Menu

To the other 'moms' in my child's life—thank you

Five people who can offer wisdom. Five people who know their dreams and struggles.

To the other 'moms' in my child's life—thank you

I remember the day my daughter came home with a cherry tomato plant she had potted while spending the morning with our former nanny, now a good family friend.

"Mom, maybe Ms. Karen can teach me how to grow other plants too," she gushed. "Maybe we can grow them together!"

I could feel her excitement rising at the same time my own defenses were going up. Didn't my daughter want to grow plants with me… together? Why hadn't I thought to have her pot a tomato plant? Was I being replaced?

But then I came back to reality. Who was I kidding? My daughter knows me. She knows I've killed every plant I've ever tried to love, despite my best intentions. If my daughter wanted to pursue gardening, I would rightly be the last person she should call on for help.



The truth is, I can't be everything my daughter needs. As much as it stings to say it, I know it is true. As much as I want her to look at me and say I am the embodiment of emotional strength, the perfect teacher of cooking, the best math homework helper, the greatest fashion consultant, and the best friendship advice giver, I know I am not.

To believe that I am is only to set myself up for failure.

I do believe I am uniquely qualified to be her mother. I am the primary female role model in her life. There are things I provide her that no other person in the world can. That was especially true when she was an infant. It's still true now that she's a grade schooler, although to a progressively lesser degree.

As she grows and becomes an opinionated high schooler, she will need my guidance, but she'll also have more needs that I won't be able to fulfill. She's her own person, and her personal interests will reflect her, not me.

And the truth is, I'm terrible at math. I don't garden. My body shape will certainly be different than hers. She's long and lean like her dad; I'm short and curvy.

Holding the budding cherry tomato plant in my hand, I thought back to my own childhood. When I was a child and a teenager, I needed my mom's best friend Kris in my life. She showed me that other moms do things differently—she did cartwheels when she was pregnant and made delicious enchilada casserole for dinner. She gave me a big hug and let me cry on her shoulder when I didn't make the cheerleading squad in 9th grade.

My mom got married at 18 and never lived in a college dorm. She couldn't understand why I would haul my laundry eight hours in a car just to use the washing machine at home. Kris lived two hours away from where I went to college—she told me to save my quarters and bring my laundry to her house when I needed a retreat from school.

Does Kris' role in my life make me think less of my mom? Absolutely not. My mom is a constant in my life. She knows me. My mom gave me the paper to write my first "book" when I was seven, and she was the one who encouraged me to apply for that college internship that led to my first real job.

Through each of my dad's deployments, my mom showed me what it means to be a strong, independent woman. I don't call Kris multiple times a week on my commute home from work. I call my mom. But Kris's impact in my life while I was a child has marked me—and, in some small way, it has helped make me into the person I am today.

Researchers have noted for years the importance of role models in young people's lives. When my daughter was a baby, I read somewhere that children need at least five non-parental trustworthy adults in their lives to stay grounded and confident. These could be teachers, coaches, aunts, grandfathers, or family friends.

My husband and I adopted this guideline for our own children. I am a person who prays, and one of the prayers I have prayed for my children is that we would be able to look back at every stage of their lives and count five trustworthy adult influencers.

Five people who can offer wisdom. Five people who know their dreams and struggles. Five people they can talk with openly.

Even today, we see that prayer being fulfilled in abundance. I am so grateful for our friends, our children's school teachers and our family members who love our children. Already they are filling gaps that we don't even see.

My daughter needs the interminable patience—like one of those magic baby bottles that always refills when you tilt it up. She needs the expertise of her elementary school art teacher who can nurture her love of art. Already, I see how she admires the way my friend Erica grows tomatoes, sunflowers, zucchini and herbs on the patio of her Washington, D.C. rowhouse.

She looks forward to the hugs she receives from my friend Stacey, a stay-at-home mom, who is one of the first people she sees after school every day. My daughter is learning all kinds of ways to make people feel welcomed and valued from my friend Jessica who is an incredible hostess. In the future, she will need the tenacity of a coach or instructor who pushes her. She doesn't know it now, but they are a part of her five today.

Through it all, I will be there. Her biggest fan. Having conversations about friendship on our walks to school. Singing to her as I tuck her in at night. Reading aloud with her. Keeping open communication with her. Doing my best to teach her and guide her. Putting a huge amount of effort into learning about her and her interests so I can help her become her own person.

But I can't be everything she needs. And I'm okay with that, because she'll be a much better person for it.

You might also like:

    10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

    The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

    Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

    So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

    Keep reading Show less
    Our Partners

    Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

    So, what's new this week?

    Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

    Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

    Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

    With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

    The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

    We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

    Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

    Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

    Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

    Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

    1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

    Keep reading Show less
    Life