Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thursday Thoughts: Why I'm Proud To Be A Jerk Mom


Recently I read a great post on AiringMyLaundry.com, which was titled "Why I Won't Co-Sleep," and which was so relatable I couldn't help laughing. It was similar to another (more recent) post on the same site, titled, "I'm A Butthole Wife (Sometimes)," which also had me giggling to myself as I read.

I loved the honesty in both posts, and the way each one said, "I am who I am, this is what works for me, and I go with what works for me." It was just so self-accepting, and such a secure way of saying, "I have boundaries, and I expect other people to respect them."

As a woman who has struggled with setting solid boundaries in the past, and who has struggled greatly with defending my boundaries even when I have managed to set them, these two posts RESONATED in me in such a deep way. I loved the way Amber wrote about her willingness to be "a butthole wife" - especially if it meant letting her husband know that being his houseWIFE didn't mean she was okay with being his houseMAID:

"... that I should be grateful that he'd rather spend time with me than pick up his socks. He picked people over dirty socks. Yay me! No. I'm sorry, but no. He's a grown man with hands. Socks belong in the hamper. It's not rocket science. So I would complain ..."

I also loved the way she stands up for her own personal time and her own personal space with her kids, letting them know that she's a person too, and that being a person comes part and parcel with certain needs for time and space - and uninterrupted sleep:

"I wanna sleep with you, Mommy." 
"Well, I want to weight 20 pounds less but I like food too much and it's not going to happen. We don't always get what we want."
This is something I wish hadn't been so hard for me throughout the course of my life. I wish I hadn't gone back after leaving my ex-husband the first time, because it was so painful when someone I loved and respected was disappointed in me for "quitting" my marriage to an addict who had endangered our family. I wish it hadn't hurt so much to have that same person tell me how disappointed they were that I went back to my husband - because I "didn't stick up for myself."

I wish I hadn't had to cut ties with that person, because I still miss them everyday even though I have accepted that I can NEVER please them.

But there were good things that came out of that, too - I learned that you truly "can't please all the people all the time" - and that lesson thickened my skin, preparing me for:
  • life as an author, where even though the majority of reviews on my novels are good, there is an occasional one that hits me hard in the emotions. I might have quit a long time ago if I hadn't learned to be okay with not being able to please everyone I encounter.
  • the end of an abusive relationship that stole my self-confidence and my sense of independence, little by little, in the sneakiest of ways, until I realized with sudden shame that I had become hardly more than a helpless toddler living in a grown woman's body. Who knows who I might have become if I hadn't had that thick skin, that bit of fire, that strength of will that helped me fight back until he realized I was no longer a suitable target? (That relationship, its duration, and its end, helped to finally spark the complex-PTSD that I live with today. I asked my therapist once how I lived through so much in my life and this one thing sent me spiraling, and she said sometimes it just takes that last straw to set it off.)
  • the scaling back of a friendship that was hurting me, with a person who didn't and couldn't believe in me. I feel the loss of that person every day too - but I also hear the echo of their voice, scoffing, speaking their doubts into my future.
  • motherhood. This job is 100% worth doing about 95% of the time, but it's the hardest thing I've ever done in all my life. I have often been known to say things like, "Man, if I needed to get my self-confidence from the feedback in this family, I wouldn't have any at all!" Because kids, by their youthful and animalistic nature, are self-centered little buggers to the very last atom of their being. Which is why I'm so proud to be a jerk mom.
It's not that I'm impossible to please, or that I set an impossible standard to achieve. I'm just as likely to praise a low C as a high A on a report card, depending on what I really think my kid is capable of - although I'm happy my kids are naturally pretty smart (which is a total fluke, since they obviously did NOT get it from either of their parents). I'm also just as likely to tell my daughter that she can be a model, or an astronaut, or a teacher (or an author?) - if she's willing to put in the work and accept that EVERY career option has it's drawbacks.

But ... I did tell my teen that modeling probably wasn't for her, because having to starve herself into a size zero would shatter her quality of life. She's naturally pretty svelte but she loves food, and if she had to live on the kind of diet models are rumored to be expected to eat ... well, let's just say I recommended other career options that allow food.

I know right? What a jerk mom! I'm supposed to be telling her she can be anything she wants to be, right? And that the rest of the world has to sit back and hush up and let it happen, because she's special?

But the thing is ... she's not special. Not to the fast food manager who is probably going to be her first employer. He (or she) will know that teenagers are a dime a dozen, and that there's any number of them out there looking for a job so they can get the newest phone/shoes/clothes/car that everyone else has and BE COOL. That person will not think my daughter is special just because I do. And I'm not going to teach her otherwise, because her second boss won't think she's special either. Niether will her third boss, or any of her college professors. To them, she'll just be another person making their way in the world - and the world doesn't coddle sissies.

I'm also a jerk mom in other despicable ways, too:
  1. I make my kids (yep, both of them) earn time with their electronics. If they go to bed on time on Monday night, they get their electronics for one hour on Tuesday afternoon. If they ALSO get up Tuesday morning and get ready for school on time and without arguing, they get their electronics the whole afternoon. On weekends, the adjustment is that if they go to bed without a fuss (because bedtime is a bit lax on the weekends, but the bedtime stall tactics are not), then they get electronics for two hours the following day, and if they ALSO read quietly in bed until I wake up on my own (just because they don't sleep in doesn't mean I shouldn't, right?), then they get electronics for the whole day.
  2. How many of you caught that part about going to bed on time? Yes, my kids have a bedtime - even the teen. Bedtime for both kids is 7 PM on school nights, with one hour for quiet reading and/or music before lights-out at 8 PM. This usually has Eden asleep by 8:15 and Joey asleep by 8:30, which allows them to soak up the beauty rest until I wake them at 6 AM, at which time they both get up RESTED because I, as a jerk mom, made them go to bed at a decent hour. This also works out for me, as a selfish mom, because I'm also a single mom, and those quiet evening hours between 8 and 10 belong to me. Alone. Period. And before anyone starts going nuts in the comments about how that's SO MUCH SLEEP ... rest assured, I have adjusted bedtime often over the years, accounting for my observation of when my children wake up on their own in relation to what time they went to bed. Bedtime is set according to their own personal sleep hours - just because I'm the adult who enforces it doesn't mean I just do it because I feel like it.
  3. I make them clean up, too. Every day, each child is expected to make her bed. Not in the mornings, because apparently, making your bed is bad for you because it traps allergens and skin cells under the sheets or something, but because chores are good and because it's nice slipping into a well-made bed. Also, I wanted my kids to know how to make a bed, and you learn skills by practicing them. So part of our nightly routine is to make beds before getting in them.
  4. They also have laundry chores. Josephine is responsible for folding and putting her own laundry away. All of it. And I do not step in to do it for her. Eden's job is to sort the clean laundry into baskets according to who the clothes belong to, so that I can fold and put mine and hers away. She also pulls her own socks and panties out of her basket, folds her panties and puts them away, and puts her socks in the sock-box in her drawer. Occasionally, without being asked, she will also fold all of her pants - but she leaves the shirts for me because I'm such a weirdo on how they get folded (to prevent wrinkles).
After many years of being raised by a jerk mom, my children are familiar with "the mom look," which usually stops them misbehaving within seconds (unless we're at home, where their sense of safety overrides their fear of being embarrassed by public discipline).

For instance, they would never do anything like this:


because it would make me do this:


and then this would happen:


and since I'm such a jerk, we'd probably come directly to this:


after which my kids would:


Because sometimes, you just gotta be a jerk mom to get the job done.

I'm okay with being a jerk mom because it means I care about how my kids turn out - and my kids know and acknowledge what that will mean for their potential in the future. Josephine has already come home from school many times, telling me stories about kids she knows who are allowed to drink and smoke, who spend time alone unsupervised with boys, who are already dating, who are allowed to dress immodestly. She tells me these stories with a mixture of shock and awe - and she always ends the story by thanking me for caring enough to protect her from herself. This almost always trickles down to Eden too, who tends to observe these stories with sadness and empathy for the kids Joey talks about at home - after which, she comes to hug me and thank me for being "the kind of mom who makes us listen and be good little kids."

Maybe it's because Joey's pretty mature for a kid of just thirteen, and maybe she would have ended up this way anyhow. Maybe Eden doesn't need my influence to be a rule-follower or a respectful person, and maybe she doesn't need Joey's influence to see the good side of having a jerk mom. But maybe, just maybe, it's because for all their lives, they've been taught with a generally loving hand, guided by a generally thoughtful teacher, and now and then, set in place by a generally jerk mom.

In other news: My grandma came through her surgery and is now recovering. Broken hips are a challenge though, and healing from surgery is rough even for the young and healthy. We're still watchful.

For more content like this, please support me on Patreon!

Related posts - lest you should leave here today thinking anything other than that I adore my children:
  • Here are a couple of poems I wrote for Josephine and Eden a few years ago.
  • And here's one I wrote about motherhood and the way it changes the women who undertake it.

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Did you have a jerk mom? What was the most jerk-like thing she did that you're now grateful for?
  • Are you (or were you) a jerk mom to your kids? How do they feel about it today?

36 comments:

  1. OMG. I want to be you. If I tried to put my teen on a bed time? He would laugh at me. Not that I'm raising a disrespectful little brat. I do pop him when I get attitude, but.. Problem is, he has insomnia. We've tried everything. Melatonin, benedryl. Nothing seems to work. He goes to bed between 10 and 12 and hopefully falls asleep by 1. Catches up on his sleep on the weekends and back to normal during the week.

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    1. Haha - most of the reason that this works for me so well is because I've been holding this steadily for all of their lives, so for them, it's just the way we do things.

      My oldest daughter has insomnia as well, in conjunction with ADHD - she started with melatonin, graduated to benadryl, and is now taking hydroxyzine each night before bed with success. From the way my pediatrician explained it to me, hydroxyzine is basically like Benadryl that's 1. a bit stronger, and 2. not illegal to give as a sleeping aid. She's been taking it for years and it has worked very well for her.

      But I will also say, I think having the sort of laid-back bedtime routine that I try to hold onto helps her sleep more easily too. She needs the time to "wind down" before she can fall asleep.

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  2. I can't really relate because I don't have kids but my ex-fiance had 3 and none of them had any real boundries (which somehow became my fault even though I hadn't been in their lives for more than a couple years.) I tried many times to make some changes like not having to prepare 4 different dinners because none of them liked the same thing or not allowing the 5 year old to crawl in bed with us because that was his normal routine after awaking in the middle of the night. Sorry for the rant, this just stirred up some memmories I've tried to put behind me. Richard B

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    1. Sorry for that, Richard - it's never the intention for my blog posts to upset my readers. Sounds like step-parenting didn't work out all that well for you, and I'm sorry for that, as well.

      And as for the making multiple dinners thing? That's also a strong no in our family. My kids eat by the same rule I did - they have two choices at mealtime. Choice #1 is to eat; choice #2 is to NOT eat. That being said, I do usually try to plan meals I know my kids don't hate.

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  3. You're right you can't please everyone no matter how hard you try. Kudos to you for sticking to your guns

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  4. Thank you so much for the shout out. I'm flattered!

    I'm proud to be a jerk mom! My kids have chores too. And I say no a lot and don't feel guilty. No to sleep overs. No to sleeping in bed with us. As I get older, I care less of what people think about me.

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    1. Yep, that's how I am too. I grew up in a situation where even the adults that I should have been safe with - I wasn't always safe. Now, I don't care who you are, when you ask to have my children for any period of time, the answer is probably going to be no because I don't trust people - these kids are the most important people in my life, and I would protect them with my own blood. There's no way I'm handing them over to someone I'm not 10000% sure of.

      I'm with you on the no's too. No, you can't have ice cream for breakfast. No, you don't need another soda. No, we're not staying up til three in the morning. No, we're not inviting seventeen kids over to wreck the house.

      But I must be doing something right, because I do say yes too, and my kids are good kids that love and (mostly) respect me. That's the end goal, and I don't care how outsiders see it, for the most part. I am truly proud to be a jerk mom, and when people accuse me of being "strict" or "overprotective," I can honestly respond with a shrug and say, "Yeah, but I have good kids and I know they'll be in their own beds tonight."

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  5. I definitely had a good laugh reading this post. Thanks for the insight. Honestly, I don't think there is nothing wrong with being a jerk mom. That's the best kind of discipline possibly out there. You definitely need a trophy for getting it done your way :)

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  6. Proud jerk mom here, too! :) And I love the tip about making your kids earn their electronics. i need to start implementing that...

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    1. It works well for me for several reasons; not only is it a great way to limit electronic time and encourage them to play together more, but it also is HIGHLY motivating for both of my girls. If they know they can't have electronics until chores are done or a certain amount of good behavior has been offered in payment, then I get what I want and so do they.

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  7. Loved this one!!! I believe you can be anything you want too, but let's be realistic, limitations are there and if you can't skate, no matter how hard you try you will never be a professional hockey player. Being a parent is about teaching HOW to live in real life and although they are special to me, they are just like everyone else that has to work hard. Thank You!

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    1. Exactly. And it's important to teach them that they aren't always #1, that the rules apply to them TOO, and that they have to be considerate of others. I also want to teach them that while it is important to respect and follow your passions and your dreams (I'm a writer - firsthand example), it's also important to be honest with yourself about what you're good at and what you're naturally gifted with.

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  8. It's important to give discipline and to teach valuable lessons to children. I'm proud my parents were my friends when I needed them to be but never forgot to be the parents either.

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    1. Yeah you definitely have to maintain a balance. I tell my kids all the time that I want very much for us to be friends, but that I have to be mom first - and that when they put me in a position to choose between "friend" and "mom," I'll choose "mom" every time.

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  9. I would rather be a "Jerk" mom than a parent who enables her kids. I love your parenting style. I don't like judging other parents but I do appreciate parents who are very keen on discipline and all that. I'm glad that you're proud! You should always be.

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    1. Yeah I'm definitely more of a disciplinarian in my parenting style. I'm not afraid to say no, or even to dole out punishments for misbehavior. But it's because of those things that I have good kids, kids who know right from wrong, and kids who know how to treat others with respect.

      Now, whether they always make the right choice is a whole different discussion, lol. But at least they know what the right choice is, right?

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  10. I would much rather be a "jerk" than have a$$hole kids, you know? They will thank me for the rules and discipline someday.

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    1. That's my hope too! I like knowing that my jerkness is paying off, lol.

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  11. Wow. Great post. You're a wonderful mom.

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    1. Aww, thank you! I'm glad you liked my post!

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  12. Haha! I love being a "Jerk Mom" because my kids will have respect and values! Nothing wrong with that!

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  13. To be honest, it's not bad to be the jerk mom. I am a jerk mom as well, lol. I make sure that I teach my kids the skills that they need in life and that includes cleaning up their own mess and doing things for themselves. I'm not here to baby them but we do have a lot of sweet times together. I just want to make sure that I teach them the important things too.

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    1. I'm right there with you. I'm always loving on my kids, and I love letting them know that they're incredibly special to me - but I'm also not afraid to let them know that the rest of the world doesn't see them the same way I do.

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  14. I make sure that I teach my kids that sense of responsibility, it's one of the things that they'll need when they grow up. Sure they might call us jerks now but they'll definitely thank us once they realize how much they needed that lesson! Lol.

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    1. I'm thankful that for the most part, mine are open enough to admit that even when they're mad at me for "momming" them, they're grateful to have a mom who cares enough to instill boundaries and discipline.

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  15. Well from the sounds of things I wouldn't call you a jerk mom. I think you are doing everything right. I find as an adult I am giving myself a bedtime and earning my gadget time. Lol. We all need discipline, especially teens. Also I'm happy you discouraged your daughter out of modeling. Terrible industry that is.

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  16. Thank you for sharing this. My husband thinks I'm very tough with our kids, but the truth is, we have to be before the world is with them. I respect my kid's views, and welcome them to say whatever is on their mind. But I remind them that there are certain rules we have to follow in life.

    PS: I'm with you on the "Catch me outside" girl... that would be my reaction should any of our boys say such thing.

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    1. Yeah I have that happen too, with people telling me how I'm so tough on my girls and stuff like that - but I'm okay with it. I'm okay with being "strict" and "over-protective," because that "strictness" is exactly why people stop me in the store to comment on my girls's behavior.

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  17. It has been awful how much you have been through and although that friend is no longer in your life , just remember we are always here for you. Even virtual strangers can be a friend in a time of need. I am thankful that you escaped the abusive relationship and that you are slowly learning that we all need boundaries to preserve sanity x

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    1. Thank you so much - I love seeing your comments because I feel like we relate to each other so well. I love your blog!

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  18. This! I'm a bit of a jerk mom too, and I feel that I have to be because I am a single mother. I hate sharing my bed, because I feel that is my space, so I always have to tell my little wanderer no just about every night these days. I just NEED my space. I'm also trying to work on my temper, especially for the little ones, but I'm starting to think they only like to push me when I'm really exhausted. My kids are way too smart.

    daisharenee.com

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    1. I'm right there with you. I'm a single mom too, so that's part of why I'm such a jerk mom at times - I never have time to NOT be the jerk mom. I HAVE to be the disciplinarian, because there's no one else to do it.

      Mine push extra when I'm worn down too - sometimes I just want time to rest, and they don't get it.

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