Apr 12, 2021
I received a txt from my oldest daughter this afternoon: “Hey! I’m working on a podcast project for school and was wondering if you’d be interested in being my interviewee (insert smiley face with sunglasses). My topic is focused on what it’s like to be a stay at home mom. Do you have time tomorrow afternoon for a 30 min Zoom?”
I’m thrilled to get this time with just me and her. It doesn’t happen very often, especially since she lives 250 miles away. Only one thing concerns me.
How to explain almost 27 years of being a SAHM in 30 minutes.
There are so many cringe-worthy moments. Like when I lost my temper with my youngest two girls, ages 3 and 6 at the time, because they weren’t getting ready for school fast enough. “Are you doing the best you can?” I asked my 6 year old. She thought for a second and replied, “Yes”.
I did not agree and therefore slammed the bathroom door so hard that the handle came off in my hand and I threw it down the hall. Then I was so ashamed of my behavior that I ran to the back porch and cried, while my girls stared at me in stunned silence. The question I’d just asked my daughter felt like a slap across the face as I realized how far I was from “my best.”
I remember clearly when I had my first child; I was just 22 years old. Watching her everyday was a wonder. She seemed to change everyday. I would call my husband at work and tell him the new and amazing things she was doing. Like staring at her hand, falling asleep while I changed her diaper, or pulling one tissue at a time out of the box. Fascinating? I certainly thought so.
I actually believed that I could do a good enough job raising her that she wouldn’t have any “issues”.
Just a few months into motherhood and I’d made a big mistake.
But I didn’t realize it until many years later. Like, 16.
This beautiful daughter was headstrong, determined, persistent, intelligent. If she wanted something, she went after it. These are wonderful traits that I was so proud of. Unless they went against things I wanted her to be doing.
A minor example is when she refused to shop for an Easter dress. She had no desire to match her sisters; or be associated with them it seemed to me.
We started fighting. Then fighting more. I pushed, she pushed back. She refused to join us on family outings. We forced her to come. She stopped seeking me out for confidential talks, and instead hid things from me.
As exciting as I had found the changes of her infancy, I found the changes of adolescence terrifying.
She hid in her room. All. The. Time. I thought she needed a therapist. But just as in the doorknob incident above – I was the one who needed the therapist.
And I got one. I actually started working for one part-time, and was brave enough one day to ask him if I could start scheduling sessions with him. These sessions, coupled with reading the book, Christlike Parenting, helped me save my relationship with my oldest daughter. And what I learned with her, helped me with each of her sisters too.
(Oh my gosh. I just realized the doorknob incident happened during the same time frame I was battling with my oldest. I felt like a crazy person, it’s no surprise I was acting like one too.)
I learned that I was doing too much talking, actually telling, and that listening would be more effective.
I learned that I was too bent on believing that I was right, and that she just needed to see things my way. All those “issues” I was sure I could prevent her from having, I was actually creating by needing to be right about everything. Even though in my mind the things I was fighting for were good and beneficial, I was pushing them on her in a way that voided the good and beneficial qualities of them.
By the time I found Life Coaching, our relationship was much stronger. She was an adult by then, and we’d had several experiences under our belts of stepping back as parents and letting her make her way. And she was doing a good job of it.
There is one tool of Life Coaching that made sense to me as soon as I heard it: The Manual. When you get a new appliance or gadget, it comes with a manual that tells you how to use it. When it isn’t working, it tells you how to troubleshoot the problem to fix it.
Manuals are for appliances, not people.
I thought I knew how to raise my daughter so that she would run efficiently. I had a “Manual” for choices she should make, things she should be doing, and how she should respond to me and her Dad. I was “shoulding” all over her and it was messy!
When I stopped believing I knew what was best for her, even as her mother, I began trusting her to follow what she believed was best for her. It was so freeing! I just got to love her. I still had hard conversations when concerns came up and we still had some bumpy days.
But now? She wants my story of what it’s like to be a Stay-At-Home-Mom.
I will do my best.
P.S. Having a Manual for someone is similar to having expectations for them. The biggest problem with having a Manual, is when that person doesn’t meet those expectations, we blame them for “making” us feel disappointed, hurt, unloved etc. As parents, we can set expectations to teach and guide and hold children responsible, but as soon as we hang our emotions on their compliance, the expectation has become a Manual. I’d love to tell you more and help you burn the Manuals you may have for your relationships. Schedule a 45 min Complimentary Call to set yourself free from this trap https://meredithgcoaching.as.me/