Fixing Our Mothers’ Mistakes

5 Mistakes My Mother Made Which Aren’t Worth Repeating

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There were so many things about growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s that made for an idyllic childhood. If you grew up during that time you’ll remember playing outside with your friends until dark and running home at the precise second that the streetlights came on or riding your bike around the entire neighborhood collecting friends along the way and ending up at your elementary school ball field playing unending games of kickball or roller skating to disco rhythms round and round for hours. You might remember watching Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie’s Angels and All in the Family and being told by your parents to “get up and change the channel” or going to the movie theater to watch Star Wars or The Bad News Bears.

My parents on their wedding day in 1961.

When my parents married and decided to have children, the Vietnam War was ending and the country was becoming increasingly fed up with racism and government interference. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Senator Robert Kennedy, and President John F. Kennedy left some of our parents looking to illegal drugs, psychedelic music, and the hippie lifestyle to escape from an unsettled reality. A powerful counterculture grew as African Americans and women demanded equal access to the economic, social and cultural rights that white men had.

As a result of these historical events, parenting in the 60’s often teetered between the free and easy approach and the “do as I say, not as I do” parenting of the 50’s. And in some cases, it was downright dangerous! You know what I mean! You must have piled into the family car and taken off for a Sunday drive without a seatbelt or you wandered through neighborhoods alone, without a worry, at a time when we began to learn that children were being abducted by strangers never to be seen again.

But most of our parents did the best they could, and we learned from their mistakes. And like Maya Angelou said to Oprah,

Whenever you feel the need to be harsh and critical on yourself, just say to yourself: “I did what I knew.. when I knew better, I did better

Maya Angelou

So, around Mother’s Day, we celebrate our own womanhood by acknowledging what we learned by fixing our mothers’ mistakes.

Mistake #1: Telling daughters that we can have it all.

Nope. Sorry, mom that’s not true. Instead, we do the best we can in the areas of our lives that need the most care at any given time. If we spread ourselves too thin, there’s a huge personal price to pay for that.

Mistake #2: Remaining in a marriage as a duty to the family.

Uh, nooooo. That’s a mistake too! Relationships aren’t 50/50 Ma, they are 100/100. Anything less by either partner will end in disaster of some kind and living miserably after the kids leave the nest is not an option for me.

Mistake #3: Comparing ourselves to the women in media to know how to look. Everyday. All the time.

Mom, we are in a global pandemic and I have not worn a pair of pants with a zipper or makeup or nail polish in months. Be happy that I brushed my teeth for my last Zoom meeting! Oh, and mom, I am still beautiful!

Mistake #4: As you get older, you’ll be able to count on your family more and more.

Well, mumsy, families are complicated, fragile systems that often break down and become irreparable over time. It takes family leadership to keep it together and that’s one of the primary roles of parents as they get older – support the family you built. It’s hard work and sometimes it requires more from family members than they are able to give. Acceptance is healthier.

Mistake #5: It’s okay to settle as long as you’re stable.

Always chase better mom. The quality of our lives grows exponentially when we focus on our own personal growth. It takes participating in the arena rather than spectating from the seats. The heights and depths of happiness and despair are equally intense, but it beats going through life numb or, even worse, as the man behind the curtain.

There are, no doubt, mistakes that I made as a mother and lessons I unintentionally taught my daughter too. And that’s a good thing because as Eleanor Roosevelt once said,

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

Eleanor Roosevelt
My daughter Caitlin and her mom (me!)

It’s okay that our mothers made mistakes. The power for daughters in their mothers’ mistakes is recognizing them, accepting them for what they are and not passing them on to our own daughters.

Michelle Horton is an entrepreneur helping women with empowered minsets pivot, evolve or totally reinvent themselves. Connect with her at [email protected]




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