Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Good Mom Bad Mom: A Procreation Deliberation


We all have one.  

When I say we, I mean every living being on this planet. Reproduction is fundamental to our survival as a species.  Everyone runs on the same cycle of birth to childhood under the protection of the parents, to puberty and adulthood, when the reproductive cycle begins again.  Sorry feminists, but the ancient sentiments of man finding a good cave and spearing a yak for his woman who will be barefoot and pregnant for life do still exist, maybe not so much in our American culture, but we didn't write the book on raising kids.  Or maybe we did.  When I searched Amazon.com for books with the words "raising a child', it brought up 29,000 results.  In its rudimentary form, reproduction and parenthood sound quite simple and natural, but the world is full of people who will tell you what you're doing wrong.  

My husband is half Sicilian and half Korean, and his 80 year old mother would still cut his meat for him if she wouldn't get the malocchio, the evil eye, from him.  He will tell you with equal amounts of tenderness and embarrassment that when he was 22 and in medical school he had to ask someone how to laundry.  My mother-in-law and I have a caring relationship, but I don't think she would mind if I told you that she doesn't like that I made her grandsons, my stepsons, do their own laundry at age thirteen.  That's a cultural difference between she and I.  She was a housewife who worked hard to provide all of those physical comforts to her husband, son, and now grandchildren (typically accompanied by "Stop spoiling them, Mom!").  Her mother died and she became the "woman of the house" at age nine, cooking, cleaning and washing clothes on river rocks for her siblings and father.  That's where she comes from, and I have to remind myself of that when she shows up with garbage bags to haul her grandsons' smelly clothes to her house.  It is a caring and loving duty that she undertakes.  

Even though Dad took care of almost everything,  I always felt like my busy career oriented mom was accessible.  She finished her bachelor's degree when I was in elementary school.  During my teenage years, she traveled three evenings a week from her full time job to her master's program three hours away and back home to Perry County.  She was raised by her schoolteacher grandmother. Her mother, Grandma Jo worked at the shoe factory for 51 years.  It was natural for me to start work at 16.  Because we worked at the same place, I was always expected to work hard and be on time.  She was quite tough on me, never hesitating to unmercifully chew me out in front of staff if warranted.  And when I went home, I did my own laundry and was expected to help around the house. Admittedly I stunk at it.  I still have a hard time keeping a clean house and dirty laundry from overflowing, but guess what, so does Mom.Mom taught me her work ethic. "I don't have time to be scared, I have $%!? to do" will always be my favorite Mom-ism.   I have the luxury of working from home, something she was never afforded and maybe would never want anyway.   

For me, it's important that my stepsons know the value of a buck, how to work for it, and how to take care of their basic needs without relying on others.  We perfected the fried egg years ago.   
I think I do all right.

I don't think my mom has many regrets.

My mother-in-law thinks she has done a good job.  

Is there such a thing as a good mother?

Is there such a thing as a bad mother?

Who is to say which parenting styles are right or wrong?

My mom always told me that there's a difference between a mom and a mother, so maybe its a subconscious choice that one makes?

Maybe the children are the judge, but as someone with five stepsons, I will tell you that just because they're mad doesn't necessarily mean you did something wrong.

So am I a stepmother or a stepmommy? I guess I'm concluding that only I can decide, and my opinion is the only one that should count.  

Don't agonize over it, Erin.  Go start the fire and clean the cave.  Keep it simple.     

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