I didn’t set out to be a mean mom. I wanted to be one of those calm as a cucumber, doesn’t need to raise their voice to get the kids to listen, has the patience of a saint kind of moms. I know myself, so I knew I’d never truly reach that pinnacle of saintly mother, but it gave me something to shoot for. I like to aim high.
As my children grew into toddlers, I really did try to be the most patient version of myself. I listened intently to their reasons for why they flushed their washcloth down the toilet. I didn’t roll my eyes when they said that the taco dinner I made was disgusting even though it was what they had asked for. I let them sleep next to me in bed, so long as they at least tried to fall asleep in their own.
I was calm. I was present. I was tired.
I thought I was doing everything right. I wanted my kids to know that, though they were young, they were still people deserving of patience and kindness and respect. I wanted to raise them knowing that I treated them the same as I would treat any other human being who came into my life. I didn’t think showing them common decency was special treatment or that it would blow up in my face, but oh boy, it did.
One day as my daughter thought she could get away with berating me for not letting her watch YouTube videos on the tablet, I realized that my attempt to be the nice mom, the patient mom, the always-present mom had actually morphed my kids into entitled jerks with limited respect for me, and that epiphany did not go over well.
I can’t tell you how it all unraveled, but I can tell you that shit got real.
No longer did I listen to their bullshit reasons for neglecting to put their dishes in the sink or their clothes in the hamper. Nope. Now there were consequences for ignoring chores.
Oh, you dumped water out of the bath tub onto the floor? Now instead of my calmly explaining to you why you’re not supposed to do that, you get to go to bed early. How bow dah?
Privileges were stripped, toys were taken away, and the TV was shut off time and time again. I had unleashed my inner mean mom.
I didn’t want to be a mean mom, doling out punishments like beer at a frat party. It certainly is not the most fun aspect of this parenting gig. I just didn’t see any other way to rein in the terrors my children had become. The refusal to listen to me had to come to an end. The entitlement, the arguing, the back talking, the everything. I had to rid them of as much of that behavior as I could as quickly as possible or they were going to grow into those kids on the playground no one wants to play with because they’re assholes. I had to choose to either have kids with no friends or have kids whose mom won’t let them get away with everything anymore.
Admitting I was a pushover parent was difficult. I thought I was doing right by them, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t doing what was best for our family, and I had to come grips with the fact that I had potentially been screwing them up by being way too patient and putting the “lazy” in laissez-faire. It’s never easy to say you were wrong. It’s not easy being a strict(er) mom. But it’s even harder knowing that you’re not raising your kids to the best of your ability and refusing to change.
I chose to change my behavior, so I could change theirs. We’re all still learning what this new era of our life looks like. I’m growing more confident in how I don’t put up with their crap, and they’re learning to respect me, our home, their belongings, and they take me seriously now when I lay out the consequences for certain behaviors. While I know there are more moments when they don’t like me, I know by their morning cuddles that they still love me, and that means I must be doing something right.