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I am Mom Enough

I can't possibly spend time linking to that horrible piece of bait by Time magazine and have decided instead to think about how I'm plenty enough for my children. But, okay, I'll take the bait for the purpose of discussion. I am mom enough for them and for the other kids in my life. I gave up Mommy Guilt a long time ago and I don't take on things that don't belong to me. It's something I learned at a very young age, much younger than I should have. It's something that, at the time, didn't occur to me but I recognized it as guilt right away. Guilt registered quickly for me back then. There was also a heavy dose of purposeful shame attached to it.

When I got pregnant for the second time in high school it wasn't without a mounting dose of shame already. No one needed to convince me to feel embarrassed that I'd done this again. But my mother was, understandably, pissed. If she told me that once she told me a hundred times that she was, indeed, pissed. So when a friend of mine, whom I'll call Rebecca, finally shared with her own mother that I was pregnant again that led to a bit of a pile on at my expense both from her and from people who were my friends. One Saturday afternoon while I was running around after Mallory (who had learned to walk and was in constant motion) the phone rang. No one called me much anymore so I stopped rushing to answer it, but I overheard my mom pick up the phone and her tone perceptibly shifted. Her "Mmmm hmm." became more pronounced and then, as I was walking through the kitchen, she thrust it at me and said, "There."

It was odd for her to say that instead of "Here, it's for you." but I'll never forget her saying it nor the tenor in which she said it. Accusingly.

There. See what you caused?

Rebecca's mom wanted to yell at me. Her anger was palpable through the phone line and, though it's been over 20 years since she called me, I can still hear her indignant voice. But I couldn't tell you for the life of me what she said. Constant screaming like a fever pitch for a solid ten minutes. I imagine it was a lot of How could yous? and What's wrong with yous? and words like stupid and worthless and mistake mistake mistake.

If I didn't know guilt before those ten minutes I knew it immediately after that call.

I was not enough in that moment as a mom, a girl, a daughter, a teenager, a person. I didn't want to chase after Mallory following that phone call and there's not much of the rest of that day I can remember except my daughter looking at me. If a 15-month old can be fraught with worry and concern then this baby mastered it. She learned it far too well and now, even at 25 years old, she can shift her eyes in a way that tells me she is disquieted as a reaction to me.

Not long after that I gave up guilt and was determined that no other person, even someone else's mother, would ever inflict it on me or launch their wrath at me. The stares I got from carrying a toddler too young to be on my hip became boring and I ignored them. When I joined my first PTA Mallory was in kindergarten I, all of 20 years of age, rebuffed the comments about my age, education, and experience or lack thereof. By the time Mallory was in high school I was used to the jokes about how I looked like I should be in high school myself ha ha ha, aren't I very clever to poke fun at a complete stranger? Isn't it great fun to taunt someone you don't even know? Don't we all just love to make other moms feel badly about themselves?

No. That answer was no for me a long time ago so I haven't let anyone pull me into manufactured quarrels about being enough as a mom. At 15 I was very much enough. Mallory slept in bed with me because we couldn't afford another bed. I joined La Leche League and nursed her at home and in places where the stares became intense. If you think breastfeeding moms get a lot of eyeballs on them you should see what happens when a 15 year old does it in public. I read books to her and taught her to read on her own when she was in pre-school at Head Start. That was mostly selfish on my part because, as a college student, I had textbooks to read and needed her to understand the r-controlled vowels and what sound "s" and "h" made when you put them together because I needed her to be more independent. I wouldn't have even known which of those were some sort of attachment parenting skills or not because I trusted myself enough as a parent to listen to instincts and common sense and slowly figure it out for myself.

I am mom enough. I am plenty. I don't need anyone to ever ask me if I were.
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Reader Comments (26)

Kelly, I applaud you. Thank you for writing some of what I was thinking myself.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDana

Love this! I too was a teen mom and everything came instinctual to me which taught me that I am plenty of woman to be a mohther.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda Lugo

Thank you because I've cried too many tears this week. Thank you for this because it's given me the courage I need to go on. You are precious and your children are blessed to have you.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercharlotte

Kelly, you are a wonderful example of mothering and motherhood. I am so glad you know not to let others dictate to you and that you pass on that message along with the message that people, especially young girls, need not give up if their circumstances don't meet those others insist are best.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPenbleth

Bravo to you! Well done! I am appalled at the fact that they used that headline just in time for Mother's Day. Can't imagine seeing that repeated about fathers around Father's Day. Way to try to inspire a little more Mommy Guilt Time Magazine. Thanks.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthedoseofreality

Kelly, thank you so much for sharing this. We all need to remember that WE ARE ENOUGH. I'm so appalled at that magazine cover/story I can't even breathe today. And on Mother's Day weekend? AWFUL.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for saying what needs to be said.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentererin margolin

Thank you. You've got some incredibly lucky kids, and not just the ones you gave birth to. I'm mom enough too.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia Sprout

As the daughter of a teen mom, I remember my mom's struggles and the shame other people sometimes heaped onto her. I also know that you really couldn't have better parents than I had. They may have been young, but what they lacked in experience they made up for in dedication and effort.

People always ask me if my mom feels more like my sister, which is the dumbest question ever. My mom is my MOM. She disciplined me and told me when I was right and wrong. She told me to clean my room. She yelled at me when I deserved it. She tucked me in at night. She graduated from college when I was eight and packed me off to college when she was 36.

Young or not, my mom was a great mom. I have never understood the judgement against young moms. They may need a little extra support in the beginning, but women have been having babies in their teens for thousands of years. Civilization hasn't crumbled yet.

Thanks for writing this.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmericanFamily

[...] Mom and Where is the Mommy War for the Motherless Child? by Kristen of Rage Against the Minivan, I am Mom Enough by Kelly of Mocha Momma and It’s Time to Stop Fighting the Mommy Wars by Katherine of [...]

[...] Irony of ironies, just today I made comment about how great my parents are. *head desk* May 11th, 2012 | Category: All About Me, Extended [...]

I like this post (:

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermyblackfriendsays

I'm wondering what the world would look like if our first thoughts were always "How can I serve?" rather than "How can I judge?"

May 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob

[...] Mocha Momma–I am mom enough. [...]

[...] Mocha Momma–I am mom enough. [...]

I LOVE, love, love this post. Good for you! We are all enough and we don't need anyone, especially a magazine, questioning that. I wrote what I HOPE was a "gentle" response to the controversy here:

Thank you for sharing your love. You. Are. Amazing.


May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa Jubis

What a beautiful article. You sound like an amazing Mama!

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

standing and applauding, thank you

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I love this post. My daughter just wrote a blog entry last week talking about the inferiority complex so many of her fellow female scientists have in that world. They question their own ability and competence first instead of looking at those doing the criticizing and pointing the finger at their failures for doing the dissing in the first place. I shared your writing with her and told her I had found a kindred confident spirit for her. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

Thank you so much for posting this. There is too much judgement and hate almost manufactured to exist between moms because of breastfeeding, or age, or religion (fill in the discrimination of your choice here). What matters to ME as a Mom is my child, not societies rules about who I should be or what I should have done to be the "best" mom. Are there awards out there for us that noone told us about? Darn!

When i die, I could care less what society says about me. If I loved my child completely and with all my heart...if I tried to raise them to be good and happy members of society and that they know the value of love, thinking, reason, justice and peace etc....if they take care of the world and each living breathing thing in it, I will be satisfied enough with that.

Parenthood breeds enough of its own guilt and self-doubt, we as women and mothers (and as a society that condones it!) are spending valuable time judging and fighting each other rather than supporting each other on our journey. It is feminine and motherhood based dis-empowerment, and it makes me both sad and angry to see.

I don't care what age you were when you had your first (or second!) child. You know why? I am sure it is absolutely irrelevant in making someone a good parent or a good person.

I'm as flawed as they come. I'm far from perfect. And I love my son more than anything in this world and try each day to do that day's best for him because of that love and responsibility to him. And to me, regardless of anything else, that *is* enough. Happy Mother's day from one mom to another!

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCristie

Although, I don't support teen pregnancy, I do support and applaud you for NOT giving up on being a mother and taking care of your kids and making a better life for yourself and your kids. (Note: I was HIGHLY blessed that I didn't end up pregnant as a teenager, and there were plenty of times I thought I was only to end up having a really bad period. So, I'm NOT saying I was an angle as a teenager!!)

I personally wish that there was a way to encourage teenagers to wait until they were married to have sex, but that has failed to happen regardless as to the methods that have been attempted to stop it from happening.

Great post and I throughly enjoyed reading about your experience.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal Green

Very inspiring post. I was a teen mom and I taught my gifted child to read before pre-school too. I always thought it was because I was so young I had an advantage of not knowing that 3 year olds don't read and you don't have intelligent discussions about Greek mythology with 6 year olds, I just did what came naturally to me. I did make many mistakes, but I loved my daughter and did the best I could. Mom's today are just overwhelmed with information and expectations. Every child doesn't have to have a perfect life to grow to be a happy healthy adult. Love is what matters. How many times have you heard someone say they grew up poor, but they didn't know it because their home was filled with an abundance of love? Choosing to love and accept yourself for who you are is the best thing anyone can teach a child, and you have no reason to feel guilty when you know you give love unconditionally and are doing your best for your kids. Hooray for you for sharing this message!

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoni

I'm a new visitor, I found this post through The Progressive Parent. I just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic post! I too was a teen mother, it wasn't planned but we did our best and I was "enough". It thrills me to see another former teen mum say these things. I applaud you Mama! :)

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCass

"They may have been young, but what they lacked in experience they made up for in dedication and effort." -- I love that! :)

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCass

[...] I am Mom Enough — Mocha Mamma [...]

I have two sisters who were born when I was in high school - same parents, in case you wondered; most people do - and I delighted in them, most of the time. There were many times when I would take care of them on my own; people often congratulated my mother on the wisdom of having built-in babysitters. I'm not sure my mother would ever recommend someone have a pair of teenagers and a pair of toddlers at the same time, but to each her own. (Later, when I had a toddler of my own, I asked her how she did it. She chuckled, and said, "Well, you all acted about the same, so I treated you about the same."

When people (especially little old ladies) saw me with the first of my younger sisters, they would cluck a bit, and say things like, "Oh, the poor dear. God bless." They commented on how lovely my sister was (she was) and how brave I must be (to take my sister to the 25c ride-a-pony at the mall? um... I guess so). Later, when my youngest sister came along, the old ladies changed their tune. They harrumphed, and "whispered" loudly to their companions about how I should have learned the first time around, and some people should not be ALLOWED to be parents, etc. etc. Never did it occur to them that these might not be my children. To be fair, I carried that diaper bag very capably, and wasn't shy about discipline, guidance, or safety. I was already carrying a healthy load of Catholic guilt. The LOLs were trying to heap on more. I swore I would not do the same.

Those experiences shaped me, changed me. As I grew, I was far less likely to assume anything or judge another person for the children in his/her care (as long as the children appeared to be safe). The lack of compassion extended to me has motivated me to be generous with compassion and empathy when I see people in public with children in tow.

And now I work to advocate for children - in families and in schools. I was shocked by how I was treated. Now I transform that treatment into respect and dignity. It's a small thing, when I might interact with someone for only a brief time, but if I can help them feel - even for a little while - acknowledged, supported, maybe even empowered, then I know I've done a good thing.

Those sisters are now two of my best friends. They have my back. I still have theirs. I was mom enough, and I wasn't even a mom yet.

June 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJet Harrington

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