My great-grandmother became a mom at age 17, and she gave lots of motherly advice to my grandmother, who became a mom at 20. She called it a mother’s “tough-love.” She was able to pass on this motherly advice to her daughters when they became new moms. While I did not have the privilege of meeting my great-grandmother, my mom and grandmother passed on this tough-love to me when I entered motherhood as a fresh 20 year old.
I want to relay to you their words of wisdom and pass on three generations of tough-love, specifically on two topics that were really tough-love lessons for me, personally.
Never Make Assumptions
Several years ago, while playing at a family party, my son had gotten hurt badly. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything life threatening; but after hearing him scream, my grandmother took note that I had no idea where he was or what had happened to him. And to make matters worse, no one else at our gathering knew either.
My initial response was one of concern but quickly turned into frustration and anger. Why wasn’t anybody with him, why wasn’t someone watching him? But all my aggravations came to a screeching halt when my grandmother responded, “Yes, Lindsay, why weren’t you watching him?”
All of my internal reasoning fell like dominoes, because there weren’t any excuses I could viably give. I had been visiting with cousins and I didn’t check on him. After all, someone was playing with him, and I assumed they still had him; I assumed he was okay. Such careless assumptions came at the price of my son getting hurt.
My Grandmother sat me down for a tough-love talk. She proceeded to lay out all the “what-ifs” that no parent wants to hear about their child, reminding me whether I’m with family, friends, or complete strangers, my kids are my responsibility. She encouraged me to always enjoy baby-free time, but she advised me to periodically check in with those who’ve offered to help and to never assume someone else will adequately tend to my baby.
Assumptions can be very dangerous when it comes to the care of our children. The reality check my grandmother gave me helped me to realize how quickly my world could change for the worse by operating off an assumption. Mom duty doesn’t get to stop simply because someone else is helping to alleviate the heavy load of parenthood.
They Need You
At this time, I was a single mom and worked evenings. When my mom came in from work, I was leaving for work: both of us clocking out at one job and immediately clocking in to another. Every week night, she was tending to my kids’ dinners, baths, and bedtimes; it was hard.
I was working constantly, and at one point I simultaneously had three jobs. If I was offered a job, I couldn’t say no. Being a single mom, I felt like I could not afford to turn down work. Early mornings and late nights meant very little time spent with my kids. My mom saw a problem with this and used her tough-love to address it.
She reminded me that my kids needed me and I was not there. I was missing out on their life simply to make a little more money. I had a problem and to a certain extent became obsessed with earning more and doing more. Expanding my resume was a top priority . . . and now, I’m so ashamed to admit that my kids were not.
She questioned my intentions. While I claimed I was working for my kids, she accused me of trying to escape. If I’m being honest, this particular conversation caused a lot of dissension, and it was a heart-to-heart we had multiple times before I fully understood the ramifications.
My mom wasn’t asking me to quit working but instead to consider if working all my jobs was really the best option for my family. Yes, bills have to be paid, a lot of us have to work, and unfortunately we do miss out on some of our kids’ milestones; and that’s okay. But, when we are constantly absent, whether for work, fun getaways, or simply “me time,” you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s all worth it. For me, trying to do it all wasn’t.
I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again: raising kids is hard. Our actions in parenting will determine the type of adults our children become, and that is a very big responsibility!
I want to encourage everyone to find a tough-love mentor — someone who isn’t afraid to lay out the hard truths and hold up the mirror that brings light to your shortcomings. Have an open mind towards corrective criticism; I’ll be the first to admit, I struggle with this. No one is perfect, and count it a blessing when someone has enough love for you to confront an imperfect issue. It’s never fun having your flaws pointed out, especially when it comes to how you’re parenting. But, we all need that accountability to help us grow and become wiser . . . and we all need just a little tough-love.