Mommy Wars are usually about mom vs. mom: tiger vs. helicopter, attachment vs. baby-wise, French vs. Israeli. But what do you do if the biggest challenge to your mom identity–and your biggest potential mommy rival–is your own mother?
For the past almost 10 months, we’ve been living with my parents. Our necessary experiment in multi-generational living has shown me how great it is to live with extra adults to take on raising a child. The benefits far outweigh the cramped living space. Having a toddler is a lot of work, much more so than I ever imagined. It’s mentally, emotionally, and physically draining (and of course also rewarding). Having grandparents in the same house for support is beyond helpful, especially from my mom who is a wondermother.
My mom currently works full-time and is several years away from retirement. Charlotte asks me like a million times during the day “Where da Bubbie go?” Most days we pick my mother up in the afternoons and Charlotte squeals with delight when she sees her Bubbie walking towards the car. In the evenings my mom usually takes on Charlotte duty while I get dinner ready, set the table, load the dishwasher, and drink a glass of wine. I hear them playing in the living room and wonder if Charlotte sounds as happy when she is playing with me.
My mom also puts Charlotte to bed most nights, or my husband does it. It takes her about 20 minutes, my husband a half hour, and maybe if she is especially tired, an hour with me. More and more recently, Charlotte has called my mom “Mommy” instead of “Bubbie.” It doesn’t hurt my feelings, and I don’t think Charlotte actually thinks she’s her mom or loves her more than me–she loves us differently. But still, sometimes I feel like it should bother me and that I should be doing more as a mommy, so Charlotte would adore me as much as she adores her Bubbie. After all, I am her primary caregiver, so what gives?
Here are just a few of my mother’s amazing traits as a parent, and how I hold up:
Patience. My mom is super chill. It takes a major injustice or the potential for acute physical harm for her to raise her voice and shout. I, on the other hand, am hot tempered and have the poise of a 2-year-old when I am frustrated. When Charlotte is cranky, I am really cranky. Though I rarely yell at her, admittedly a few times now Charlotte has refused to sit in her car seat, screaming and crying and thrashing around so I can’t buckle her in. After 10 minutes of this, I’ve lost my temper and shouted at her. I feel terrible about it. I yell at my husband when I am mad at life. I hate that I am a screamer, but can’t seem to stop shouting. Patience is not one of my virtues.
Thoughtfulness. A few weeks ago we were in New York and Charlotte broke her leg. When we came home to Seattle, my mom had bandaged up the legs of Charlotte’s Elmo, Ernie, Cookie Monster, and Curious George dolls–in solidarity with Charlotte. My mother buys us birthday and Hanukkah gifts months in advance, scouring eBay for the most perfect things she knows we will like. I give myself a mental gold star if I manage to send someone a birthday card the month of their birthday. I’m generally good at showing love in the moment, but preemptive anything has always been a challenge. My mom bakes, sews, knits, gardens, and make photo collages of our family vacations. The Martha Stewart gene missed me completely.
I could go on and on listing the attributes of a good parent my mother embodies and how I need to work on a variety of things. Instead of feeling bad or jealous about her being the best mom, mostly I just feel blessed. Lucky that Charlotte has a Bubbie who gets down on the rug with her to play for hours, to color and read books. She sings Old MacDonald over and over with her and they sit on the back patio and blow bubbles, cook together and take walks. And she rubs her back when she falls asleep at night, whispering her stories about her mommy when I was a little girl. Charlotte is blessed, and I am doubly so.