Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Lately, you’ve noticed yourself behaving similar to how your mother did when you were growing up. You can’t stand it. Sometimes you open your mouth and hear your mother’s voice come rushing out. You might be snapping more at your kids or husband. Or maybe you are using sarcasm, yelling, or harsh comments. It seems like you either discipline strictly or not at all, sometimes just letting the kids run the house. Sometimes it feels like you are just barely holding it together. You once swore you would never parent the way your mom did, but here you are imitating some of her worst habits.
Maybe your mom was amazing, or maybe she just barely raised you. Either way, no mom is perfect and every mom, even yours, has probably passed you down a habit or two that are unhelpful. Some studies suggest that we most begin to act like our parents around age 32.
But...what can you do? How can you break the cycle of becoming your mom so you are your own woman with your kids?
1: Get Off The Autopilot Of Becoming Your Mom
The first step is to recognize what bad patterns or habits you may be using, thus pulling you off the autopilot of becoming your mom. What are the things about your mother that you don’t like? What behaviors did your mother have that you don’t want to repeat in your parenting? Is she judgmental? Does she play the victim? Make a list of those patterns and behaviors you definitely don’t want to repeat or pass down in your house, such as sarcasm, yelling, or spanking. Then make a list of how you want to be different, such as using a kind voice, listening to your child, and using healthy discipline. Hang this list somewhere you can see it every day and commit to being your own woman.
2: Begin To Learn New Patterns
It’s great to say you want to have different ways of communicating or parenting, but it also takes some studying and learning to develop these. If you don’t study and learn different habits or patterns, you will act pretty close to the way you learned in your childhood home.
If your problem is communication, now is the time to study different communication patterns and habits so they don’t repeat in your home. If you have a friend who is great at communicating, ask her for some tips. If your challenge is discipline, now is the time to consult your friends, parenting books, and possibly a family therapist. Part of getting rid of the patterns you were taught is learning healthy new ways and working to implement those.
Ways to Learn New Patterns To Avoid Becoming Your Mom:
3: Check Your Behavior
Start monitoring your behavior for those moments when you do act like your mom. Specifically, what happened before, during, and after, and what would you rather have done. It may be helpful to keep a log here on a piece of paper or in the notes of your phone. You may notice some old wounds or areas where you are sensitive which can be helpful to understanding yourself and then to work on healing those areas. As you become aware of your patterns, you can begin to become mindful in changing them, versus being on autopilot.
This can be a great place to involve a friend or your spouse in helping you notice it and point it out gently. Let your support team know what you are working on and practice ways they can gently tell you in the moment or can work to calm you. Perhaps your support team can even brainstorm other alternatives to do in the moment versus continuing in the old unhealthy behavior.
4: Get Help To Avoid Becoming Your Mom
If you are finding yourself stuck in the trauma of your childhood, unable to forgive your mom, struggling to be a good mom while you have depression, or so stressed that trying to change just isn’t working--there is still hope for you. Therapy can give you an hour a week or every other week where you examine what is going well in your life, what you want to change, and have a sounding board to help guide you toward healthy patterns. Your therapist can teach you ways to be mindful in those moments and how to lower your stress. A therapist can dive into your past trauma with you and help you to work through those triggers so they no longer affect you.
“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” — Linda Wooten, writer
While you are on this journey of parenting and avoiding becoming your mom, be mindful that you have so many strengths and you can do this. If you are reading this article, you already are an amazing parent who wants to change and to be an even better one. Every human has the capacity to heal and to be better than they were yesterday. Today is a new day, a blank slate, and you can do it.
If you are looking for individual counseling, Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to explore working together.