I intended to write this post months ago, but how does one tackle a topic so close to one's heart in a blog post? Here I will try.
I’ll admit it. I’ve watched “Sister Wives” on TLC. You know, the one about the 4 wives and 1 husband and their very blended family? Now, before you judge, I’m not proud of my choice. After the first season – there isn’t much on TV for 2am feedings and Netflix is SO convenient – I stopped watching because the whole concept of polygamy and their lifestyle left me feeling uneasy.
That being said, there was definitely a draw to the concept of parenting my children with other women. There is nothing like the perspective and extra hands of other mothers. It made me step back and reflect on my own mothering experience. I realized that in many ways, I share the job of parenting with many other wonderful and blessed women. I share them with you here.
My Mom, Sheila – As I’ve shared in the past, my mother is a foster mom and my brother was adopted into our family. As such, my mother’s “parenting” years have been extended. From my mother my children learn that family doesn’t begin and end, it is constant. From her they learn unconditional love and acceptance as we share the lives of so many unique children. They also learn in a special way the difference between a mother’s love and a grandmother’s love. Only a grandmother would spend time running around collecting items my 4-year-old insists “mom is out of.”
My Mother-in-law, Pat – My mother-in-law is legally blind and has been most of her life. You wouldn’t know it to meet her, however, as she has learned to thrive in her disability. My children have learned perseverance, attentiveness and acceptance. They see in her a wicked independence. They don’t know Grandma any different than she is and they love her all the same. John Ross has learned to sense her needs and respond to them. It brought my heart great joy to see him lead her into church with her cane the other day, carefully maneuvering her through the doorways and around the pews. And just like any other grandma, I find myself coming to grips with the spoils of a visit and the sugar overload aftermath.
My Sister, Alida – When my family is together there are so many children that we just parent whichever one is closest to us. My children see my sister as an extension of myself. She loves them all fiercely and goes out of her way to make sure they know she loves them. She and I share a similar life stage and she keeps me sane. At the same time, she thinks of all the fun “aunt” things to do. I’ll never live up to the bonfire and toasted marshmallows visit.
My Sister, Johanna – My sister Johanna is my respite. When “Ana” is around, you know the kids will be out of my hair. Ana spent much of her teen years helping my mom with foster babies and our brother Matthew, many of whom had special needs. As such, Ana is very creative and inventive when it comes to entertaining the kids and reducing parental stress levels. Strangely enough, she is the best and most loving disciplinarian I’ve ever met. Even without kids, I look to her for ideas and support when it comes to keeping my kids happy and in line. She doesn’t put up with nonsense, but knows the art of distraction best of anyone. She has a love and passion for life that inspires and lights up my kids and for that I am eternally grateful.
My Neighbor, Ann – Ann is a dear friend. I don’t think there are many people who can say they have as good of neighbors as we do. Ann greets our children regularly, waves to them from the car, and invites them to swim in her pool. When she stops over to visit she gives them hugs and asks them questions about their small person lives. With 2 girls of her own, she regularly drops off hand-me-down toys, bikes and equipment. She praises them for their politeness and encourages us as parents. Clara always prays for “Miss Ann” first during our night prayers and we thank God for her as well.
My Nanny, Jeannine – Jeannine gets it. When I needed to hire someone in home to care for my children, I long for someone who could be an extension of me. While we are very different, Jeannine is just that. She loves them like I would. She gives them experiences and joy like I want to. She challenges and holds them accountable. With 4 children of her own, she is a skilled teacher and guide. During a very difficult time in my 3rd pregnancy when I was suffering from debilitating depression, Jeannine made holidays and birthdays something special. Not only is she another mother to my children, but she has become a support for me too – sharing our lives and helping to keep my house (and more importantly my head) in order. It took us a lot of time to find her and we would be lost without her.
My children’s Godmothers – We don’t see these women as often as we’d like, but perhaps that is why they make good Godmothers. They are called in a special way to support us in prayer, both the kids and us as parents. Without their prayers, we would be lost. We count on them to be spiritual warriors and resources for our little ones and we count on their prayers to protect us as we ride the crazy parental rollercoaster.
These women and I don’t share a husband (thank goodness), but these are the women helping me to raise loving, fun, and passionate children. These are the women who help me to be a better mother and live in the example of our Blessed Mother. Clearly, we share a heavenly Father and we are all responsible for the little lives, hearts and souls entrusted to us. So with great humility and hope, I say “thank you.” I hope someday to be as pivotal in the lives of other children as the women in the lives of mine.
Who cares for, teaches, and inspires your children? How have you thanked them?