Having 3.5 years to work on getting pregnant leaves you a lot of time to think about what sort of parent you will actually be. My experience growing up was mostly as a girl with a single mom for a parent. My mom kicked my father out when I was around 2. I would see him on Weds nights and every other weekend. Looking back on it - my memory of growing up was like this:
Mom. You just never messed with her. She wasn't a 'hugger' or a person who would tell you 'I love you', or really, even told me 'Good Job'. She expected me to do well (school, swimming, whatever) and I did. I would go to school from 9 - 3:30, and then go swimming from 4 - 5:15. I would get home, and we would sit down and have dinner together. She then would usually leave for an hour or two for whatever commitment she had that evening (she was on the church choir, and on the boards of several organizations). I never remember having a babysitter - I would just clean up the dishes from dinner and do my homework (while watching TV! A big no-no if she was home). She also was (and is still) totally obsessed with weight/body size - and had me in Weight Watchers from age 12. That is a whole other story. She was (is!) a formidable woman who made a hell of a lot of sacrifices so I could go to private schools and the best college I could get into. There wasn't any extra money, that was for damn sure - so I wasn't one of those kids with the cool clothes or the Atari system, or even cable TV. To this day, she still doesn't have cable.
But - I did go to private schools, and she had a vacation home in the Berkshires that we pretty much went to every single weekend in the summer.
Dad: After he left my mother, he moved in with Barb. Later on, I found out that he was cheating on my mom with Barb, which was one of the many reasons that they split. Anyway - Barb was fun for me. She really liked to spend time with kids, and would take me to the park or play games or help me make clothes for my dolls - all things that my mom never did. Later I found out that Barb couldn't have kids (her first husband and she even did IUIs!) But my father? He would pick me up (Sometimes. He 'forgot' more than once) drop me off with Barb, and then go out and go golfing. Or something else that didn't involve me. If he WAS home, he was reading a book or watching TV. Certainly not spending time with me. But he was the guy that got me a Cabbage Patch doll when they were the thing to have, and also gave me an allowance. And as I got older, if he would see people on my swim team who dyed their hair purple or something - he would threaten me by saying 'If you do that, I'll disown you'. And I believed him - because he has 4 other kids from other marriages that he never talks to. But his lack of interest in me certainly didn't make him feel like he couldn't take full credit for my good grades or all American swimming accomplishments. Which used to piss me off.
But - for all his faults - he stuck to the divorce agreement, and paid for 50% of my schooling. He gave me a car when I was 16. He even paid for me to get my pilots license. And, he was the reason I had a 'parent' that played with me - even though HE didn't - Barb did. To this day, my father and I really have no real relationship.
So - truly an interesting mix - and I think the reason that became the person I am is watching the crazy dynamics of all the adults in my life. When I think about what kind of mom I want to be? It's hard.
- I want to have fun with my kids. I want to play and laugh and joke around. That was certainly lacking in a 'kid' sense as I grew up. Sure - my mom and I had fun - but it was a different, a kind of more 'adult' fun. And the fun I had with my dad - was always a cautious fun - not knowing when he would lose it and start yelling or lecturing me.
- I want my kids to have discipline. I have NO idea what it was that made me listen to my mother. But I did. And I want to be able to have that same authority with my kids. I want to have fun, but I still want to be The Mom.
- I want to avoid putting my own hang ups on my children. Do I want them to grow up chubby? No. But I look back on the pictures of me when my mom was sending me to Weight Watchers, and I cringe. I wasn't fat. Not even CLOSE. But because my mom was obsessed with me being thin, I assumed I must have been fat. I never want to do that to anyone. It's crazy when I think I've been basically dieting since I was 12!
- I want my kids to be proud of who they are. I never thought twice of bringing people home with me from my fancy private boarding school. And I grew up in a 1000 sq ft ranch. I just never knew different, and I never questioned why we didn't have cable or whatever. We just didn't. And it didn't bother me. I want my kids to be like that - just know what our life is - and be happy with it.
- I want my kids to be healthy. I think a lot of who I am today is based around the fact that I did a huge amount of sports growing up. I'm a strong woman, and pretty confidant that I can do anything I make up my mind to do. I will encourage my kids to be active.
- I'll cook for my kids. My brother feds my nieces McD's, Taco Bell or pizza every night. I think that is horrible.
- I will NOT buy my children everything they want. When I was growing up, I got presents on my birthday and Christmas. And at Christmas, my mom's rule was 3 big presents. One was a book, one was clothing, and the other was a toy. My father usually gave me a few more toys - but nothing obscene. I think that helped make presents special. And I would treasure them more.
- I will let my kids make messes. There were a lot of things I wanted to do when was a kid (finger painting was one I really remember) that my mom would NEVER allow to occur, mostly because she felt the paint would 'get all over the house'. Or draw with chalk on the driveway. Or course - I'll work on us cleaning up afterwards, but making a mess is fun!
- I will let my kids learn from their mistakes. And learn on their own. I know many friends that had mothers that pushed for them to swim certain events. Or helped them write papers so they would get good grades. My mom never even tried to help me with my homework or intervene on my behalf with a coach. I did everything myself - and I think I learned more for it. I think I may give a little more help in the homework front (I wish someone took the time with me outside of class with math, for instance)... but I don't expect to be typing up papers for my kids!
- I will let my kids know that they are loved and wanted. I will hug them and kiss them until they get to the age when that is horribly embarrassing. I will NEVER threaten to disown them.
Phew. I guess I've thought about this a lot, huh?