Maybe all mothers feel insecure about their parenting skills. Over the past 30 years thousands of books have been written on child rearing. When my girls were young, those books would have been invaluable to me. Unfortunately, I was forced to make harsh decisions using my alcohol-addled brain as my guide.
Have you ever watched a Hallmark commercial where the mother receives a card from one of her grown daughters and she remembers a beautiful loving moment when her daughter was a young child? When I watch those ads I cry - not from sentimental remembrances but from many frustrating memories.
The truth is that mothering doesn't always look like a Hallmark commercial.
I have two daughters. Elizabeth, whom I call Lizzie, was born March 9, 1964. Madeleine, shortened to Madi, was born Feb. 7, 1965. I would boast that I had two children when I was 24. That remark sometimes left folks pondering and counting.
Their father, my ex-husband, died when Lizzie was 13 and Madi was 12. Not only were we left penniless but the children had been living with him for the previous six years. All of a sudden I was a full-time mom.
For the past six years I'd had the children every other weekend and alternating holidays. Being with them was great. They were thrilled to be part of my glamorous lifestyle. I'd take them to fancy restaurants. We'd watch "The Carol Burnett Show." We laughed a lot. I believed that's what life would be like when we were together all the time.
How could one person be wrong so many times? Now that we were living under one roof, in Glendale, Calif., life ceased to be one laugh after another. Before, I was free to do whatever I wanted to do in the evenings, like go out drinking and dancing. Now there were two children who expected dinner. They had homework. They needed attention. That presented a problem since I was the one who wanted attention.
Life became a series of complaints about me not giving them enough allowance, fights over which television show to watch, disputes about what clothing they should wear and other differences of opinion. In the midst of these unsettling times, my drinking escalated.
When I finally got sober after they were grown, I'd hear other women admit life was not rosy in their homes. Their children were arrested, their children became drug addicts, kids got married and then divorced, and they would recall incidents that drove them crazy. But I never heard those tales of woe while I was in the midst of trying to teach my girls how to become adults.
Now my precious daughters are approaching 50. Lizzie has three children. Madi never married or had children. They say they've forgiven me and I believe them. But in my heart of hearts, I know I failed them.
As Mother's Day approaches, a sense of sadness envelops me. When I was drinking I'd joke about the holiday, saying I should open a greeting-card store for dysfunctional families. I had so much difficulty choosing a card for my mother that I wondered how my daughters could possibly find a card for me when I knew they surely harbored major resentments.
On this Mother's Day, May 13, I wish all mothers the gift of forgiveness to themselves. Be grateful for the gift of children. Be grateful if you can look in the mirror and say to yourself, "Maybe I could have done a better job but I did the best job possible while fighting my own demons."
I feel blessed to recognize on this Mother's Day that I love my daughters and they love me.
Oro Valley resident Alexis Powers is the author of a memoir, "Don't Die Before Paris," as well as several other books. Go to www.alexispowers.net for more information.