Please tell me that I am not the only Mother on the plant to have uttered the following sentence aloud, “I am not your friend, I am your Mother.” Honestly, I have said it to each of my four children at various times in their life and I can safely predict that I will probably direct that sentence towards them each again (most likely multiple times) at some point in their future lives.
I think my situation or “my story” as you might call it, is not unlike many other women of my age (which is 40 for the record). I have chosen to make my family – my husband and my children – my career. This position as someone’s mother is one that I take seriously. I have invested my heart and soul into each of my children. For the first 5 years of my parenting journey, I juggled the demands of working and being the “at home parent.” I had my own Research and Recruiting firm from 1996 until 2002. When my youngest daughter was born, my husband and I decided that it was a good time for me to retire as the President and CEO of MB Communications Group and focus solely on my role in our family.
It was not really the birth of our fourth child that was the catalyst for retirement, but it was more my oldest son, who was about to enter kindergarten, which marked the turning point in my life. My children no longer napped during the day and wanted to venture beyond the parameter of our fenced in back yard to explore the world outside, and truth be told, I didn’t want anyone else to be their tour guide but me. When I worked from home, my commute was 13 short steps from my basement office to the kitchen, the nucleus of our home. Since I worked for myself, I could structure my day any way I wanted. I would have snack breaks with my kids, be the one who dropped off and picked up from morning preschool. I hired wonderful care givers who would work on average 40 hour work weeks, though I usually only worked 30-35 hours myself. I used the other hours to do special outings with my kids individually. I was able to volunteer to be the Helping Mom at school or take my oldest son to the library for story time – just the two of us. It was a great gig and I loved being so hands-on with my kids and being able to contribute to the well-being of my family financially. But fast forward five years and that arrangement just did not seem like it was going to work anymore for us so we decided it was time for a change. It was also at this time in my life that my husband was offered a new job. He had been a partner in a local law firm and was offered the opportunity to work in an environment where he was admired both for his work ethic and valued for his corporate contribution. His position as in-house counsel for a community bank meant longer hours and consequently more time away from me and our young family. So after many conversations, we concluded that his accepting a bigger job, so to speak, led me to accepting a bigger role in our family … by unanimous decision, I became the CEO of the O’Donnell house. We realized that both of us could not have amazing careers and have the home life we always envisioned for our children. Just so I don’t run the risk of offending anyone … I am not saying that one parent has to stay home or that it is better if one does – I am simply sharing my story and what works for my family. It was a conscious choice by me to become a Stay at Home Mom.
Being referred to as a Stay at Home Mom has had its drawbacks; sometimes I can’t help but get the impression from strangers that they are not impressed with my position in life. I have always been a self-assured person and have surrounded myself with good friends who know me and who get what I am all about. So with that said, I have never felt the need to have the approval of strangers, nor have I ever desired my children’s approval or their friendship. I have enough friends and my children only have one Mom. So Mom is the role I choose to play in their lives and it is one that I consider to be a HUGE responsibility.
Parenting is tough; it is constant and there are virtually no days off. There are ups and downs and sometimes it is difficult just to get through an afternoon, let alone the entire day without wondering how the child who you adore, who adored you more than anyone else when they were small, suddenly thinks that every idea, suggestion or thought you have is not the right one. Someone once told me that children lash out or behave out of character when at home with their parents because they are most secure in their parents unconditional love for them. I get that, I really do – in theory. But there are times, when I can see one of mine is having a tough day and he or she is taking it out on everyone around them in my home and they go just a little bit too far, either with their words or actions. That’s when I step in and let them know very clearly, that “I am not your friend, I am your Mother.” When those words are spoken, it is as if a light goes on in my kids’ heads – I can almost see the realization in their eyes that they know, they have crossed the line. Certain words, phrases, behavior are simply not tolerated by me when said in my presence. I think back to when I was growing up. If I was having an argument with my Mom or Dad, which I will admit was kind of rare, never did I think to raise my voice or as my Mother would say “don’t use that tone with me, young lady.” Yet somewhere between the time when I was growing up and became grown up, kids have changed. If I had to put it in my Mother’s language – kids today are too big for their britches. Think about it….kids today have cell phones at age 8, complain about losing soccer games because of the referee’s bad calls and think having on-demand television is the norm. Marketing executives spend millions of dollars trying to entice our young kids, to unleash their inner soldier through playing realistic military video games. Finding age-appropriate clothes for my almost 9 and 12-year-old daughters is proving more difficult than finding a swimsuit for myself before vacation. Insisting that I check cell phone texts and lap tops not be kept in their bedrooms … what does all this mean for a Mom like me who is determined to follow my own internal/maternal compass. It means I am not very popular some days in my house. It means I say no, when my kids tell me everyone else’s Mom says yes. Does it bother me when they say I don’t understand? Not really, because I understand more than I hope they will ever know. I see the bigger picture, their future … they can only see the here and now. One of my families’ all time favorite movies is “Cheaper by the Dozen” with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. I can’t tell you how many times we have watched this movie. There is a line in the movie when Steve Martin is turning down his dream job because it is interfering with his ability to parent his children properly, and despite the crazy number of times I have watched this movie, I cannot remember the exact quote, but he says something to the effect like, “it won’t matter how much I accomplish in my life if I fail as a parent” and that line gets me every time because I feel the same way. Imagine if every parent parented with that thought it mind.