My Mother’s Biggest Parenting Mistake Taught Me That Motherhood Is Really Damn Hard

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sad woman with broom black and whiteBehold the winning entry for our Mother’s Day essay contest, “What My Mother’s Biggest Parenting Mistake Taught Me About Parenting.”

This is the Mother’s Day Essay equivalent of the job interview question, “What is your biggest fault?” to which the applicant responds, “I am just TOO RESPONSIBLE!” but here goes.

My mom was a super awesome fabulous mom (still is, of course). She baked bread (I refused to eat the crusts. Of fresh bread. WTF.) and made our clothes (hey, it was New Hampshire in the ‘70s) and took us to the “bottle smash,” which was glass recycling before they made it so convenient with curbside pickup. Seriously, why can’t people even bring their commingled recycling to the curb? We brought all of our bottles to some municipal facility and sorted them into like color by throwing them in the big pile (hence the “smash”). But I digress.

We grew our vegetables in the garden, and she canned them, standing over steaming pots in late August, so we had super-local produce all winter. She taught me how to tie my shoe, how to knit and sew, how to play cribbage. She did the latter well enough that my husband refuses to play against me now. We took the odd day off of school to take the T into Boston and visit the Museum of Fine Arts and have tea. My mom helped my dad gut and renovate a 75-year-old house themselves, with little kids in tow, and we were cloth diapered and she used the clothesline and yes, I realize that this all seems made up, because who really does this?

Well, my mom did. And here’s the kicker: she never complained. I never, ever heard her complain, not once. Not when my brother and I were trying to mortally wound one another, not when I declared all of the clothes in my closet to be “heinous” (hey, ‘90s), and not when I told her that her mushroom-spinach pasta – one of my current favorites – was “disgusting”.

So there’s the problem. I had absolutely no idea how hard it could be to be a mom when I became one myself. Now, I get it. I can’t seem to find the time to paint a room. I just served dinner that was roundly rejected by a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old (pizza? Come on, guys!). I can’t actually remember whether or not I took a shower today (but I suspect not). What I don’t get, however, is how she managed to do everything, and more, with a smile and a hug.

My mom’s biggest mistake was making it look too easy, and now I am paying the price. I will make sure, however, that my kids recognize the work that goes into, well, keeping them alive every day. No guilt trips here, though; I just make sure to actually tell them when what they say makes me feel bad. I feel as though I caused my mom grief that didn’t need to happen, and I would really like to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

(photo: Everett Collection / Shutterstock)