I recently began a new series about how upbringing influences parenting. It remains to be seen whether it has as great an impact as I imagine, but that’s why I find these interviews so fascinating! I hope you will too.
(If there are any guys reading, please don’t be put off by the title – you’re more than welcome to get involved! I apologise for the un-PC title, but quite simply, I love alliteration. If you have any less sexist suggestions I’d love to hear them!)
This week, we have Donna, the (very lovely) person behind What the Redhead Said.
Donna can be found blogging over at What the Redhead said which covers all aspects of family life with her two young children, Athena and Troy. She loves to spend time at home as much as she loves to travel – and she’s partial to a gin and tonic!
1. Can you describe your relationship with your mother today?
In all honesty, there isn’t a relationship there at all – my mother isn’t in my life and it’s very much for the best. She was last in my life properly when I was a teenager and we had a turbulent relationship for a few years after she kicked me out of home when I was 17 but, by the time I got married when I was 24 she had decided not to come to our wedding and pretty much cementing the foundations which our following relationship has been built on.
2. How does this differ/is this similar to the relationship you had growing up?
It’s worlds apart. Growing up, my mother was my world. She was always at home during the day so she was always there. She would always make things for me, do crafts, organise little adventures and she was always baking and cooking. My love of being in the kitchen definitely stems from my mother and our relationship when I was growing up really couldn’t have been better – she was everything I wanted and needed in a mum and I think I was a pretty easy child too – I did well at school, did my homework and didn’t answer back. We could have definitely had it harder back then.
3. In what ways has your relationship with your mother influenced your character and outlook on life?
It’s influenced so much. I know my whole mothering instinct is something I learnt from my mum. I wanted to be at home with my children, build a solid home for them and make them the centre of my world. But, I am also fiercely protective of them – not wanting things like my relationship with my mother now to have any effect on them. I think the few years after moving out of home, dealing with the breakdown of our relationship really shaped me. I had to toughen up, I had to be self sufficient and I gained independence incredibly quickly. The transition from a great relationship to a broken one really made me grow up and made me older than my years but it also made me appreciate things more and gave me an urge to do things differently. I can’t change the past but the things that have happened can help me shape a better future.
4. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from your relationship with your mother?
Relationships, and friendships, are there for a reason, for a season or for a lifetime. Not everyone has to be in your life forever, they may be in it just briefly, for a few years or they may be one of the few that are there from the very beginning until the very end. But, you should learn to let people go when it’s time to part ways, learn to form new relationships and learn to look forwards and not back. Be thankful for the times you had and move on.
5. In what ways has that affected your parenting style?
I think the life lessons and my relationship with my mother has made me quite a laid back parent. Really I just want the children to be happy – I don’t want to be their best friend, I want to be their parent and I just want us to be happy. If I can just get to see my children grow up, find people to spend their lives with and maybe even have their own children some day I will be incredibly thankful. But, between now and then I just want to enjoy our family life as much as possible and make as many memories as I can with those people that mean most to me.
6. What’s the best/worst piece of advice your mother ever gave you?
To be honest, I can’t remember any advice. I left home before any of the it conversations happened about life, love etc. She did tell me never to marry a policeman – I didn’t listen to that one.
7. How do you hope to influence your own children as they grow up and become adults, and does this reflect your relationship with your own mother?
I really just want to guide the children to be good, honest people. I want them to be nice to others and to build good friendships, to have manners and respect. Beyond that I don’t want to influence them much at all – I’d rather they followed their own path in life and whatever choices they make I will be there to support them, offer advice when they need it and really, I just want to see them happy. My mother had quite a dictating style. She would tel me what to do and what decisions to make rather than having open conversations about them and offering guidance. I hope I do things differently when the time comes.
8. Based on your relationship with your mother, what has been your biggest surprise/revelation/epiphany when you became a mum yourself?
When I was younger I couldn’t imagine being a mother. I just didn’t want to hurt someone else the way I had been hurt in the past plus, I didn’t feel like I had much to offer children. But then I met my husband and all that changed. I wanted nothing more than to be a family and when Athena was born I loved her so much that my insides ached. The biggest epiphany for me was feeling that love, being so overwhelmed by it and, at that point, feeling such anguish too as I just could not understand how my own mother could walk away from something you should love that much, with your whole being. Becoming a mother myself made the pain of being estranged from my mother so raw. It opened old wounds and brought it all to the surface again. But, it also it it all back into perspective and reinforced why she is not a part of my life any longer.
9. Can you share a memory about you and your mother which illustrates your relationship?
I remember being sixteen and having my last family Christmas at home. I didn’t know at the time but a few months later my Dad would leave and I would get kicked out of home two weeks before the following Christmas.
That Christmas I stayed up late with my parents, we went to midnight mass and when we got home Father Christmas had been. I played along all the way through until I moved out of home and I loved it, our Christmases were full of presents, great food and laughter. We didn’t have much as I was growing up, my parents had so many jobs between them – with my mum cleaning offices at night – but even if we had nothing through the year we would always have amazing Christmases.
That Christmas was jut the same, so much food, Christmas jumpers and gifts. We watched all the trashy Xmas TV, played games and just did all that typical family stuff. It was perfect, just so normal and I loved it. Even now I am holding onto memories like that – of my mum playing along about Father Christmas, wearing her apron and cooking Christmas dinner and constantly refilling snacks on the coffee table in the lounge. My whole childhood revolved around Christmas and because of those amazing, normal, Christmases my childhood couldn’t have been better.
If you’d like to take part in the series about how upbringing influences parenting, please email me.