough. Children may give us the message that nothing is enough because they can always find something more to want. One mom said at the end of the day her children sometimes complain about what she didn't do — not seeming to notice what she did do.
When Mother’s Day comes around, that’s supposed to be the time we tell mom how much we love her.
We send beautiful cards, buy flowers and perfume as a way of showing how much we care. But there is one gift mother would appreciate more. What mothers most want is to hear that they are doing a good job. They want to know that the “kids are all right.” Praise helps people feel good about themselves.
Praise for a job well done is the best gift we can give a mother. And there is no one she would rather hear it from than YOU!
Dr. Elaine Heffner, LCSW, Ed.D, is author of "GoodEnoughMothering." Visit her website at www.GoodEnoughmothering.com.