Ask your partner or a friend to read the questions listed here, inserting your name in the blanks and interviewing you as if you were your mother. Answer the questions spontaneously. Trust that whatever you say holds some emotional meaning for you ,even if it is not necessarily the "truth" about your relationship. Later, you may want to ask your mother these questions and compare your own answers to those she gives. The value of this exercise lies in your own interpretations of your childhood. Whatever comes up will be what you feel now, as you become a mother. Your answers will speak the truth about your own feelings of being mothered. Ask your partner to listen to your answers supportively and attentively, to comfort you if you if necessary, and to laugh with you as well.
- What was your experience of giving birth to __________?
- What kind of a baby was your daughter,____________?
- What was it like to raise ________________?
- What was most difficult for you in raising _____________?
- What was easy about raising ______________?
- If you could do it over again, is there anything you would do differently in raising ____________?
- How do you feel about __________ having a baby now?
- Do you think ________ will be a good parent?
Our interpretation of our parents' experience in raising us forms the blueprints for our own expectation and beliefs about parenting. You may feel very loved by your mother and confident about your own ability to parent. Or you may feel that your mother was lacking in some way---- something you want to provide for your own child. Awareness of the source of your strong feelings will allow you greater freedom to form healthy relationships with your children. An overwhelming desire to make up for your own early pain may nonetheless cause you to wound your child. For example, if your mother's style of discipline was overly strict, and you have unresolved feelings of hurt and anger, you may feel deeply committed to permissiveness. Since your own child cannot feel the pain you endured during childhood, however, he or she may experience your leniency as lack of discipline or even neglect. Once you are aware of your own wounds, you can heal them without projecting your unmet needs onto your child.
Whatever attitudes towards parenting your mother expressed will be a part of your heritage. What decisions will you make about the kind of mother you want to be? Are there things you would do the same? Differently?
Repeat the above exercise, starting with the second question, standing in for your father. Then take time to share your feelings about him. What did you like about your relationship with him? What do you dislike? Is there anything about his fathering you would like to change for your own child? Or do the same? Repeat the full exercise with your partner, asking him questions about himself as if he were his father. Then repeat the questions, having him role-play his mother. Listen sensitively and supportively to his answers. Comfort him if necessary and be ready to laugh with him as well.