Your mom is your mom, no matter what. Her womb/egg + your dad's sperm (whether you know him or he contributed via a turkey baster) = the magic, unique you. You wouldn't be here if it weren't for them so you have an obligation to acknowledge them regardless of your relationship.
Notice, I said acknowledge. I used to think you had to "love" someone because of that blood relationship. I no longer think that is true. I know for certain that you can't force someone to like or respect you. That has to be earned.
Some people lose their moms very early in life to death. Others lose them through illness. But many of us have complicated relationships with the woman we call "mom" no matter if she is still alive, dead, estranged or even adopted. The one saving grace is that when you are a mom yourself, you have the opportunity to review your own childhood (although never objectively!) and do it your own way.
I've learned a few key lessons from my own mom, and several more from listening my friends recounting stories from their childhood. Funny how animated we all get when the topic comes up. We are all both rightous and humbled. As we share our stories, we find it crazy that our mothers ever thought it was right to say and do the things they did to us!
No one teaches you how to be a mother. You have to develop your own style. There are some moms though, who are mentor, teacher, nurse, comforter, friend, and sage all in one. They earn the respect of their families by their strength and conviction. Then there are those who we don't understand -- and who we try NOT to emulate.
If you are a "Mom" do you see yourself saying these things? Cause trust me, when your kids are in their middle ages, trying to negotiate parenthood with their own children -- these are the things they think about.
"I gave up my life for you."
"I gave up my career to be a mother."
"You are a good ______ because I was a good ______."
"You must respect me, it says so in the bible."
"Why can't you be more like the "Smith's" (three kids same ages)
"Everyone else visits their mom every, single day."
"If you loved me, you would let me live with you."
"Your father loves you more than he loves me."
"My thighs are thinner than yours. You really need to lose weight."
"I could have married many very successful men. I felt sorry for your father."
"I can't visit you, you have to visit me. Yes I know you both work and kids have activities everyday. I know I sit on my couch everyday. No, I can't possibly put the cat in the kennel."
"Your children didn't say I love you to me. What do you teach them?"
"You spoiled your children, I never spoiled you."
Some moms cursed AT us. (Not just used curses to express anger or shock, but literally cursed us for not being who they wanted.) Others refused to get help for depression, alcoholism, or other health problems. Some thought that everything was a "family secret" and they taught their kids to lie to protect them from people learning about their inadequacies.
I think what burns me up more than any of those things is the idea -- or the line of reasoning -- "I did my best."
It's not good enough when your kids cry all the time. It's not good enough when you resort to hitting them because you can't control your temper. It's not good enough to be cursed at constantly. It's not good enough when you can't find a way to let them live in a clean, safe environment. It's not good enough when they go hungry because you don't want to find a job to support them. And its not fair to them for you to continue to have babies when you can't take care of the ones you have.
Collectively, my sisters, my closest girlfriends and I have agreed to be straight shooters with each other -- no matter what damage that may cause to our relationships. What I mean is that if I ever became "that person" -- that whiner, complainer, twisted, person who has excuses a mile long who would be the cause of problems in my marriage or as a mother -- then I expect my closest friends and family to take me aside and demand that I get help. And I would do the same for them. There are many women I meet and I cringe when I hear them complain about their circumstances and yet they don't do anything about it. What do you think children are learning when they watch you? If you want to raise strong, independent children who are responsible, good citizens, spouses, and parents -- you need to teach them!
Really good moms are those women who make you feel glad you are alive. They support you, they challenge you. They make you laugh, they make you cry. You want to be with them. They have their own lives, their own interests, they don't live for you they live WITH you. They aren't completely grown up, they grow up and learn from you and with you! They have healthy relationships with the other parent (or other adults in their lives.) They are fully formed, healthy people (at least mentally) and don't try to put their expectations, failures and faults on you. You don't have to walk on eggshells with them.
Each day, I try to be a better mother to my children by remembering to make sure that I am taking care of myself so that I can take care of them. Lord knows, I'm far from perfect. In fact, just this week, my 10 year-old told me "You're the worst mom EVER!" when I told her that she could not go to a friend's house after school because her room was filthy. She pouted. She cried. She ran to her room. Slammed the door. I didn't yell. I didn't chase after her. I let her stew.
The next morning -- we had a staring contest. I smiled at her. Then she reached out to hug me and I said "Do you have something to say to me?" And crying, she apologized. She was just frustrated because she "really, really wanted to go."
I consider that a badge of honor. A right of passage.
She can talk about that when she's 40.
I'm OK with that.