I am sure all moms experience to some degree doubt and concern over their job performance. Moms who homeschool their kids most likely experience a larger dose of self-doubt. Unlike other jobs, motherhood does not come with scheduled performance evaluations and job improvement plans. Critical reviews seldom come in unbiased form. “You’re the greatest mom,” in response to some treasure bestowed on your child or, “You suck,” when the treasure is denied, do not adequately assist in self-evaluation. The input of a caring spouse is often no more helpful.
Since my children are nearing the age when my influence will diminish, especially in the role of primary educator, I felt it was time to have a serious evaluation period with them; an evaluation of my performance. This feeling was prompted by an article I read about children repeating abusive language and questioning the idea of whether they could develop such language without having been first exposed to it. The author, having been an abused child, shared some of her own heart wrenching memories. As I too had been a child of “tough love” which often crossed the line into verbal abuse, this article rekindled a deep fear in me. A fear promoted by the news coverage of the early 1980’s which reported that children of abuse would grow up to be abusers.
I don’t like fear, being controlled by fear and most importantly inflicting fear, but as with any human, fear is a part of my life and is a reality. When fear creeps in, I like to meet it head on and address it. So fearing that I may have been too harsh with my criticisms at times, I decided that my children were mature enough and articulate enough to provide me with a job performance evaluation. I was amazed when we were finished, because they could not remember all the times I screwed up, when I yelled too much, or the times I felt like I had used too much discipline. They did recall times when corporal punishment was used, and strangely their memories where not the same as mine. It seems punishing them had hurt me much more than it had them. What they remembered were the lessons they had learned and they were very articulate in their appreciation. When it was all said and done, their reviews of my job performance were pretty good and they expressed compassion over my self-doubt and worry.
In reflection, I began to wonder what made me different from my parents. I grew up knowing my parents loved me and while my father had some real problems that today would be prosecuted, they did try to do their best, at least in my pre-teen years. However, what had been missing were hugs and verbal expressions of love. These were the things, coupled with all my many apologies for my mistakes, I tried to make daily occurrences in our home. Not just bedtime hugs, but hugs when they were doing their schoolwork or the dishes; spontaneous hugs and daily declarations of love. It is amazing what the power of a hug can do.
While I suspect it may be my only “A” grade in motherhood, it is good to know I did not fail in the department of showing my love for my children.