“When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement.”
Those were words written in and spoken by Melissa, the first mom to share her story. Melissa had participated in Group 1 and was ready/nervous/frightened/determined to participate in this group, as she thought it would be beneficial to share the same honest and open experience with her daughter.
This project had been going on for a year and a half by the time this group took place back in June.
Every group is eye-opening, every group is relatable, every group has compelling stories that evoke much emotion.
This group was all of those things and more.
The emotion involved this night was the most intense of any yet.
Why? Because being a mom is an emotional roller-coaster that none of us are really fully prepared for. And most of the time, we’re not all talking about the tougher side of motherhood.
We’re not talking about how much anxiety it can cause.
How isolating it can often be.
We’re not talking about how sometimes being a mom fucking sucks.
How much we question every. single. step. that we take.
We talked this night about all of it. We talked about the mistakes we’ve made. We talked about where we think we may have done things right. We talked about so many things.
***The mom with the son and daughter whom she feels she’s failed. She never wanted kids anyway…is that wrong?? Is it wrong to vocalize??
***The mom who had to work full-time to support her alcoholic, drug-abusing husband, who had to leave their daughter there to care for him at these times because there seemed to be no other option. Who watched her daughter not get to experience a real childhood…did she totally screw up?? Will her daughter be okay??
***The mom who has always cared too much about others’ feelings toward her, who feels she has set a bad example for her teen daughter, especially in respect to men. Who became a victim of abuse and stayed…did she completely fail her daughter with that example, even though she finally left?? Will her daughter make the same mistakes??
***The mom who experienced tragedy and powered through, seemingly stoic. Who has always been the pillar, the strong one on the outside…should she have shared more?? Should she have cried in the open more??
***The mom who never feels like she’s enough, who has also experienced tragedy and loss you and I could not imagine experiencing. Has she been too emotional?? Is she setting the right example??
***The mom who felt like a huge failure simply from stepping into that role too young, who is always trying to live up to expectations of someone she’ll never be able to actually get approval from. Is he proud of her?? Did she work hard enough??
I promise you that you will relate to at least one of these stories.
We all seem to have these thoughts running through our heads. We compare ourselves to everyone else. There are often overwhelming feelings that the other moms are, simply, just doing it better. ‘They’re not possibly almost losing their shit as we feel like we are…they’ve got it together. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?!’
And then you sit down and talk to a few of them and there’s a big “A-HA!” moment – we’re all the same. We’re scared. We’re exhausted. We’re scraping by. We’re overwhelmed. We’re insecure. We’re desperate for some validation that we’re each doing, at least, ‘alright’.
This particular group came about because, not just do we need some solidarity as moms, but, we need some as moms raising daughters. The mother-daughter dynamic is one of the most influential (and just happens to be the one we’re talking about this time). Our daughters most often learn from us what it means to be a woman. A father can see his daughter as separate from himself, but, this can be much more difficult for a mother. In my own experience, my mothering of my daughter versus my son differs in ways I often wish it wouldn’t. Affection comes much easier with my son, especially now that my daughter is a teenager. Do I think this is because of my own relationship, or lack thereof, with my own mother growing up (more on that and the mother/daughter dynamic here)? Because of the lack of affection that went on in my own childhood home? Definitely. I often simply do not know how to show affection to my daughter. It feels so foreign. And it KILLS ME. It’s the number one thing I wish I could change in our relationship. I am her biggest cheerleader and her main advocate in all things – I will take on the world for/with her, but it’s difficult to give her a hug. WHAT?! Crazy, I know. Which is why I had my daughter (14) join us this evening as well. We could relate to so much of what was said. We needed to talk this stuff through also.
It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the similarities in insecurities between the mothers and daughters. I watched the pattern as all of their write-ups came through to me in the days before…and it made me cry. We pass these things on to our daughters (maybe our sons, too. probably our sons, too.) without even realizing it. It’s devastating. The recognition on each of these moms’ faces when realizing how similar their daughters’ insecurities are to theirs…it was a very shocking and enlightening moment. A teaching moment. Where maybe we didn’t realize this before…we thought we weren’t vocalizing these things…if we’re not vocalizing them, it’s okay, right?? Seems to be wrong. We, as their moms, are the number one influence on how our daughters feel about themselves. Our kids are sponges, not just of our words, but, most definitely of our actions. And, really, not all of this can be helped. We can’t just be these super shiny examples of doing everything perfectly, that’s just not realistic. But, we can be aware. This made us aware. I know it taught me to share. I already share quite a bit and try to do so at appropriate times with my daughter, regarding different experiences in life, but, it was emphasized even more to me how important it is. Being “real”, being honest, is vital.
I’m breaking this group up into blogs of each mother/daughter duo (or grandma/mother/daughter trio, in one case) in the order of the evening, for the sake of telling each of their stories in a less overwhelming package. The most important things that were said this evening were the things said in-between what had been written. There was so much conversation that went into much more detail. So, I will be including a bit of that with each mother/daughter story. Hopefully, this will give each woman the chance she deserves to have her experience told…as a mother…as a daughter…together.
(links to previous groups can be found at the bottom of the page)
Melissa & Lily ~
Melissa J. ~ “What am I insecure about? So, this is my second around at this. Facing my insecurities the first time wasn’t easy. Who knew I had more skeletons in my closet?! Round 1, I spoke about my insecurities with my weight, body image and lack of self-esteem.
A major insecurity for me now is that I’m not making the right decisions when it comes to my kids. When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement. I’ve tried to raise my kids with morals, values and respect. I raised my kids like my parents raised me, minus the things I thought they did wrong. What I missed was self-worth.
When my son was young, he was so confident and so happy. So I didn’t worry about him. My daughter was shy. I was so worried she would be like me, shy and afraid. So I signed her up for different classes, made her talk to people when she didn’t want to, and made her ask for things she wanted. Today, she is a confident and strong young woman. She knows who she is and I am very proud of her.
What is more painful for me is her brother. I no longer see that happy, self-assured boy and that kills me inside. He cowers and retreats when he’s challenged or questioned. He doesn’t see his value, questions his worth and the love we have for him. I don’t know where the line of being too stern or not begins and ends. How can I trust anything I say and do now if this is the result of parenting thus far? This is my biggest insecurity.”
Melissa’s friends and family ~
“One of the things I admire Melissa for is how she looks after her Mom and teaches her children to do the same. She’s a great mom, very loyal to her friends, takes good care of my son. I wouldn’t trade her.” – Evie
“She is always there to support family and friends.
She is passionate for food and culture.
She has strong opinions on what she believes and stands by them.
She is kind and caring.” – Tina
“I love how you are a great Mom – having patience, understanding, and the follow-through to enable our children to be the best well-rounded people they can be.
I love your sense of humor as we almost always are finding the humor in life.
I appreciate how you are a great daughter as you take care of your mother in a selfless, patient and loving way.
I appreciate how you always take the time to put your love into your art of cooking.
I love you for your patience with me and all of my faults.
I love how you make me want to be a better husband and father.” – Scott
Further from Melissa: “My kids think I’m this tough ass, kick-your-ass type of mom if you mess with me – part of the whole “failure” thing is sometimes I think, when it came down to it, I didn’t do it when I should have or when I needed to. And that’s part of the failing…I was raised with girls and having a son is SO different. And all of the expectations that come with having a son – and having a husband who has a son – you see that our expectations are even different…even at three, the expectations of being a man were already on my son…in hindsight, I can see where we could have made a difference, could have changed something, but it’s about moving forward from this point. Where do you go?”
We then spoke a bit about the men’s group that we did earlier this year, in which we discussed very much about that connotation of “be a man” and what that does to boys, and later, men. More on that can be found here: Group 7 – Men!
Lily (age 13) ~ “My main insecurity is failure. I feel like I fail at everything. At being a good friend, keeping my grades/GPA up, meeting my parents’ expectations, personal goals, and being perfect.
I really want to be perfect, but whenever I try to get an A, get perfectly skinny, have perfect hair, perfect anything – I always end up failing. And sometimes I’ll start to reach that goal of being perfect, but, as I said, I always end up failing for reasons that are, honestly, pretty dumb. Most times I will overthink WAY too much and beat myself up for failing and take my anger out on myself. People say that I don’t fail and I’m doing perfectly fine but I just think they are lying and I am that much of a failure that I can’t even get my friends or parents to tell the truth.”
Lily’s friends and family –
“Dear Lily, You are so beautiful and sweet and always have the cutest outfits. If anybody ever thinks otherwise then they must be crazy in the head because they don’t know who they’re dealing with. I’ll always love you!” – Abby
“They are very kind and nice and she’s pretty.” – Jaqueline
“She is a wonderful girl. She is my twin, not by blood, but by heart. We love the same things, eat the same things and do the same things. We may not see each other a lot, but what I admire most about her is that when she does something, she tries the hardest at it.” – Kaitlyn
“Lily, I love you because you are such a wonderful person inside and out. You are kind, smart and respectful. You warm my heart and make me happy and very proud.
I admire you because you are strong and brave, so much more than I was at your age. You make great decisions and choices when it comes to friends and doing the right thing. Since you were young, you have always known who you are and have done things in your own time.
You have so taught me so much, how to be a better mom, friend and person. I can’t imagine my life without you and your brother.” – Melissa
Melissa then comments about the last part of what she wrote to Lily: “The reason I say that is because I never wanted to get married or have kids, and they knew that. That’s something I told them since they were young – that I didn’t want kids. They’d then say, “Well, you didn’t want me” and I’d say, “I didn’t KNOW you. It’s not that I didn’t want YOU, I just didn’t know you.” To Lily she then says, “I just want you to know…I want you.”
Really, though, are we not allowed to say that? “I didn’t want kids…I got pregnant. I had kids. Originally, however, I did not want kids.” “GASP! YOU MUST BE THE WORST MOM!” No. Not the case. Why is that some sort of faux pas? Don’t we all know at least ONE woman who is a great mother but swore she’d never have kids? Who maybe was pissed and terrified and angry when she got pregnant, and still maybe is pissed and terrified and angry often as a mom, but, she’s still a great mom? You do know at least one. Even if you don’t know you do, you do. I’ve had many a conversation lately with moms who can attest to this sort of thing. I don’t think there’s anything crazy about it. There are many super insane and stressful situations I’ve had to meet in my life that don’t compare at all with the energy it takes to be an ever-present mom. When my kid (three year old son) has multiple nights on end where he awakens me several times through the night, it results in a version of myself that I find even scarier than the occasional super-hormonal version of myself. Sleep deprivation will turn any decent mother into a terrifying nightmare. There are many, many, many things that make being a mom the most rewarding job, but there are many, many, many things that make being a mom the absolute most difficult job…and a job that many, many, many moms maybe didn’t intend on signing up for. Doesn’t mean they love their children any less. As Melissa said, she didn’t know her children yet. Does she love her children more than anything else in the world? Absolutely. Would she give up being a mom now? Absolutely not. Does she sometimes still hate it? Absolutely. Is that normal? YES. So ridiculously normal. And this night gave us a chance to talk it all out. And I’m thankful to Melissa for addressing it.
…look out soon for the next story: Liz & Caitie. A story about growing up quickly, about living around substance abuse, about feeling incredibly out of place, about bullying, about starting over.
Please comment and share your thoughts and experiences, if you feel so inclined.
the reason behind the start of this project can be found here: If you don’t have anything nice to say…
previous groups can be found here:
Group 1, Part 1
Group 1, Part 2
Group 2, Teens!
Group 3, 55+!
Group 7, Men!