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Help! I’m Turning Into My Mother

That moment you realize that all your best intentions to do things differently than your mom failed.


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It happens to the best of us. You hear the words your mother used to say come right out of your mouth: “I hope someday you have a daughter just like you and then you’ll understand.”

That moment of complete frustration leads to the almost inevitable realization that every mother must utter at one time in her life. I swore I’d be the fun mom. The patient mom. The mom who wouldn’t raise her voice. The mom who would just pour us coffee, sit down and rationally talk the situation out. I thought I’d have an organized timeline that would keep us all on track and get us through the day without tons of chaos and yelling like a loon. 

On my best days, this works. On my worst? The words spew out of my mouth, along with a host of other things that my own mother or friends’ parents said that I never in my life imagined I’d repeat. Sure, there are a lot of things I do differently. My parenting style is definitely my own, but more and more of my mom is creeping into me.

PUT ON YOUR JACKET! BRUSH YOUR TEETH!

I once threatened to clean my daughter’s room for her if she left it a mess and even bought a box of industrial garbage bags for her stuff. Yes, I did. There were tears. I may have used the words “trash heap.” I can almost hear my mother laughing all the way from Maine.

I’ve become a horrible early morning robot who uses the same phrases. “Put on your jacket; it’s cold. Yes, you need to.” “Did you brush your teeth? I don’t believe you. Let me smell them.” “You need to put on clean underwear. I don’t care if you’re already dressed.” Why do I need to do this? Shouldn’t she know by now?

I yell a lot more than I’d like to. My favorite phrase is the one I end up screaming over and over again (I’m sure the neighbors love me). “Hurry up, we’re going to be late for school!” So much for the up-to-the-minute plan I had. And to think I chalked my mom’s harried behavior up to her not being a morning person.

I love those spotless homes, and I always wished our house was more like that when I grew up. I remember my friend Liz’s pristine bedroom and living room with the twice-weekly vacuumed carpet (complete with plastic mats on high traffic areas) and the way I used to stare with envy. That’s what I wanted, and I secretly wished my mom didn’t work and would be able to do those things. I thought I’d have that perfect home with thoughtful décor. Now I go to bed with dishes in the sink, doing my mom’s patented thing where she “soaks” them overnight in water.

I use bribery. ALL the time. I always thought there was a better way to get kids to cooperate, rationalizing the situation or whatever. But I’ve resorted (frequently) to straight-up bribing her with everything from extra dessert to a trip to Five Below to get her to do things.

GETTING OUT (AND STAYING SANE)

I often have an adult beverage after my daughter goes to bed. I used to only drink when I was out with friends. Now, after a stressful day, it’s hard to unwind before I fall asleep awkwardly on the couch. But you know what helps? A nice glass of beer (or wine). I’m sure I secretly judged my mom for her habit, but not anymore. Now I think she’s a genius.

As a kid, it always bugged me when my mom would do something for herself. Like, isn’t she supposed to put us kids first? Now I realize she was right to occasionally go out and leave us with a babysitter or our grandparents, or ignore us to chat in the kitchen with her sister. These “nights off” and venting sessions with my friends are necessary to my sanity.

I’m so tired. All the time. I thought for sure my mom going to bed early was something I would never cave and do. I mean, I have hours after my daughter goes to sleep to get things done. Why would I waste them? Now I struggle to stay up to make sure she’s actually fallen asleep and isn’t secretly reading until 10 pm. The days of watching The Daily Show when it actually airs are rare now.

I should’ve listened to her about the pet thing, too. As I look at my kid and say, “Why do we even have pets if you aren’t going to take care of them like you promised?” I can hear my mom’s “I told you so.” She always said we couldn’t have pets unless we were able to walk, clean up after and feed them. I gave in and let my daughter have them anyway because pets are the best. But they’re 100 percent my responsibility now. And when she asked for a chameleon the other day, I said, “You don’t even take care of the animals you have!”

I love my kid so much I’d do anything for her. And I do. I give her my coat when she’s cold, even if I reminded her 20 times to bring a jacket. My mom used to give up one of her mittens on our walk to school when I’d forgotten mine so we could both keep one hand out and the other in our pocket. It happened a lot. 

I buy my kid stuff before I buy things for myself, and my mom always did, too. We never really understood that we didn’t have much money because my parents made sure we always had what we needed. In that way, I know I’ve become my mom. Because despite all the frustrations, arguments and imperfections, I’d do anything for my daughter, too.

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