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I Choose Mothering Over Parenting

Jacks Smacks 2023 1

The last few months I’ve been faced with some personal parenting challenges.

Turns out that a university acceptance letter and a few packed suitcases don’t guarantee smooth sailing. I know, I’m aware many of you already on the other side of this season are shaking your heads at my naïveté.

The exact nature of the challenge is not important — at least for this particular Jack’s Smack. What is important for this particular share? 

Feelings Towards Parenting Versus Mothering:

I distinguish between parenting and mothering for a reason.”

My current predicament led me to further ponder  my roles, past and current, in my son’s life. Furthermore, I began to pull apart my feelings towards parenting versus mothering.

I distinguish between parenting and mothering for a reason. I’ve always loved being a mother. I can’t say the same thing about parenting.

How many times can one say, “Brush your teeth” or “Do your homework” or “Be home by 10”? Yes, this is a rhetorical question. For a parent, the answer is infinite. We say statements like those and so many more over and over again. Not sure about anyone else, but I never found that aspect particularly interesting or rewarding.

I used to tell my son, “It’s not nagging, it’s motivational speaking.” Not sure he ever bought that line. 

The Joy Of Mothering:

Mothering to me is replete with nuance all the while awash with unconditional love.”

The mothering piece — well, that’s a whole different story. For me, that means making sure my son’s favorite foods are in the house upon his return. It’s listening, with real interest, when he regales me with very detailed stories about his latest Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Sitting and sharing space while we “pretend” to watch White Christmas for the millionth time is one of my most favorite couple of hours during every holiday season. We both know this movie so well we can carry on conversations throughout and not lose track — occasionally pausing to sing along with the Haynes sisters at the Novello Florida nightclub.

I think, for me, mothering is akin to cooking — while parenting feels more like baking, which I don’t enjoy. Let me explain.

When I prepare meals I use my experience, senses, and intuition to guide me through. I blend recipes, measure very little, and instinctually select spices. Mothering feels similar. How we mother is unique to us as an individual. Whether we were the moms who warmed their kid’s school clothes in the dryer on cold winter mornings (yes, I did that) or not, mothering is a place for us to shine our specific light. Mothering to me is replete with nuance all the while awash with unconditional love. 

Seriously, are there any human beings on the planet who truly elicit unconditional love other than our children?

Parenting Sucks:

“Are you about to make me parent you? You know I don’t like that.” 

Parenting, on the other hand, seems more fueled by academics and popular childcare experts. There seems to be less intuition involved and more rule following. I equate it more to baking (which, did I mention, I do not enjoy?). Boring adult-lite behaviors drilled over and over again. I know we need to teach them. How else will they know how to use a spoon? But seriously, for me parenting at that level feels like working with yeast. For those of you who don’t know what I mean, you can pop on over to The One Ingredient That Brings Me To My Knees. 

Simple, rote, incessant messaging is the primary ingredient in successful parenting. If my memory serves me, young kids aren’t big fans of eye contact, hand-shaking, or polite responses to the ever-present “How are you today?” query. I can’t even recall how long it took to get an unsolicited “Bless you” after a sneeze. 

I hate the parenting mode so much that there were times during his high school and early college years that I would literally say to my son, “Are you about to make me parent you? You know I don’t like that.” 

Let Me Dream:

OK, so maybe parenting isn’t over yet. Maybe parenting is still required. Albeit it looks completely different now that his 20s decade has begun. 

Innocently I believed that the parenting piece would just about disappear once the transition to college took place. To those seasoned moms out there, don’t laugh. It’s not funny. To those who still believe what I believed, don’t hold your breath. Things may not turn out the way you think. 

Even with all that said, naively or not, I do fundamentally believe that my current command performance as a parent in this sequel, “Kid Goes To College,” is short-lived. I know it. I am right, aren’t I?

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17 thoughts on “I Choose Mothering Over Parenting

  1. Debbie says:

    Although I’m not in a similar situation, my sister is. My niece is in her first year of college. I think my sister is surprised how her role has changed but not necessarily in all the ways she expected. I’m going to share this post with my sister!

  2. Rosemary Davis says:

    I like how you make the distinction between mothering and parenting. As a grandmother, I now see that I will forever alternate between the two roles as needed.


  3. Julie Augustyn says:


    I think you speak for many! Being a mom is far more fun than parenting but the parenting piece is essential to ensure your child has a great foundation for a successful life! Isn’t that what parenting is all about? We want to ensure our child/ren have the best possible overall life – happy, healthy and successful!

    • Kuel Membership logo large
      Kuel Life says:

      Yes, sigh… the parenting is key… No getting around it. But, I way prefer the belly kisses and cookie making over the “brush your teeth” any day of the week.

  4. MelAnn says:

    I love this distinction so much! I love this perspective. I also love the nagging vs motivational speaking thing – I might use that! 😂

  5. Wendy says:

    Interesting distinction! I have 2 sons in college right now. We’re on the “live at home” payment plan. It’s tightrope walk for sure to figure out when to help or when to step back. This whole parenting thing has been a trip. I had twins, so I never had a “guinea pig” kid. I just mad mistake and kept on swimming. Great post, nice writing!

    Wendy TheInspiredEater.com

    • Kuel Membership logo large
      Kuel Life says:

      Twins… that’s challenging. I never had an extra to try stuff on either. I had an only child. So, I too had to keep swimming – no matter what.

  6. Rena says:

    My kids are in their 30s and still require it from time to time. My youngest who is getting ready to have child number 3 is especially in the need of parenting more often than not.

  7. Kay says:

    I am not sure if it is different for mums of daughters, yet as a mum of two boys, there has come a time in our relationship where both mothering and parenting have been replaced with something else for which I have no name! It seems to be a ‘void stage’ where I keep my thoughts to myself and let them find their own way.

  8. Lisa says:

    I totally can relate! My youngest is a freshman in college. He’s such a good kid but he’s in a band. Tough discussions and ‘parenting’ to be sure he stays on track with his studies. Mothering and making cookies is certainly easier!

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