I can remember the exact moment in my childhood when I decided my mother was not my role model. It was the day I invited her to my elementary school field day, and she actually showed up. I couldn’t believe it. Still, I was eager to show her I was worthy of her time and her attention.
I performed well in the 100-yard dash and sprinted over to see if she watched me. Instead of talking about my performance, she told me she and her friend noticed a boy had been watching me, loudly announcing that he probably thought I was cute. I was in the third grade and couldn't have cared less. So, I sauntered away, swallowing the hot tears that followed the realization that a doting mom wasn't going to be part of my reality.
My mom—my vain, self-centered, dismissive and hostile mom—was my reality. She was firmly planted in my life, but it never felt like she wanted to be there. Other things and people were consistently prioritized over me: the countless men who I was expected to respect, the friends who proved to be as flighty and irresponsible as she was, and the late nights out where she dragged me along. I fell asleep as often in restaurant booths and her friends' couches as I did in my own bed on school nights.
In my quest to be the mother I so desperately longed for, I will do nothing if it is not for the benefit of our daughter or the family in some way.
I was a shy and introspective young girl, and she was the life of the party. My most prominent childhood memories were sprinkled with horrific fights and other sounds a young girl should never be made to hear. I sought respite in books and my dad (every other week, of course) while she forced me onto whomever she dated at the time, encouraging me to call them "dad," making me hug and kiss them before bed and shoving their equally dysfunctional families down my throat.
Her instant gratification mattered more than my present or future ever did. I begged to join numerous clubs and sports only to be told we didn’t have the money. Instead, beer and cigarettes reigned supreme.
When I dared to speak up once or twice, I was slapped and called an ungrateful bitch. So, until the time was right, I stayed quiet.
I resolved quite early on I'd be nothing like her. In my quest to be the mother I so desperately longed for, I've let everyone in my life know (probably obnoxiously so) that we will do nothing if it is not for the benefit of our daughter or the family. We save for college, for summer camps and for everything in-between to ensure she actually gets to enjoy her childhood.
I don't intend to raise an entitled or wants-for-nothing child, but she will be shown love, respect and attention in a way that is healthy and genuine. She will feel safe and secure when she’s by my side, and I hope I’m able to equip her well enough emotionally to go into the world as her own person. Even when I'm not there physically, I want her to know that I am there for her in spirit and in strength.
I don't want her to ever reflect on her life and wish for a different mom, or to be able to pinpoint moments frozen in time that hurt her in ways my mother allowed.
Most of all? I don’t want her to journey through college worries, newlywed woes and young motherhood having no one to turn to—because despite the strength doing these things alone has given me, it doesn't sadden me any less.