'There were times I would judge my mother growing up. Then I had kids of my own.'

I remember times when I was young thinking, "When I am a mother, I will do things differently."

I had a wonderful mother, but even wonderful mothers do things we don’t approve of when we are young. There were times I would judge my mother through the lens of someone who has never experienced motherhood, and she came up wanting in my mind. I knew I could do it better.

Then, I had the great privilege of giving birth to my firstborn child. He was a gift to me in so many ways, but one of the greatest gifts he gave me was the ability to see my mother through a different lens. Suddenly, I understood. Suddenly, I could see why she did the things she did. My judgment turned to gratitude. I began to wonder if I could actually do the job as well as my mother had.

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Being a mother is the hardest job on the planet. I have never heard anyone refute it. Only those who have never been a mother would be so stupid as to say it isn’t true. Our society puts so much pressure on mothers to perform their job without complaint, selflessly and seamlessly, never losing their cool, never yelling or becoming exasperated, never looking for the line in the contract that will get them out of this job.

But if you are a mother, you have done all those things at one time or another. Because what society forgets when they assign mothers the task of being perfect is that mothers are human, too. Until we come up with a better system, human children will be raised by human mothers who are flawed. We need to stop judging mothers by an impossible standard and give them permission to fail, make mistakes, and get it wrong sometimes.

I will always remember the day that my teenage daughter screamed those searing words no mother ever wants to hear — “I HATE YOU!”

At that moment, after the initial shock of the knife being plunged into my heart, I felt the dull ache of a memory come roaring back in my mind. I was 15. My mum and I were having an argument that I am certain I started. I tried to get away from her so I went out onto the porch. She followed me and I whirled around in my teenage sense of superiority and yelled those words into her face — “I hate you!” I said it with as much vehemence and conviction as I could muster (which was a lot).


The look on my mother’s face haunts me to this day. It was a look of horror and pain and grief that I never wanted to see on her face again. She quietly pulled the front door shut and walked away. I was crushed.

Fast forward to the moment in my dining room when my own teenage daughter has just lobbed her poison-tipped dart into my heart. I crumbled in humiliation. Not from her words, but from the echo of my own words from long ago. I looked at my daughter and I knew, from my own experience, that she did not mean those words. She may have hated me at that moment, but I knew she would not hate me tomorrow.

I found my voice and said, "Even if you hate me, I don’t hate you."

When she left the room, I could not breathe. I just experienced the most just form of karma. I reached for the phone and called my mother. When she picked up I started crying.

"I am SO sorry!" I cried. "I was a horrible, ungrateful kid and I don’t know why you still love me!"

My mother was taken aback. After I told her what had happened and related my regret for doing the same thing to her, she did what mothers do. She said, "I don’t even remember that."

Whether she did or she didn’t is irrelevant. What is quite apparent is that a good mother does not hold grudges. And my mother is a very good mother.

It is a shame that it sometimes takes becoming a mother to appreciate all that our mothers did for us, all they put up with and the fact that we are still alive.

Host Laura Byrne walks you through the big post-motherhood moments with stories of wisdom, humour, breakdown, ambition, love, hope and rebirth from a truly diverse range of parents on Mamamia's Me After You podcast.

My own daughter has never become a mother, but a few years back when she was approaching 30, she sent me the funniest text I have ever received. She related a story about her cat. He had escaped the house and when she went to retrieve him, he went over the fence to the neighbour’s yard. She scaled the fence to get him, ripping her pants in the process and when she got over it, the cat was nowhere to be seen.

She was cursing and fuming and promising retribution to the dumb cat as she went back over the fence into her yard. When she went around the corner of the house to go inside, there sat the cat, calmly waiting to be let in.

The irony of all this is, as a child, she never followed the rules and was always a cool customer when she came back from swimming in the creek or jumping off the barn roof after being told explicitly not to.


Her final missive in this long and hilarious text story was, "How did you not kill me?!"

Sometimes, in the absence of a child, a cat will do to make us wake up to the long-suffering nature of our mothers.

There were many, many times when I called my mother and started the conversation with "I'm so sorry!" Everything I ever did to my mother came back to me in spades through my own three children. I grew such a deep appreciation for how she never stopped loving me even when she would have been justified to. Of course, as a mother myself, I knew that it was not an option. You love your kids no matter what. It is the way we are wired.

My daughter has spent her adulthood working with kids, as an educator, a nanny and a tutor, and there have been many more times that she has called me and apologised for what she put me through when she was growing up. I always laugh when she does, because I see myself doing the same thing with my mom. But secretly, I am relieved that she is setting me free from feeling like a total failure as a mom.

Mothers do the best they can do with the tools they have. Some have better tools than others. Our children suffer from our blunders and our clumsy attempts at getting it right. But if we are lucky, there will come a day when the phone will ring and we will hear the words, “I am so sorry!” Not that we need them to be sorry, but we cherish the acknowledgment that they finally get how hard the job is.

My mother is 80 years old, and recently when we were going through pictures and I was writing her stories, she said suddenly, "I had a very good mother." She had a look of wonder in her eyes and then softened. She looked at me and said, "I wish I had realised that before now."

It is never too late to appreciate the job our mothers did in keeping us alive to adulthood. If they loved us, taught us right from wrong, fed us and clothed us, we are lucky. If yours is still around, maybe you can give her a call and tell her that you are grateful for the mother she is. The greatest gift our mothers can receive is the gift of understanding.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission. 

Beth Bruno wrote her first story when she was eight years old. She has been writing about life and all its complexities ever since. She keeps thinking that one day she will get it all figured out. She writes about relationships, mindfulness, mental health and things she sees out her window. She loves hanging out with her adult children and grandchildren, gardening, raising chickens and camping on uninhabited islands. You can follow her on Medium here and Facebook here.

Feature Image: Getty. The feature image used is a stock image.