Purposely Being A Non-Existent Mom
I didn’t go to Mexico. I didn’t drink any margaritas. Both would’ve been nice but it never actually happened, at least not since I’ve had children.
I just chose to go there in my mind. A forced illusion of my own, so to speak.
I told my kids, “I’m not actually here so don’t think of me as your mom this week. Pretend I’m on vacation in Mexico. I will not listen to your stories about your day. I will not give you hugs goodbye or tuck-ins at night. I will drive you to school. I will feed you dinner. But I will not solve your problems, console your tears, praise your accomplishments, or cuddle with you before bed like we normally do. I still and will always love you but I am not your mom this week.”
This sounds harsh. I’m quite sure it’s controversial. For those of you who have eased into motherhood with delightful children and very few issues, this tactic is probably downright horrifying to you.
How can a mother be so cold toward her own children? What kind of an emotional scar will she be leaving on their fragile souls?
Hopefully a scar that reminds them not to take people for granted–lessons that many don’t learn until it’s far too late. A scar that teaches appreciation rather than expectation. A marked reminder that a mother is more than a simple caretaker meeting the basic demands of her family.
A mother’s heart burns with the fury of unbridled love for her children. Anxiety for their wellbeing is ingrained so deep into a mother’s existence that she’ll carry it with her until the end of her days. Her children’s pain becomes her pain ten-fold. Her children’s happiness brings tears of joy to her very own eyes.
A mother strives to provide a home of comfort for her family–a safe place for her children to play, learn, laugh, love, and rest their weary heads at night. A mother nourishes her children, she teaches them, and she is the warm body they lean into whether they are happy or sad. Her very touch can calm nerves, insecurities, frustration and even anger itself.
Yes, more often than not, motherhood is a thankless job that we cherish nonetheless. Though it is nice to hear that we are appreciated now and then, our satisfaction does not merely come from the homemade gifts and pictures drawn for us or the sweet hugs with the “I love yous” that are given just because. As completely wonderful as those things are, I cannot use them alone to measure my own success as a mother.
Rather, I look at the kind of people my children are growing up to be to determine whether or not I’m doing a good job. Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself but I feel as though I may be failing at this. That is not an easy thing to say because it’s quite personal and though I frequently suffer from mom guilt, guilt is not the reason I say it.
Do my children excel in their education? Are my kids learning to be independent and becoming more responsible in achieving their own goals? Do they behave well at school, at friends’ homes, or during their sports practices? Yes. I can check all of those boxes.
However, there is one box I have to leave unchecked: RESPECT.
Respect, along with kindness, is above all things I want my children to learn yet it is the one thing I can’t seem to teach them properly. I value treating others with both kindness and respect regardless of how intelligent or successful they are, regardless of race or sexuality, regardless of religion or lack thereof, and regardless of age or beauty. I was raised that way and it is of the utmost importance to me and it is the foundation of my Christian faith.
For now, my kids act appropriately around others but I fear it won’t last for long. Sometimes I notice that they lack empathy and are unable to put themselves in other’s shoes. They can be self-centered, a trait that is typically common in young children, but should no less be disregarded. Combine that with a continuous display of disrespect for us, their parents, and I fail to see how they will ever grow into gracious, well-mannered young adults.
The world is cynical enough and the last thing I want to do is add three more entitled, selfish brats to it. It’s my job as a mother to guide them in the right direction and pull them back when they start to stray. This is becoming more difficult each and every day.
The situation is this–my children have an extremely low level of respect for the parents that love and adore them so much. They do not listen, they argue, and they cross boundaries over and over. They will lie, manipulate, and disregard whatever it is we are saying to them.
We take away phones, computer time, cuddle time, and other privileges. We put them in timeouts and add more minutes for the refusal to go in one. Sometimes, it’s enough. Sometimes, it’s not.
Sometimes, more drastic measures need to be taken when the disrespect, talking back, and pushing the limits gets to be too much.
What times are those, you ask? It’s when your six year old tries to kick down your bedroom door simply because he wants to come in, all while you are sitting on your bed trying to say a silent prayer to help you get through an already stressful day. When your eight year old throws a tantrum soon after because you weren’t giving him something he wants and does it close enough to you to ensure you’ll get kicked, which of course, you do. When your twelve year old tops it all off at the end of the day because she is so angry that you took her phone away for a week for previous misbehaviors and says that if mom were a bobblehead, the label underneath it would be b-i-t-c….but doesn’t let that last letter drop out of her smirking mouth.
It’s enough to drive you to tears, and frankly, it did just that to me. I needed a mommy vacation. Unfortunately, a real escape to Mexico just wasn’t in the cards. And though on very rare, stressed-out occasions, I’ve poured a glass of wine or taken a teeny shot of Grand Marnier, I’m not interested in boozing it up everytime my kids get out of control.
No, I decided I’d hit the beach and mix up that margarita solely within my own imagination. I contemplated doing yoga to get me into some kind of meditative state to help get me there but napping on the couch was more my style this week.
As lovely as that sounds, this whole thing was actually a very painful process. I could dream of salty oceans and salty drinks all I wanted but to stop being a mom went completely against my nature. As hard as it was to stick with it, I needed to break up with my kids for a minute in order to teach them a lesson–that I am deserving of their respect.
How did I go about it? With prayers and patience, I started by limiting what I said to my kids. Completely ignoring them wouldn’t have been realistic. They still needed daily instruction since I happen to be the keeper of their entire world, but I tried my hardest to keep my words to a bare minimum.
I did not do any of the things I warned them about, like the hugs and the tuck-ins. I did not congratulate their good grades, watch their new gymnastics trick, listen to their complaints, or kiss the boo-boo away. I did not even say goodbye in the car pool lane, though a quiet whisper of “I love you” always passed my lips once they were far enough away not to hear it.
I have learned that kids do not like being ignored in any way whatsoever. I definitely think it’s far more effective than yelling and screaming at them all day when you’re trying to make a point. In fact, the very same night, my kiddos started to reflect on what they actually did wrong. They began to change their behavior for the better so that mommy will want to come back from “Mexico” and be their mommy again.
I received many apologies and an “I’m sorry” letter to boot. Typically, that’s all it takes and I’m more than happy to accept their promises to be good little children again and forgive them. In this case though, their naughtiness had been gaining power and it was slowly crushing my spirit. Truly. Since my previous tactics weren’t redirecting their course of behavior, it was important for me to see this through or real change would never happen.
If daddy was home, I’d send the kids to him if they tried to ask me something that he could easily answer. It’s nice to see him being so supportive of me and he has been stepping in more to take care of things, occasionally without me even asking! Let me get excited about that real quick because around here, it’s a big deal.
I’ve also noticed that the kids haven’t been fighting as much. I suppose they are all in this together so it’s built up some kind of camaraderie between them. Geez, I should disappear more often!
I longed to hold them though, smile with them and share in their day. Sometimes I’d tip-toe into their room at night while they were fast asleep just to look at them or sneak a tiny kiss on one of their chubby little cheeks. However, it was so important to stay strong and not let them see how much I missed them. I needed them to miss me too, or it all would’ve been for nothing.
Thankfully, I kept at it and it’s a good thing I did since old habits die hard. My kids were up to their same irritating antics the next morning before school, which only confirmed that giving in to them early on would’ve been a mistake. Mommy was not happy when she dropped her ducklings off at school and without a doubt, they knew it.
After that, things started to click with my oldest and she has made notable efforts to be helpful and listen. The middle child has gone back and forth, he’s still working it all out in his head. The youngest doesn’t seem to be bothered by it unless it’s being talked about at that moment but at least he knows what he did wrong initially. That’s something.
The point is, I think we’re making progress here. It seems grounding my kids from the comforts of mommy may be more unpleasant for them than simply grounding them to their room or taking away Roblox time. I get that this probably won’t work for teenagers but thankfully, we’re not there yet.
I don’t expect there to be glowing halos around my children’s heads from now on (wouldn’t that be a dream come true?) but this has been a tough week for all of us so I know it will at least weigh on their minds a bit.
If my kiddos continue to make an effort to behave and show both of us more respect, all will be back to normal by Friday. No one is looking more forward to that day than me. My heart is aching to have my babies back in my arms again.
I’d love to know what y’all think about this. Am I completely off my rocker or am I doing what needs to be done? Sometimes parenting feels like a great big experiment with each family having their own unique variables that are always changing but I’m totally open to hearing your thoughts!