My mom got a lot of things wrong in her parenting techniques (don’t we all?). But, one thing she grasped early on was the fact that she could not be everything to us. And so, she didn’t try. It was the greatest gift she could have given us.
Instead, she created an unofficial “Mothering Co-op”. She donated her strengths to our upbringing and the upbringing of our friends, and she farmed out the things she wasn’t equipped to handle onto others more capable than herself.
My mother was hopeless at doing anything with hair. So, she would drop me off at one of my aunt’s houses. I had two aunts who each had four boys. Having them do my hair gave them a chance to have a “daughter” for a bit and took the pressure off of my mom. It was a win/win for everyone.
One thing my mom was good at was being strict and scary. She kept an entire neighborhood of kids in line with her booming voice. There were actually moms who told their kids to behave or they would take them to Dorothy for punishment. No one acted up while she was on watch and the other moms knew that they could count on her to keep order in the neighborhood.
I remember being hauled up the street to a lady’s house one day to learn decorum and grace. Those were not skills my mother owned! But, she sensed their importance and sought out a lovely older lady who had lived all over the world with her diplomat husband. She spent an hour talking to a shy (and mortified) girl about being a gracious hostess and welcoming people into your life.
Likewise, a former prima ballerina from Latvia taught me to dance, my Turkish “uncles” taught me about their culture anda lady who resembled Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus gave me art lessons. Countless people were involved in my upbringing. They were brought into my life by my mom to fill in the gaps she knew she had.
My mom used the gifts she did have to stretch a tiny food budget into healthy meals, to design and sew all my ballet costumes, to run Camp Fire groups, and to impact so many lives with her vibrant, bohemian personality.
But, with all her talents, the greatest gift she gave me was the realization that it wasn’t possible to be a perfect mom who was good at everything and that it was ridiculous to even try. And so, my children too had “second moms” all over the place. These people used their unique talents to teach my kids the things I never could have. They all helped shape my kids into the amazing adults they are today and I am grateful to them all.
Young Mommies, look at your shortcomings as opportunities to introduce other loving people into your child’s life. It will take some stress off of you and give someone else the chance to share their skills. And, that is truly a win/win situation!