In this special episode of Voices of Your Village, I got to interview the most incredible woman I know: my mama. We chatted about her experiences in motherhood, and you may want to grab yourself a box of tissues because some ugly crying definitely went down.
We first dove into the logistics of our family. I am one of five - four boys and one girl - and there is a 13 year age difference between the oldest and youngest. Mom is one of eight (her mom had eight children in ten years; go ahead and pick your jaw off the floor) and dad is one of six, so she explained how having her own big family was never really a thought - having a “basketball team worth of kids” just seemed to be the natural way of things since she and dad are from large families and a lot of kids was just the norm.
I asked her if she always knew she wanted to be a mom. This was also just the natural order of things for her and never a question. Being one of the oldest in a family with eight children, she had a large role in the caregiving of her younger siblings and described how it was never really a job, but a love, so this naturally fostered her proclivity towards motherhood. She is so maternal and it’s definitely from my mama who I got my love for the tiny humans from.
Mom was also a stay at home mom, and I asked her if that was something she always wanted or something that evolved as more kiddos came. Mom didn’t have an education behind her, so making a significant amount of money to help support the family wasn’t really a possibility. She found herself in a similar situation as a lot of folks today - daycare was going to cost more than she was going to make. But what was more relevant was that she didn’t want to leave us with other people and she wanted to be home with us. She wanted to experience all of our milestones and be the primary influencer of our values and morals. Her mom being a stay-at-home mom and my dad’s mom being a stay-at-home mom also contributed to this status quo. She shared about her and dad’s parenting dynamic and what each of their roles looked like. I think my parents did a rockin’ job sharing the responsibility, but we discussed a little about how societal expectations for moms and dads are much different now than they were then. Being a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone, but if it brings you joy, go for it, and if it doesn’t, it’s okay to outsource it.
My mom is the calmest and most chill person I know, so I questioned how she kept her cool being constantly surrounded by the chaos that five kiddos create. She attributes this superpower to it just being her personality and being able to accept the chaos as par for the course and to go with the flow. Since she grew up as one of eight girls, she admits it was an adjustment getting used to the physicality that came with her boys - she and her sisters were never physical, so this frequent physical contact may have been the one thing that gave her consternation. All-in-all, though, she doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Why couldn’t I have gotten these genes??
and you blink and your child is grown up. She wishes she had enjoyed the time more with my three older brothers when they were little, but it can be so hard when you’re in the thick of it. I know a lot of you mamas reading this can relate.
In her experience, the most challenging part of motherhood is the teenage years, especially when trying to stand your ground when you know you’re right. She wishes she’d stuck to her guns rather than give in on some things - especially in regards to those “teenage lies” - she feels like she put her children in situations in which we could have made poor choices by allowing us to experience a certain level of freedom - but what I’ve actually told so many folks is that I am a fiercely independent woman completely capable to navigate the world because my mom and dad allowed me to take these risks. Ironically the fact that she and dad gave us all wings to fly on our own is the most rewarding aspect of motherhood for her. People have questioned some of her parenting choices, for example when I went to Austria, asking, “How can you let her go?” and her attitude was always how could she not?
My mom would pick spending time with her kids and her grandkids over anything in the world because it truly makes her so happy. I feel like I hit the jackpot with my mom and my entire family, and I’m so grateful. Thanks, mama, for giving us roots and wings, and letting us fly.
My three oldest brothers are all within two years apart, and then I came along four years later, and my youngest brother came along five years after me. We dove into the differences in parenting and navigating the first three verses the last two. She explained how with the first three kids she was on autopilot, and that it was helpful that they were all boys, had each other as playmates, and had similar interests. We discussed how the older kids were involved in taking care of the baby at the time - to be part of a big family is to be raised in the village. We all chipped in. We were all in it together. When older kiddos take on the role of being the big helper, this isn’t doing wrong by them - this is just them learning what it means to be part of a family. She described that when my youngest brother was born, he basically had to be 12 right away. My oldest brother is 13 years older than him, and the three oldest really never treated him like he was a baby. He quickly discovered his role as he got older and found ways to be a part of the lives of us older kids. There was no stay-at-home newborn life for him because he had to tag along to basketball games and the like only days out of the womb. The biggest difference with my mom’s relationship with my youngest brother is that it is very much like that of an only child - I was already in school when he was born, and then when I graduated high school he was just about to start - so mom spent many hours alone with him, contrary to us older four.
What would she tell her younger mama self? This was one part of the interview that some tears were shed. She said to cherish the time. You think 18 years is a long time, but it goes by so fast.