My adventures into Motherhood
Had an interesting conversation with my Mum the other day, who quipped a little disappointingly that “none of her kids turned out like her” and by that she means neither my bro nor I have her same ambitious entrepreneureal spirit, because I sure am looking a lot like her the older I get……..
Both my brother and I are quite content to take a paycheck rather than run our own businesses as our parents both did. It’s certainly less fuss and responsibility and the risks are less. But where is our corporate ambition? asks my Mum. I have to admit, I’ve kinda lost mine. In my early twenties I was all bright ideas, promotions and competing with Nathan about how much we each earned. I knew where I wanted to go in my career path and the trick was how do I get there and fast! But now that I’m a Mum, all my corporate ambition has faded, or perhaps it’s just dormant, in hibernation for when I choose to return to the workforce. My Mum doesn’t understand this mindset. When she became a mother I was a mere blip to fit into her working life and she returned to work very soon. Her circumstances were different to mine, she had a family business to participate in, and my Grandparents and other relatives were around to look after me. She was free to keep on her aspirational path working for all the options money gave you and that she could now give me. Which makes me a child from a pampered existence, I had a private school education, tried all the sports and activities that my heart desired and had all the best kit and new books to read. Which makes me a lover of leisure time so that my ambition is tempered to being comfortably well-off enough to enjoy family time, family holidays and have that all important work-life balance. When I was a kid my parents worked all the time and we didn’t have family trips to Disneyland. Our family time was spent in the shop, or on the garden, going to the early morning market with Dad, or staying late to heft sofas around Mum’s store. Which has maybe put me off being a business owner, because I don’t have an idealistic view of working for yourself, I know exactly how all-consuming running your own business is and it’s something that I don’t want for myself, at least at this time of my life.
Right now I want to dedicate myself to my kids, they’re only this small once and I don’t want to miss a thing! I also live away from my family who are all in NZ, so my kids only have me and Nathan to shower them with love and attention, unlike my childhood where there were endless relatives around to pay attention to and be disciplined by. I intend to give Motherhood my all until they are going to school/nursery and then I can go back to work and earn the income that my Mum prizes because then I’ll be able to help give my kids the options that money buys you, and that my Mum bought me. Maybe then she’ll start to see me as a mother equal to herself in capabilities. (or not, as it’s likely that I still won’t be running my own business!) Funny how no matter how old you get, you still crave a good appraisal from your parents. Perhaps you’re doing something right as a parent if your kids still see you as the sort of parent they strive to impress even long after they become self-sufficient adults.
We also talked about pushing your kids to get them to succeed, and I agree, kids don’t really know what they want and they very much like to give up when something is hard (which is often) so it’s up to the parents to encourage, cajole, bribe – and in the case of my Mum – threaten their kids in order to persevere and get them over that hump to success. If anyone has read ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother‘ my Mum was something like that, except that her nickname was Dragonlady. I remember not being able to get this gallop step right for ballet and I was made to practice over and over again, around and around the ten seat dining room table in endless circles of gallops. They had to be graceful and effortless looking, my toes had to be pointed, my head and chin up and I wasn’t allowed even to stop and catch my breath until my Mum said so. She stood there watching me like a hawk for mistakes and barking instructions when needed (which was often), the only thing missing was a whip in her hand. Although, with my Mum she didn’t need to dish out smacks. A single withering “don’t even think about doing what you’re about to do” was bad enough because the price of disobedience had already been set very early on as a toddler and the price was high! Failing your swift acknowledgment of the withering look upgraded you to a tongue-lashing in mixed chinese and english that literally felt like Mum had a cat o’nine tails in her mouth. And you just had to stand there and take it, because you never ran from Mum. Ohhhhh nooooo, I tried running once…….. I thought I was fast enough on my young swift legs, but the Dragon was bearing down on me and she was armed! Weapon of choice was her chinese slipper, the slip-on embroidered type with the plastic herringbone patterned sole. How do I remember the pattern on the sole? Well, the thing about running from your Mum is that she’s also going at top speed to catch you, and when she does with slipper in hand, she has a wind-up for that smack that you’re never going to forget. A sharp slap across the back of my once swift thighs brought me down in a red veil of herringbone-patterned pain that taught me it’s not worth running from your Mum.
So what did I learn from my Mum’s discipline? Ruling in fear makes for quite obedient children, but I’m not sure that I want to rule my household in quite the same way. I wasn’t that close to my Mum as a child and she was my chief antagonist while I was growing up. Is there a way that I can assert my Mumthority while keeping a friendly ‘my door is always open for chats and cuddles’ kinda policy? I went to an NCT talk about handling toddler behaviour and it gave a few good tips about listening to your child’s agenda (don’t forget they have preferences too) and positively reinforcing the behaviour you want them to exhibit by praising in a specific way. I’m hoping that I can employ positive reinforcement for good behaviour and avoid smacking my kids because I don’t want to show them that violence and losing your rag is acceptable. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but this is my best intention and I hope that I can stick to it. Given that I have a quick temper and that sometimes you find yourself automatically using the same phrases and methods that your Mum used on you, this could be a difficult task for me. I will be employing my parents method of ‘keeping them busy keeps kids out of trouble’. When I look back on my childhood there were always plenty of chores, lots of relatives to help on the farm and when I got old enough, lots of jobs to do in the shops. With a real sense of responsibility, I was packing and stacking, pricing, and serving customers where you weren’t allowed to get things wrong or goof off. And that was just my down-time, when I wasn’t at piano, hockey, soccer, ballet, girl guides, rowing and school. My schedule was very set, my parents knew exactly where I was and what I was doing and when I wasn’t doing those activities I was expected to be helping them. So I had no time for drinking, drugs or driving around in cars knocking mailboxes off. I’m not sure yet how to apply this to today’s setting where we actually enforce child labour laws and we have a tendency to wrap our kids in cotton wool, but I’ll be giving it some serious thought because while I was doing all those chores and activities, I was learning a strong sense of work ethic, responsibility for ones own time and how to manage your various equipment, the value of money, and not to take my parent’s work for granted because it was so visible to us kids how hard they worked.
Talking to my Mum about all this stuff makes me realise how much she got right and how much I agree with her on raising kids, but I guess my aim is to be a cuddlier, slightly more marshmallow version of my own Dragon Mum 🙂