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Mommy Struggles: What Makes A Good Parent? How Do You Know If You Are One?

I try so hard to be a good parent and to give my daughters a better childhood than I had. Call me conceited or selfish but I don't want them to look back on their childhood and think of me the way I sometimes think of my own mother. I want them to look back with fondness and love. I want them to have good memories and to always know that they were loved...

I've discovered over the years that this goal is a lot harder than I had ever imagined. 

I never imagined marrying an abusive man, a man that thought it was OK to tell a 4-year-old that she couldn't have anything else to drink for the rest of the night because she spilled her drink at dinner, a man that constantly lost his temper at even the smallest things. No, I definitely didn't plan on that...

I didn't plan on continuing to have trouble with my back. It started unexpectedly and suddenly when I was 14 or 15 and has continued to cause problems every couple of years or so. It prevents me from sitting on the floor to play games with them. It prevents me from sitting at the kitchen table with them; we all sit in the living room because of that. We don't go walking much, we don't go to many neighborhood events (something I always wanted to do), and, well, we don't do much of anything after school and work...

I blame my back (somewhat) but the truth is that after a long day of work for me and school for them --followed by homework-- we really don't have the time to go and do anything! Even if I wanted to do something with them on the weekends it's like pulling teeth to get Rachel, my oldest, to go anywhere! She's 11 and she prefers to be home. She actually prefers to be home and not bothered. She's very anti-social (it kind of runs in our family) and doesn't like to interact with other people beyond the required hours at school. I don't blame her because I feel the same way.
she's watching TV...

We say "anti-social" but I think "introvert" is a better term. It's very draining to be around people all day and interacting with them: even people we love to be around. At the end of the day all you want is peace and quiet to recharge.

Going back to things I never planned. I also never planned on being a single parent; although, I could have put this up there with not planning on having an abusive husband. I decided to give it its own credit because so many women stay. I'm NOT putting them down. I know how hard it is to leave. I left. The divorce was hard on all three of us. I put us in counseling to try to help us through it. Rachel and Abby had sessions together and I had individual sessions. We kept it up for some time but it was taking too much time off from work so we ended up not going after a while.

I never expected to be hit with a very strong bout of depression. I wanted to get my bachelor's degree--you know show them that it's possible even as a single mom--instead, I found myself unable to force myself to do the work, no desire to do anything AT ALL. I sat on the couch and just read or literally just sat there. Obviously, I didn't finish the quarter and can't afford to go back. They had fast food for several months. I helped them with their homework if they needed it, but I didn't really spend much time with them. It was actually during this time that we stopped going to counseling. I missed an appointment and just couldn't bring myself to call and make another one. I wasn't much of a mom during that time. I wasn't much of anything during that time. I keep telling myself it wasn't my fault; I was depressed. But another part of me still says it was a very bad negative that has affected their childhood and will make a difference in their futures. It actually puts my own childhood into perspective a little better...but I wish it didn't come at the expense of my daughters' happiness.

I didn't plan on my oldest daughter to be so angry and unhappy all the time. This is actually a big one for me! I know that a lot of her anger probably stems from being a child of divorce and the abuse she saw and heard early in her life, but sometimes I wonder if there is more to it. Sometimes she reminds me of my older sister and, as much as I love my older sister I also don't like her very much...she could be a very hateful person when she was angry. Writing this, I realize that my sister also experienced a lot of abuse and neglect growing up and admit that it probably shaped her into the person that she is but that's NOT the kind of person I want my daughter to be!! And the worst part is, I don't know how to help her not be so angry all the time. I've talked to friends and family, I've scoured the internet, and so far nothing has helped her. 

PS: I really was awake for this pic
I don't know how to teach her empathy and I worry that she doesn't have any. Most parents worry about their children being bullied; I sometimes worry that she will be the bully. I sometimes think that the only reason she isn't is that she's too short...And then other times she does and says things that assure me that she isn't a bully. That is a relief that I can't put into words. She can be very sweet and loving and it melts my heart. Unfortunately, these times don't come as often as I'd like. I worry about her future and the kind of person she is going to be. Don't misunderstand me, I love her with all of my heart. I can still see the sweet, loving baby she used to be inside of her, I just don't know how to pull her out more often. I've been told that a big part of her "attitude" is just her age and that she is coming into being a teenager and that it will pass. I'm not sure if I agree but I really hope those people are right.

I didn't plan on my youngest daughter, Abby, to be so high strung and anxious. She's nothing like her sister most of the time. She has been getting more of an attitude as she gets older. I'm told that this is just part of growing up but most of the time she is one of the sweetest, most loving, and empathetic children you will ever meet. She's so much like I was at her age. She's very in tuned to the needs of people around her and tries her best to meet those needs. She's also very clingy and jealous. I realize that a big part of this is my fault; my depression, my going back to school when she was a baby, my going back to work when she was still very young, and the divorce really affected her. She still wants us to get back together...It can be very difficult to deal with when all you want to do at the end of the day is

relax but I love her so I try. I just don't think I'm doing a very good job. I feel like I'm letting her down. Like I'm letting them both down... 

I mentioned that fact that she's kinda high strung and anxious, let me go into that a little more by quoting an old post I made. (I've deleted it recently).

"I've always known that my youngest is a lot like me; she's kind, caring, empathetic, easily attached, and easily hurt. Just like me. So, I've always worried more about her than her sister; maybe even a little overprotective because I don't want to see her hurt.  Now, though, I’m beginning to realize that she’s also inherited my neurotic, obsessive need to always be perfect when it comes to school. 

When I was in school, I was obsessed with getting good grades. I got my first F in third grade (Math) and I sat there in class and cried. I promised myself that I would never get another F. From that moment on, I made sure my work was always perfect. I HAD to get an A. My obsession with being perfect lasted until eighth grade, when we moved to a new school and I spent more time partying with the cute boys that hung out at our apartment. I still got really good grades, except in Spanish class –I got a D. By ninth grade I was back to A’s and B’s.

I was moderately happy with my B’s, until my Science teacher pulled me aside and told me he was disappointed with my B. He said I could do better. I was beyond annoyed with him for expecting me to get better than a B, but at the same time, grateful that he cared. He managed to reach down and pull that neurotic, perfection, obsessed need back out of me. Even when we were allowed to work as a group and help each other, I couldn’t bring myself to just write down the answer without looking it up myself. I had to ALWAYS have the right answer!

My youngest has just started third grade –last week – and already I am starting to see just how much like me she is. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried. She’s in TAG (Talented And Gifted) for reading. She’s very smart and she knows this. She also hates, and I mean HATES not being right. Not being PERFECT. 

She stresses out so much when she has to be timed for anything… her school does something called “Fast Facts” which is they have to do as many math problems as they can in a certain amount of time. She has 5 minutes to do an addition worksheet. She knows addition, she’s really good at it, but the moment you set the timer she flips out. It’s like she forgets! I’m not really sure how to help her with this, mainly because she reminds me so much of me and I’ve yet to figure out how to help myself deal with the perfectionist trait…"

I wrote that over a year ago. Since then, things haven't gotten much better for her or us. In fact I wrote this other post not too long ago:

"My 9-year-old daughter, Abby, is very intelligent. She was identified as gifted in reading in first grade. She's consistently had straight A's and B's every year. She's also very independent and sensitive. She's a bit of a perfectionist but she hates to challenge herself. If she has to work hard to figure out the answer to something she gets very upset. If she gets a low grade she cries. Have I mentioned she hates to ask for help, because she does? She hates to ask for help. She also hates to accept help."

She's been struggling with Math (the common core way of doing long division) and social studies. Her grades have never been so low! I don't doubt that she could figure it out if she calmed down and looked at each step but she gets sooo upset when she doesn't know something right away. Her face gets red, she starts shaking a little bit, and her breathing changes. I'm not a counselor or a doctor but I'd call that anxiety...I can only imagine what she does at school during test time. She so desperately wants to be perfect.

I bought her a stress ball to use during homework and she takes it to school with her. Her teachers let her use it but she says some of her classmates tease her about it. I don't know what else to do to help her so I broke down and made an appointment with her pediatrician to discuss it...

I try to live by example and show my daughters that kindness matters and to treat others the way I want to be treated. I don't let them call each other names --I hate the words "stupid" and "moron" and they aren't allowed to use them. My ex-husband likes to call people (me) those things so they are banned...

Rachel's in band this year. She seems to like it. The more she learns the more it makes her happy. She has a concert tomorrow night. We're looking forward to that! Abby's not old enough for band but she's looking forward to when she will be.

We've talked about putting them both back in counseling, individual session this time, we are aiming for them to start back in the spring; although, I'm worried about the amount of time I'm going to have to take off from work, I know it's something that they need so it's something I'm going to have to figure out. That's just another fact of being a single parent. Or maybe they are just the facts of being a parent in general? 

goofing around

People tell me I'm a good mom and I really want to believe them. Most of the time I feel like I'm doing the best I can, but other times I feel like I'm not doing enough. I know I'm only human and we all make mistakes, I just want better for my children than I had and I'm not really sure if I'm succeeding in giving them that...Sometimes I don't think I disciple them enough, I do a LOT of lecturing about why things aren't OK to do or say but I think I let them get away with too much. Other times, I am afraid that I am too do you find that balance?

Wow! I really just poured my heart out into this one. I realize that this is probably the longest post I've ever made and I'm sorry about that. 

Thanks for reading!!!

As always, any and all suggestions, encouragement, constructive criticisms are welcomed and even encouraged. Parenting is hard work and we all need a little help, right? 

~until next time :)


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