Friday, June 25, 2010

Becoming the Mother I Want to Be

When I had Andrew, something happened.

I was tired, I was lonely, I was stressed, and I was overwhelmed.  Ben was working, attending school, studying for the MCAT, and trying his best to be there for me and the kids.

My little boy was fussy, very fussy.  He cried and cried, I cried and cried, Emily cried and cried.  I pushed joy away so I could have room for misery.

Emily was growing, maturing, turning into a toddler.  I wasn't ready.  I wanted her to help me, but I didn't want her to be adventurous or seek autonomy.  I wanted--I needed--her to sit down next to me, playing quietly.  Not running from mess to mess, taking advantage of me nursing to get into everything.

I was unrealistic.

I found myself turning into an awful mother. I went from using calm tones to relying on harsh tones; being happy and engaging to being angry and distant; patient to impatient.

My husband's busyness and my loneliness excused me from improving my behaviors.

Until one day I really looked at my daughter.  What I saw was not a little monster trying to ruin my life, but a little girl, a toddler, who was discovering her little world, begging for me to help her.

How I viewed motherhood changed.

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the leaders of my church remind mothers (and fathers) that we are to nurture our children.

Nurture: to feed and protect; to support and encourage, as during a period of training or development.  (Source:

I do feed and protect my children every day, but do I support and encourage? More importantly, do I support and encourage my toddler as she discovers her world?

I am not ignorant.

I knew what I could do to temper her melt downs or aide in her autonomy seeking behavior.  That is what my degree is in. Yet I was neglectful and I took the easy way out.

I have had several impressions reminding me to use my education to help me parent.  I ignored them.  Silly, really, considering I am often moaning to Ben that I can't use my degree.

I am thankful that God is patient with me.

I can change and I will change.  These changes will not happen immediately, it will take time for me adjust my behaviors.

I feel powerful, I know that I can do this.

How have you grown/changed as a parent?

This post is (now) part of  "I'm Finding the Bigger Picture" event.  Click on over to see more events!

Bigger Picture Moment


  1. Well Amber,

    Having never experienced parenthood, unless you count the 10 children we have and the 26 years spent raising them with your Mom, all I can say is that the learning never stops; that is if you are willing to be taught!

    Life is a wonderful teacher :)

  2. I have just come to this realization recently, and not after two kids but four. I have been trying very hard lately to really listen to my children and learn what their needs and wants are and be there for them. I think it's helping me become a better parent. And now I'm trying to savor every moment I can of their early childhood, since it is so fleeting.

    I only found that out because my oldest will be starting second grade next year. I taught second grade before having kids and remember thinking how long it would be before I had a kid old enough to be in second grade. Apparently, not long enough!

    This is a great post. Thanks.

  3. Hey Amber! :)
    I think its safe to say you are as human as the rest of us and while it was an awful place to be I reckon Heavenly Father knew you would love more, understand more and feel more by your experiences...I think you are awesome chica...I really do!
    Being human may not be an excuse but it does give us the grounding to recognise we aren't perfect!! ;)
    Debs xx

  4. Debbie,

    So nice to see you back here again!

    I agree with you--"Being human...give(s) us the grounding to recognise we aren't perfect." That is a powerful lesson. A scary one as well.

  5. Hey you - I think you know how much I can relate to everything you're saying here. The thing that has taken me awhile to learn about parenting is that, no matter how much you plan or how much you hope, there are no guarantees as a parent. All we can do is our best and give our kids the best we can in any moment and hope that we have the clarity of vision to be who they need us to be.

    Good luck to all of us as we become the mothers we want to be.

  6. We've all been there. I like to call my little one "Meanie Weenie" and "Evirella" because she's so full-on at all times, but really, I know she just needs different stimuli and patience than my son did at her age. I can't say that I remember this at all times, but -- like you -- I know it and I'm trying to live it. That's the best we can do.

  7. Amber, I think this is one of the most profound blogs I've read. I love the way you are taking an agency-focused approach to this. THat is very powerful. I learned a lot by reading this. I love the sentence about turning away from joy to have room for misery. Very deep--and true in my own life.

  8. Yes yes yes...
    I feel like I have to check my attitude every single day, because so often it's mine that gets in the way and makes our days something like... crazy! :)
    Lovely post, friend. I can so relate.

  9. Thanks for this reminder, Amber. This past week I have been snippy, cranky, impatient with both of my kids. I know that it is about me and my own problems/stresses, but THEY don't know that. They don't deserve a cranky mommy. I need to get my attitude in check and be the mother that they want. That they DESERVE.
    Excellent post. I am inspired to be better.

  10. The picture of your little girl is SO CUTE. I can't really relate, since I am not a parent. But I do feel that as an individual I have grown when I have allowed myself to be more patient, more humble, and more trusting - - especially when hard times hit. Don't you just love the Family Proclamation?

  11. Hi Amber - this is a very brave post as you have shared with such honesty some not so good times as a mother. You know, so many of us have had those times too. Mine happened when my daughter was a baby, feeling I was not being the perfect mother and getting ever more unhappy as a result. It took me a long time to get to where I am now, still nowhere near perfect (but then who is?) but feeling that I am a good mother and happy to be one too.

    The good thing is, you want and know how to be a wonderful mother and so you can look forward, forget what is past, and focus on enjoying every single moment because they all go by so fast.

  12. I love your honesty, it's very refreshing to read.

    I think you and I were in the same boat... having a baby with a newborn, too. I think I expected Camie to grow up a little too fast, and be the "big sister" too soon... when she was still just 12 months old and wanted to be cuddled and explore the world like any other baby.

    It has taken me awhile (and still I forget) that she is just a toddler and is exploring her world, and I don't have a lot of patience with that sometimes. I expect her to act older, to be older, when in fact, she's only just 2.

    I love this post, and you have no idea how much I needed it today.

  13. Amen. To be willing to TRY every day, is exhausting,'s the most important thing. I struggle with it, as I'm sure most mothers do. You aren't alone, here!

    I try to remind myself that there are things that are appropriate for my toddler to be doing...and that doesn't mean I love it when she yanks a toy out of her sister's hands, but I just hope I understand her actions a little better. She's a small human, growing into a big human. And I'm here to guide her along the way.

    I loved this post :)

  14. I went through the exact same issues, and eventually, the same realizations as you when we had Becca. It unhinged me for a time, and I stopped being ME. There is such joy to be found on the other side of an experience like that. It's a wee taste of the refiner's fire and it's life altering - how could it not be? Congrats on the perspective shift. It's humbling but it's wondrous too.

    p.s. Don't be scared when Cranky Mummy resurfaces from time to time. It doesn't have to be the slippery slope back to the bad-old-days. Sometimes a bad day is just a bad day. *hugs*

  15. What a lovely post, Amber.

    You know - even after 18 years, I'm still becoming the mother I want to be. I think that will always be the case. And maybe that's just right.

  16. Hi Amber, a wonderful post and very relatable.

    I had a profound shift early on and that is when I first realized how quickly my son forgives me. It really doesn't seem like his standards are that high. He just wants me to pay attention to him when he wants my attention. If he'd rather play alone, I don't need to keep re-inserting myself in his space (like I feel I should because I'm available). It took him teaching me forgiveness for me to learn to be more forgiving of myself. As mothers, we can be so hard on ourselves when we fall short of perfection (which, for me, is always), when really all we can do is our best.

  17. Lovely post. We all need to be reminded now and then to nurture and enjoy what is right here in front of us at this exact moment. Thank you.

  18. I lost it today in a way that I haven't for a very long time. It was a useful reminder of how utterly pointless it is.

    Great insight.

  19. Being a good mom is all about self-evaluation, instinct, mistakes. You are doing a great job trying to be the best mom you can. Keep up the good work.

  20. For me parenting has been very cyclical. Sometimes I doing great and exactly what I should, other times I'm in survival mode and just making it through the day is enough. The key is remembering the good mom is still there, even when she is temporarily in survival mode (My sister just had her 5th and I advised her to accept survival mode for a couple months until she can shift gears again).

    I'm surprised how non-static parenting is. There are always new lessons being taught.

  21. I am an expert at raising a 5 year old girl- only problem is that in a few weeks she'll be six.

    And I am close to being an expert with 9 year old boys- but again the kid won't stop growing. As soon as I figure it out they move on to the next thing.

    Part of the joy of being a parent I suppose. ;)

  22. First of all, Emily is a beautiful girl.

    As for the being a better parent thing, I'm in the same boat as you. I try every day. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail.

    I had a dream a couple of nights ago, where I had to tell my children goodbye, forever. It was horrible, and it's still haunting my thoughts. I've been much more patient and loving with my kids since then.

  23. How I love this post.

    And I can relate to this, only it took me longer to really get it.

    Elder Holland's words come to mind: "You are doing wonderfully well."

    Your children are blessed to have you as a mom.

    And I'm blessed to know you!

  24. I really indentify with you and your thoughts here. I had a hard time mothering well when our second was born, too, because of the stage and age my first born was in ... it was so hard. I often used too many harsh words and didn't lead him to places where he could explore and flourish. I'm so glad God is patient with me. It's a daily process, but I'm working on it. And with that, I'm off to play with a cute little 3-year-old boy. :)

  25. McKenzie, it was thoughtless of me to only include parents in my question. I have had many profound shifts in my attitude prior to being married and having children. I think that my time in college--previous to motherhood-- is really what made me who I am today.

  26. Amber what a compelling and important post. I hope that many of us, in our own way, reach this realization early in our children's lives. It's never easy, and it's okay to admit it, but sometimes just accepting that it's hard and moving beyond it is the most challenging part. I remember the early weeks after the birth of my second son. I was drowning...and it was a scary, unhappy place. But there were moments of joy, and my oldest had so much patience with me. He taught me kindness when I needed it. And from that comes humility. I found my way back to being the parent I should be, but I'll admit I'm not always good at it. And I think that's okay too, because we also teach our children lessons on being human.

  27. Amber, this is one of my favorite of your posts. Just beautiful. So revealing and uplifting. I imagine all mothers - all parents - experience this evolution of finding their new identity. And constantly evolving, changing, adapting, especially when more children come along. You've done this beautifully.


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