What I Learned From My Mother About Parenting


There are people who have those “WWJD?” bumper stickers on the back of their cars asking people to consider “What would Jesus do?” as they make decisions both big and small in their everyday lives. Some have rebranded this to include “What would Oprah do?” and plenty of people stop and consider “What would Mom do” once they become parents and are now in the beautiful, petrifying and privileged position of raising small humans. These mothers recall the ways that their own mothers raised them – the way they did everything from handling the pain of skinned knees to broken hearts, or the amount of patience they showed when answering countless little questions about the stars, bedtimes, and vegetables; to how much grace they exhibited when answering the bigger questions about things like the birds and the bees, the importance of “No means no”, and death.

I am no different than any of those women. I am constantly asking myself “What would my mother do?” when situations and questions like these arise. The only difference is what happens after I answer that question: I do the opposite.

I have done my very best to not only avoid emulating how my mother raised me, but to figuratively run in the other direction. My home environment during my childhood was a culture of fear – our hardwood floors may as well have been covered in eggshells. There was a constant and heavy blanket of loneliness that was wrapped around my shoulders. While the words “I love you” were stated frequently, the reminders that this was just an empty phrase or based on conditions that were apparently rarely being met were constant. My mother used to tell me that “I love you because I gave birth to you, but that doesn’t mean I have to like you” while I was still in Elementary school, and my father informed me around my fourteenth birthday that “I love your mother more than I love you – I chose her, you just came along.”

She would make me sit alone in my room for hours on end when I was the age my children are now, with no explanation beyond telling me that she “couldn’t stand” me anymore. When I would come home from school a few years later with my heart or ego bruised from an argument with a friend, instead of comforting me, her first question would always be, “Well, what did you do wrong?” When I had to stay home from school on the occasions that I was sick with a fever or Strep throat, it was always made clear to me what a huge inconvenience it was to her and I was once again relegated to my room. I wasn’t allowed to watch movies or television because as she put it, “If you’re too sick to go to school, then you’re too sick to watch TV.”

And I believed her. I believed that it was my fault that she didn’t like me and that it was okay that my father told me he loved her more. I believed that I was a “bad girl” and an inconvenience and must have done something wrong to have a friend shun me. I believed all of it because I didn’t know any better. Because mothers have your best interests at heart and know what’s right and what’s best for you…right?

But that none of that means that I never learned anything from her about parenting. On the contrary, she taught me more than I could have expected.

She taught me the importance of saying “I love you” and meaning it. Not just at the end of phone conversations, or to accompany the kiss at the bus stop or at bedtime; but anytime – and without strings attached. Not only do I constantly tell my kids that I love them when they do something silly or wonderful or perfectly “them”, but I periodically reinforce and remind them that no matter what they do – and even if I seem temporarily mad at them for, say, emptying a container of uncooked rice on the kitchen floor, I will always love them and that there’s absolutely nothing they could do to make me stoploving them.

I have done my best to replace that blanket of loneliness I had draped on my shoulders with superhero capes on theirs. At four and five years old, I think children should be able to feel a sense of invincibility, of the endless possibilities of the world, rather than the obstacles. At their age, I think they should know that there will always be a set of arms outstretched towards them – to catch them, to hug them, to let them feel safe when they awaken from a bad dream.

And rather than shutting my children out, I do my best to keep that line of communication constantly open. I ask my daughter about a difficult day at school with curiosity but without judgment, so she is free to be honest about how she feels or why she did something without fear of punishment. Together we come up with solutions to how she can make better choices or handle things differently in the future.

And it has not been easy going through this parenting journey without my mom. I often have moments and days where I turn to my husband and say, “I want my mom. Just not my mom.” But just as my father succinctly put it more than twenty years ago, we don’t get to choose who our relatives are. We can only look at both their strengths and weaknesses and choose to take what we want and leave what we don’t. There are valuable lessons in both.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’m learning is that the most important question I need to start asking myself is “WWID”?

What would I do?

About the writer


Jamie Krug is a writer, wife, and stay-at-home-mom with a full-time job as the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) of her family. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post where she is a regular contributor, as well as AOL and a number of other publications. She has also been published as a contributor in the nonfiction anthology The HerStories Project. She is mother to an inquisitive daughter named Parker and the mischievous-grinned Owen. She prides (embarrasses?) herself by stating out loud what other mothers may feel but wouldn’t dare say…  Jamie can be found at JamieKrugAuthor.com, as well as on TwitterInstagram, and on Facebook.


Athene 9 months ago

I completely feel your pain. My birth mother was abusive, manipulative, hurtful, neglectful, poisonous, and criminal and I finally wised up and cut her out of my life about 15 years ago. I have always been determined not to give my children the childhood I had, and to that end have read innumerable parenting books and spent 20 years in therapy trying to learn how to do things differently and heal the damage that was done to me in my first 12 years of life. It has not been easy amd I definitely think it’s worth it.

NotMyMom 1 year ago

*comment 156 was meant as a reply to the poster who sugested that the author’s mom’s actions were just mere imperfections.

NotMyMom 1 year ago

Imperfections are one thing, what this author is describing is not a matter of occassional imperfections. And trust me, children of parents like that KNOW the difference. Many even forgive and sometimes even make valiant efforts to forget.

Me? I remember and like the author, I use that as a guide of what NOT to do but I won’t bother with details because I already spent a good part of my life making excuses for my mom and telling myself that she was only human, and I really don’t need to hear it from you.

I never expected my mom to be perfect – not even close.

Lei 1 year ago

This hurts my heart so much. I wish I could be your mother, if for a day, just to give you a giant hug and tell you you’re important.

Debi Memmolo 1 year ago

Jaimie, this is at once heartbreaking and uplifting. So many awful people blame their wrongdoings on their childhood. You’ve managed to set aside years of abuse and become a loving, caring, concerned, productive member of society. How lucky for those of us who have had the pleasure of meeting you. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle Crowe 1 year ago

=( I know.

Jennifer Quadrozzi 1 year ago

I’m so sorry to hear that you didn’t experience that unconditional love only a mother can show. It is a loss for you. Your children will be blessed for having a parent who knows the difference and loves them doubly, for the love they should receive for being your child and for the love you never felt. God bless

yveee 1 year ago

This made me cry, some of it tears of past hurt,but mostly tears of thankfulness that I can tell my children I love them so much all the time no matter what.
I’m sorry for everything the posters here have went through and am thankful to know we aren’t the only ones.
I will still always wonder why on a lot of things growing up, but I will never ever regret every single second spent with my children, I cherish them and I am sure they know it <3 Love to all of you!

Katie | The Surly Housewife 1 year ago

Great post! I can totally relate. It is so hard to find that inner voice as a parent and be confident in your decisions. Thank you so much for sharing your story :)

Kimberlea Haff Carney 1 year ago

I said it earlier TODAY children are empathic they absorb all good and bad – they will grow with or without the right guidance so lead follow or get out of the way because the can grow strong or they can grow damaged – it is up to the adult

Summer Allen 1 year ago

Thanks for sharing this.

Jennifer Sinclair 1 year ago

I wanted to hug Jamie Krug! Xoxoxo I’m glad she’s better at being a mom than her mom!

Melon 1 year ago

Sounds like some great self-healing going on by doing the opposite of what your mother would have done. I was raised by a mother who used guilt tactics and would never let me make any decisions because they could not possibly be right. I am still plagued with self-doubt at every corner and guilt about not having a clean enough house, cooking healthy enough food, exercising enough, going to church every Sunday, etc. the list is endless. My husband has no tolerance for guilt and is straight forward, which has taught me alot about just talking about issues and decisions instead of using manipulation. My child has been watching TV for a couple of hours now, relaxing after a full week of swimming and playing and I am sitting her feeling guilty about being on the the computer instead of trying to interact with her in some way. Wish I could turn off the guilt!
It’s great that this writer is turning it all around! Good luck to you all in your quest to be better moms!

JoAnne Dietrich 1 year ago

I think it is good that she shared her story. It is always a good thing to talk about your feelings. I hope she forgives her mother and lets go of some of the anger. Counseling would be helpful. It would benefit her and help bring peace to her life.

Michelle Realey Feby 1 year ago

My father had a horrible childhood. There were 6 of them total. My dad and his identical twin were the youngest. My grandfather left my grandmother after they were born. She resented having kids because she only wanted to go out and drink and dance and have a good time. The twins were routinely tied to their beds for minor infractions, like making too much noise. All so she could do whatever she wanted. She told them that she put poison in their food. Eventually she GAVE them away. To missionaries. My dad grew up with them in Mexico. Staying with other missionary families…but he had to sleep in the basement. Not “our” nice, finished, heated basements of today. More like the dank, dark root cellar type. He never really knew love until he met my mother. He was a hard man when my brother and I were little. But he eventually mellowed out more in his forties and beyond. I think the catalyst for him was the birth of my oldest son, his first grandchild. I didn’t like him much when I was younger, until my mom told me how my grandmother treated him. Then I cried for him, and loved him all the more. Thank you for sharing your story! I wish you a lifetime of peace and love and am so happy that you’ve overcome your parents faults. Your children are so lucky to have you

Richard Markham 1 year ago

My mother broke the race barriers that I ignored as a 12 year old in Augusta Georgia because my friends were colored and they were good people and my mom loved good people!

Rebecca Stockwell 1 year ago

I also could have written this with a bucket load more crazy! Luckily my Dad was normal and when the two eventually separated, I left with him.
Now that I have daughters, I wish I could have a mum around for guidance and support but definitely not my own mother. My girls will grow up only ever feeling loved and cherished – nothing at all like how my siblings & I felt

Alicia Horn 1 year ago

Thank you for sharing your story.

Rebecca 1 year ago

I could have written parts if this. My whole mothering goal in life is to not be like my mother. And when parts of her do come out I am filled with self loathing. She really believes she was this great mother “because we all survived”.
Barely, I prayed every day fir it to be my last. While I could have had it much worse she had left and continues to leave scars on my heart.
I will try with every fiber of my being to be everything she wasn’t!!

Terry Sumner 1 year ago

My birth mother abandoned me at 3, but I was so blessed by God who gave me to greatest step-mom in the world!

Karen Williams Elvert 1 year ago

If I do this to my child then I deserve to be called out.

MyLove M. Barnett 1 year ago

I’m very disappointed in the number of people who would deliberately seek to diminish and belittle someone else’s pain with things like “at least it wasn’t as bad as xxx”. It’s not a competition. Her situation doesn’t make your trauma any less real and vice versa. SMH.

Maria Mayo 1 year ago

Love this article!

Suzanne Mills-Houlberg 1 year ago

Beautifully written. I’m blessed my mother is wonderful and I hope to be like her.

Coleen Wilby 1 year ago

Oh my goodness – you mean there are more of us !

Gemma Hoffman 1 year ago

Wow… I could have written this (if I was as articulate). There is a lot of judgement from people when they see that you don’t like your mother; “she is your mother after all-she can’t be that bad” etc etc. Well, sometimes she is “that bad”…sometimes worse! I work daily to parent my children completely opposite to how I was “mothered”…glad I’m not the only one! X

Shelly Talsma Everson 1 year ago

Beautiful! Hits so close to home.

JoMae 1 year ago

Are we sisters? Lol, sadly that’s not true tho it sounds like we had the same mother. Except I got the beatings for little to nothing as well. The movie Mommy Dearest is a lot like my mom. Except we were far from rich and my mom didn’t drink. She commited all her cruelty stone cold sober. It was funny when my daughter was about 6 months old, she made the comment that her friends had asked her how often I had called her for help or advice when my daughter was born. And she was proud to say never. She didnt like it when I said, what could I possibly ask you? You didn’t take care of me, and I raised Mikey(baby bro) so how could you give me advice? Tho it seemed for awhile she would make up for it by being a good grandmother. Once my kids were old enough to form an opinion and voice it. She proved to be the same old vicious, vindictive, violent, evil bitch she always was. Best part to was unlike me, my kids were taught to stand up for themselves and when someone shows you their true colors, believe them the first time. I was terrified to become a mom, because after her most horrific rages. She would cry, beg for forgiveness, and tell me she couldn’t help it because she didn’t know any better because of HER mom. But I was always very close to my grandma and loved her dearly. It wasn’t until a miscarriage of a surprise pregnancy, being faced with possibly being unable to have kids. That I wanted any. I’ve always said if the only thing I accomplish in this life is being a better mother than she was. Then I would have accomplished the world.

Andrea Iacone Graham 1 year ago

I can tell from the comments those who truely understand emotional abuse. The woman who mentioned praying her mother would hit her harder do she could get help, truer words were never spoken. I too grew up in house where you had to walk on eggshells for fear of everything. It changed daily! My mother told me daily to never talk with anyone outside about what happened in our house. I’m 41 and it has only been in the last few months that I’ve started to understand what happened to me. And yes the isolation. No one wants to hear about how hateful and hurtful your parents are. People are very quick to tell you how you are over reacting (case in point, many of these comments)and give you examples of the things their parents did or said. So you try to justify it, which turns to self blame and loathing. Thank you for writing this, its nice to know I’m not alone in thinking “what would my mom do cause I’m going to do the opposite.”

Tenisha Ashley Lebeau 1 year ago

I’m fortunate enough to have a Gilmore girls type relationship with my mom. Very vocal family. But very loving. And I’m raising my girls the same way.

Emma 1 year ago

Thank you so much. I also try and do everything differently from my mother. She made it very clear she felt a “duty” to have a child, and one was more than enough. I was always determined to have two children so their upbringing would be different from mine right from the outset. I really envy women who have great relationships with their mothers – mine has always been the least supportive person in my life, and I only tolerate her presence because I feel my children need grandparents (and because I love my dad). It’s sad to still feel this way in my 40s, but I try and do what you do, and use my childhood as an inspiration to do better.

Colleen Margaret 1 year ago

Wow. Powerful

Stephen N Samantha Thomas 1 year ago

I could have written this… So glad to know I’m not the only one who “wants my mom… But not MY mom.”

Elizabeth Bowden 1 year ago

Very similar to me. One incident really damaged me. I was badly bullied at school. My parents went to see the headmistress about the bullying and she told them that I just needed to accept I was one of those girls that no one would ever really like. My mum came home and told me that. Matter of fact, just deal with it. It was and enough she didn’t stick up for me and put that stupid teacher right but to then tell me….well, I’ve never recovered.

    JoMae 1 year ago

    That really sucks. But you know by allowing that. You only let them win. Be a happy confident person. That will be the best FU you could ever give them.

Kimberly Paradis 1 year ago

my parents were not perfect they did their best and met my needs as their child….but I can honestly say as an only child and an observant one they struggled many times on both accounts but over all did a great job with hand they were dealt. I feel blessed that I seem to have grown up not blaming, or obsessing over what was wrong in my youth. I above all was taught to think as well as own up to my actions and know how my life turns out falls upon my shoulders in responsibility. When I became a parent I was scared in knowledge their protection and learning fell upon me. I was more focused on doing my best and learned thru trial and error while praying I was not harming or screwing my kids up in some way. If your holding on to the past, let it go for happiness….. live how you want, try what you think. I <3 the last part of post when said WWID? :)

Marie Ruffell 1 year ago

Thanks for sharing, totally know how it feels. I try not think about it as much now but it definitely colours your thinking.

Amber Kristine 1 year ago

Wow, this was an incredible post. Thank you for sharing your story. I had a pretty terrible childhood as well and I try to do what my parent’s DIDN’T do because I couldn’t bare to be like them. If I did to my children what they have both done to me and my brother, I have completely failed at life.

I understand, I’m right there with you. It’s good to know I’m not the only one. Thank you again for sharing your story.

Melissa Soar 1 year ago

Emotional damage and physical does heal… if you work through it and get help. Why do you think there are support groups and communities to help. Therapy and self help. Saying you never heal, you never get past it…thats such a terrible thing to say. Here, this happened, you will never get over it. I have a lot of people I dont forgive for what they did to me and if I dug deep, I might find Anger. But honestly, I just found a way to move on… made an effort to find myself and yes… heal. Because it does heal and it does pass. Stop saying it cant.

Melissa Soar 1 year ago

I have used the “I love you but don’t like you” with my kid and she uses it with me. We went through of a phase where my kid screamed she hated me (cuz yup, I suck as a parent some days too and her life hasn’t been easy.) So we established the I dont like you thing. We dont have to like each other all the time but we love each Other. I love you are words that people take for granted… its not said enough, or how I wanted it to be said. I was never told I love you because I grew up in a life where I didn’t belong to anyone long enough to be loved. It didn’t hinder me from knowing love… and I dont consider never being told as abuse. There were so many worse things that happened to me. Idk…

Amy 1 year ago

Tears streaming down my face as I’m reading this, for my own experiences and yours. My biggest amibition in life is to have a different relationship with my daughter. I work every day to make sure she feels unconditionally loved.

Amy Hendrickson Shatrowsky 1 year ago

Ingrid, I am glad you had the strength to separate yourself. There is a time and place for understanding & forgiveness but also for self preservation.

Amy Hendrickson Shatrowsky 1 year ago

So sorry you were told those things, but so happy you are not continuing the behavior. I would call this a life triumph.

S 1 year ago

I can’t really define why my relationship with my mom sucks or why my childhood left me so unhappy and unsatisfied, and to be honest, that makes it all the harder to avoid “being my mom”. :( I don’t like the way I mother my daughter, and I’m afraid we’ll end up having the same kind of strained relationship that everyone who knows us can sense.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I asked mom about my birth. Every woman knows her birth story supposedly, right? Her response was–well, not flippant, but it seemed unimportant to her. Just… went in, got some meds, pushed me out, done. Both my births have left huge impressions on me–both cesareans, both planned as natural births, one planned at home. Another time, I shared an image on Facebook, one of those silly ecard things I guess, something along the lines of mommy needs coffee so she doesn’t completely hate parenting. (Let’s be honest… it’s SO much harder when we can’t keep our eyes open, right? And it’s a bright spot to look forward to each morning after being pounced out of bed.) Anyway… my mom’s response was, “Oh… maybe that’s what I did wrong. I only ever had tea.”

So there I had it… my mom hated being a mom. But I don’t remember much about her interactions with me as a kid. I don’t think she played with me–which is probably why I am usually at a loss when my daughter wants me to play with her.

It was also fairly obvious she always wanted a boy, as the boy name my parents had picked out and still didn’t get to use when my sister was born was frequently talked about in our household growing up. A name. Never even an actual child, unless she had a miscarriage we were never told about, even as my husband and I battled infertility for several years. How weird is that?

One thing mentioned above that I always try to do with my daughter though is distinguish between her and her behavior. She’ll be acting out and we’ll blow up at each other, but she’ll come around a bit later for a hug and say she loves me. I hug her back and tell her that I love her too–I just don’t like whatever that behavior was. SHE’S not naughty, but drawing on the walls and her toys, or stealing things from Mommy and Daddy’s dresser and desks and bookshelves IS naughty.

Kelz Pyffer 1 year ago

Emotional damage never heals and that’s why its so important to me the way i talk to my kid and I don’t do to her what my mom did to me. It’s alot easier to build up a child than to repair an adult!

Monica 1 year ago

I am crying as I read this. Thank you so much. This was also my childhood. No physical abuse but emotional and verbal abuse hurts and damages and destroys a relationship just the same. It’s so hard being a mom and not having a loving, secure base to come from. Thank you for showing me I’m not alone.

Tara 1 year ago

I can completely relate as well. When I was in high school my mother told me that when she found out that she was pregnant with me that my father wanted her to have an abortion but that she refused. My father died when I was ten and it still bothers me, and I’m in my early forties….

Emily Hannon Hecei 1 year ago

Don’t make assumptions about people. I never said that I grew up in a house with domestic violence, only that I had lived in one. I also never said that I had two parents present in my home as a kid, because I didn’t.

All I am saying is that this mother is demonized because of her parenting, when in fact she probably did the best she possibly could. The best she knew how. Clearly she raised a smart, balanced child, so she must have done something right. Is there no part of her that can be applauded? No part of her that is appreciated? No acknowledgement of the parts of mothering that she got right?

Lynne 1 year ago

“I want my mom. Just not my mom.”

This is ME.

I am currently in the middle of a divorce from a man who, after 15 shots of whiskey, attacked me from behind. He slammed my head numerous times into a wall, both forwards, backwards, and choked me.

When my Mom came over the next morning, her first question to me was, “What did you do to him?”

She continues to take his side over mine. In fact, I feel quite alone during this entire divorce process.

Thank you for sharing your story. It is a relief to know I am not alone.

Arlene Simms 1 year ago

Same thing with fathers. My husbands father was a very abusive man, with no remorse today about what he inflicted on his child. It makes it very hard when in later years it’s your responsibility to care for that aging parent. Very difficult indeed. You need to rely on Gods grace and strength to do it. It’s not humanly possible without it. But my husband is doing it. No thank yous, always saying how good other people treat him compared to his family. Doesn’t dawn on him to say, let’s go out to eat, my treat for all you do. So we just do what we know God wants us to do. We just don’t visit too much anymore. Let all the wonderful people take care of him in between.

Christy Smock Horn 1 year ago

Emotional abuse is just as painful as physical abuse, and the ramifications last just as long. I remember the hateful things my mother and step-father said (and did) to me when I was eight (I am almost 42). It’s hard to overcome.

Franneee 1 year ago

This is me all over! I follow What Would My Mother /Not/ Do. I know my mother loves me, but it was made clear my needs were a huge inconvenience. Thanks for sharing. xx

mary 1 year ago

Omg! This put into words what I have always tried but couldn’t. I do the opposite too. I am 30 years old and still struggle with my place in society because of the way i was raised.. Every day I have to remind myself that “I matter!!”. My kids will never feel this way. Thank-you for this. For sharing. And for reminding me that I am not the only one!!!

Marie L McKenna 1 year ago

Thanks for sharing. I really needed to read this today. I think we might have had the same parents!

Valerie Swenson 1 year ago

I will say there is hope. My mom was amazing. If I am half the mom she is, I will be doing well. She grew up in a crazy home. Her mom is bipolar, without really accepting treatment for it. When she found out she was pregnant she cried because she thought she would be a terrible mom. But she deftly broke that cycle. So I applaud you for doing better for your kids. You don’t have to make the same mistakes as your parents…I’m grateful my mom didn’t.

Jessica Norman Hafemeyer 1 year ago

Wow…how sad.

Sue King 1 year ago

I’m so sorry. We all veer away from the way we are raised..but later in life we learn to go back and treasure it.

Vicki Fertig 1 year ago

Wow! Did we grow up in the same house? These rules were also my rules as a mother. If I thought my mother would do it this way, I did the exact opposite.

Rachel 1 year ago

I was raised by a single dad from 5 years old as my mom was a schizophrenic drug user. My dad loved work and the dating game more than me and my sister so when I ask the question “what would mom do” it is genuine and I honestly will never know. I raised myself, and I did a good job, I might add, because I did the opposite that I heard she did, no drugs, never promiscuous, and married a gentle and warm man.
But as my children’s mother, I suck. I always thought I would be everything I never had, because I know what it is like not to be tucked in at night, or have no mother to guide me in the matters of growing up a woman… But here I am, mother of 2 beautiful kids, 6 yo daughter, 3 yo son, and I am impatient and withdrawn and unsympathetic to half their complaints. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. And here I am thinking, WHAT WOULD ANY MOM DO?

Daniela Webber Allman 1 year ago

Wow, thank you for sharing. I often feel the same and do the opposite of what my mother would have done.


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