Let me start by making sure you know two things:
1. I love you. You are my mother, and nothing will ever replace that.
2. Thank you. I understand—now more than ever—how much you did, and still do, for me. You sacrificed for me, loved me with every ounce of your being, and tried so very hard, each and every day. I will always, always be grateful for that.
But now that I’m a mom, I need to tell you something: I am going to do things differently.
In most cases, my different parenting choices are nothing more than a reflection of the time that has passed since you had small children. We know so much more now, just like you knew so much more than your mother did when she was raising you.
So when I make different choices, please don’t feel like I am attacking you or your parenting. I am just doing the best I can with the information I have—just like you did.
When I tell you that we buy hormone free milk and meat, I am not saying that you didn’t do a good job feeding me. I just can’t unhear the recent research that says it’s probably better for my kids.
When I ask you to put the baby to sleep on her back, I am not accusing you of jeopardizing my safety when you put me to sleep on my tummy. I just can’t ignore the most recent guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It’s also just a different time.
I know you think it’s silly, but I have to schedule playdates if I want my kids to socialize with other children—I know we could just run out the door and play with the neighborhood kids until sunset, but it’s just not like that anymore.
Parenting knowledge and philosophies have changed a lot in the last 30 years, so the way I raise my children is going to look very different. And if my children choose to become parents, their parenting is going to look different than mine! For now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I will teach my children it’s okay to make mistakes. That love is not dependent on being perfect or agreeable. In our family, love flows freely, even when we are really mad at each other. Our home is a safe place to vent and talk back—it is my job to love them no matter what.
I will teach my children what healthy relationships look like. I will show them through example that it’s okay to disagree with your partner, as long as you do it respectfully. It’s okay (and even good) for parents to prioritize each other other sometimes. It’s okay to ask questions about boyfriends and sex and body parts and everything else that feels uncomfortable—because who else would I want them to ask?
I will teach my children about self-respect. I will talk positively about myself in front of them so I can role model confidence. I will pursue a career and hobbies that I love, and encourage them to do the same, regardless of what the world says in response. I will teach them to stand up for themselves—even if it means standing up to me.
I will teach my children that difficult emotions are normal. It’s okay to just be sad sometimes. It’s okay to talk about sad things. Not every problem has a solutions—sometimes life it just hard.
I am going to try to love my children the way they need to be loved. Just because I express love in words, doesn’t mean that’s how they feel it. So I will be tuned in to how they need to be loved, and I will do my best to adapt. I will show an interest in their interests, even if that changes weekly.
I am going all-in on affection. I am not spoiling the baby by picking her up when she cries at night. I am not making my toddler too needy by hugging him every time he cries. I am going to hug them every chance I get.
Mom, if I’ve learned one thing about motherhood so far it’s that in every moment, you just do the best you can do—and you did so much right for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. I am grateful for you every day.
I am going to make mistakes—a lot. But they need to be my mistakes, on my terms. I will always be your baby, but I have my own babies now. Please let me be the mother I think they need.
And one day, I hope you and I can sit back and watch my children raise their children, making their own mistakes. Hopefully they’ll feel lucky that, in spite of the imperfections, they had me for a mom—the same way I feel about you.