Saturday, February 22, 2014

Motherhood vs. Parenting by Leah St. James

I love being a mom. I have two grown sons, and I’ve loved being their mom from those joyous moments I knew they were growing inside, to the euphoric instants of birth and through the years, watching them mature to the wonderful men they are today.

Visiting the Penn State Nittany Lion at
University Park, Pa. My son said, "Hey,
there's a guy in there!"
Being a mom is the laughter from the “So big!” game, the anxious pride of watching that first competition or recital, the bittersweet happiness of witnessing your child fall in love. Being a mom is the fear that grips every fiber of your body and soul while nurses wheel your child toward surgery, the despair of learning your child has an incurable medical condition but knowing you must be strong to help him cope.  A mom is a fixer, a peace-maker, a boo-boo kisser and a shoulder to cry on.

When my son changed majors, requiring
a couple more years of school than
we had expected, it seemed like
graduation day would never come.
When it did, I wanted proof!
I love being a mom, even in those fearful times, but sometimes I really hate being a parent.

Where mom is the nurturer, the fierce protector, a parent is the enforcer.

A parent has the task of telling a young son that, despite what Daddy told him, it’s NOT okay to relieve himself against the tree in the schoolyard... when the second-grade girls are 20 feet away. A parent compels a child to face someone he’s hurt, to make amends. A parent meets with teachers and guidance counselors to develop strategies that will, hopefully, turn that child’s schoolroom performance from weak to strong. A parent sits in a waiting room in the local police station while officers have a conversation with her just-turned 18-year-old, then has her own conversation when he’s released.

A parent metes out time-outs and forces her child to face the hard facts of life, and those moments truly are harder on the parent than the child.

It’s far easier to turn a blind eye to a child’s “little white lie,” or to explain away poor behavior than it is to confront it and call it out for what it is. Nobody likes dishing out uncomfortable truths, and it goes against a mom’s nurturing instinct when she has to deliver those realities to someone whose life she would save over her own.

A parent has to understand, far more than the child, that tough love is often the best kind of love.

When I was a little girl, we had a female cat that had kittens. My mom found homes for the kittens, but one day, one of the kittens made its way back to our house. I remember the kitten standing on our porch, meowing to come inside. And I vividly remember our sweet, loving mama cat peering through the glass, growling and hissing until the kitten ran off. (I can only hope the kitten made it home!)

I was horrified. How could our mother cat have turned her own child away? My mother, my parent, said, “She’s doing her job, honey. She’s taught him everything he needs to survive, and now it’s his turn to make a life for himself.”

It took me years to understand that lesson, but I remembered it as I raised my boys, and I’ve often wondered if our cat felt the pain I’ve felt when having to “parent” one of my sons.

Still, the joy of being a mom is worth every painful moment of parenting. I love my boys--every joyous and the not-so-joyous moment--and I'm so blessed, and proud, to be both their mom and their parent.

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the enduring power of love. Visit Leah at , Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.


Jannine Gallant said...

In our house, I'm the "real" parent and my husband is the "fun" parent. Yep, some jobs just have to be done even if they aren't "fun!"

Barbara Edwards said...

Being a mother and a parent, I think your post nailed the difference. Thanks for sharing and reminding me of so many happy times.

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Jannine - My hubby and I swapped roles for our two boys. For our older son, he was the parent. For the younger one, I was! We have great relationships with both, thankfully, so I guess we didn't mess either of them up, too much!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Barbara, for affirming my thoughts. Right now I'm waiting for one of them to have a kid so I can just be a grandma! (Guess I should wait until they're married first though, right?) :-)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Having been gone yesterday with the kids and grandkids, I got a huge dose of both sides you talk about, Leah. And loved every minute of it.

Leah St. James said...

Margo, I thought grandmas didn't have to "parent" anymore!?!? :-)

Alicia Dean said...

Beautiful! This conveys the difference perfectly. As a single mom for most of my kids' life, I had to be the parent and the mom. They're grown, but I'm still a little bit of a parent. Only now, I get to be Mom and Friend, and I love it!

Leah St. James said...

I was thinking about that, Alicia - how fortunate I am that I didn't have to be both. I was raised by a single mom, and I know how tough it was for her. (Of course my sister and I were complete angels, but still...) :-)