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Five ways you’re turning into your mom (and that’s OK)

There’s nothing like screaming at your kids in the aisles at Costco to make you feel closer to your own mom. Seriously. Perhaps it’s the way you inadvertently put your hand on your hip like she did (thanks, post-pregnancy body), or it might be that the phrase you yelled was one of your mother’s favorites… Either way, those kinds of moments both link you to your childhood and terrifyingly hint at your future. Why?

Well, from the moment we realize we can crawl on our own, we spend our lives forging our independence (sorry, mom). We can’t wait to walk, run, get that first car, go steady, move out, and “break free” from our childhood, only to realize that as we age and especially when we have children, we ever-so slightly turn into our mothers. 

Now, don’t freak out after reading that last sentence. As horrifying as it might sound, it’s actually very natural and normal. And kind of a compliment. Yes, really. 

In fact, there’s even an actual study from 2019 (who pays for these?) that suggests the exact age we start to turn into our mothers is 33. That seems very precise, doesn’t it? And neurologists say that the reason we might find ourselves shouting the same phrases to our kids that our parents used, is because in times of stress (i.e. every.single.day as a mom), our neurons search for well-known phrases we’ve used before. Path of least resistance, if you like. It’s a little bit like giving your toddler ice cream for dinner, so you can avoid yet another tantrum and get them to GO TO BED.

So, if you find yourself doing any of the following things this week, it’s official, you’re morphing into your mother. Now breathe, and try to remember that this is perfectly OK. After all, she helped make you who you are, loved you unconditionally (most of the time…) and probably never got your full respect until now.

1. Happiness is a full fridge (and an empty plate)

Forget new shoes and fresh flowers (though we will accept those anytime), happiness for you now is a full-stocked fridge with snack options, premade meals – bought or homemade, no judgment here – and a bottle of wine chilling itself nicely. Let me guess that sounds a little like your mother? Yep. And just as you love a full fridge, there is nothing that makes you feel like an accomplished mom more than your child’s empty dinner plate, right? A plate full of good food left half-untouched all because your toddler doesn’t like his food “mixing” with other food, is a sure-fire way to bring the mood down (here’s where that wine comes in…). I was such a fussy eater that my frazzled mother once poured an entire bowl of oatmeal on my head when I was two years old; my father wisely asked her to “take a walk” around the neighborhood to cool off.  And now, as a mother of a very picky eater, I totally respect that frustration she felt. Children can be exhausting… kind, gentle, fun and full of love, but also… exhausting. 

2. Laundry is your life

Memories of my mother always involve her carrying a washing basket, asking my dad and I to fold clothes in front of the TV. Why she had so much washing to do baffled me. Until now. Toddlers and young kids can get dirty within 30 seconds of putting on new clothes. There’s no scientific study for that, but you know it’s true. Every few hours there’s enough dirty clothes to fill a load, so on it goes! That washing machine is the only thing in your home that works harder than you do, am I right? And all you’re left with is another pile of badly folded laundry sitting on the dining room table for a week. Love that for you.

3. You start to exaggerate (and it’s getting out of control)

If you find yourself leaning towards a little bit of exaggeration, you’re not alone. My mother’s line was “I’ll only be five minutes.” whenever we went to Walmart. Until I was 10, I thought five minutes was the equivalent of half an hour, which explains my fail in math. With my daughter, I find myself uttering the line: “I’m only going to say this once”… five times, before repeating it again, and again. Other Hall of Fame liners include, “This room looks like a dump!”, “I’ve told you a thousand times…”, “I never exaggerate”. What’s your line? The line your kids will remember you saying, and will most likely say to their kids?

4. The most basic commercials trigger tears  

Feeling a little more emotional lately? Put it down to the mix of pregnancy hormones, having a child you love more than anything and a chronic lack of sleep that makes you sexually fantasize about strong coffee. Watching New Amsterdam and the storyline involves a child? Cue the tears. Ad breaks that feature babies and their mothers? More tears. And don’t even get me started with movies… the tears start to come at the first whiff of tragedy. As it turns out, scientists have discovered as soon as you’re pregnant your brain starts to grow in the areas of emotional regulation, empathy and maternal motivation. So, welcome to the teary club, here’s a tissue!  

5. You’re the safe haven 

They’ve spent all day at child care and school, and when you pick them up they’re laughing and full of stories of the day, but as soon as you get them home… everything crumbles. They’re cranky, upset, tired and grumpy. In other words, you’re their emotional punching bag safe haven. With you, they can let their guard down and feel safe to be upset and tired. Lucky you. But although being a safe haven means sometimes bearing the brunt of those (frequent) storms, it’s also undeniably a wonderful feeling to know that your kids feel most secure in your company. You’re making a difference in their little lives every single day and it’s that feeling they will remember as they grow up, learn to drive, move out and have little fussy eaters of their own.

Read next: Six things I learned from my first year of motherhood

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