Parenting

Washington Mom Confessions

Six local moms share their parenthood mistakes, accomplishments, and the lessons they learned.
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One of the burdens of motherhood is the invariable second-guessing. Was I too harsh? Did I let that go too easily? Do I worry too much? Am I too hands-off? Wouldn’t it be easier if there were a cheat sheet on what to do right and what we’re doing wrong? To that end, we’ve asked a group of prominent local moms with grown kids how, if given the chance, they would do things differently—or whether they wouldn’t change a thing.

Rita Braver

Television news correspondent

Mom to Meredith, 36

What I did do:

“I really listened to my daughter and tried to understand her concerns and needs, even when I didn’t always agree. We could usually find the middle ground. The main thing we did was to constantly, and consistently, let her know how much we loved her, and how important she was in our lives.”

What I didn’t do:

“I wish I would have stopped to savor every moment; childhood goes by way too fast. I worried too much when someone hurt my daughter’s feelings, or if she had a setback. I think I usually took it harder than she did. She always seemed to bounce back.”

Bottom line:

“There’s only so much you can control. You just have to learn to roll with whatever is going on in your child’s life. They will eat when they are hungry, they will sleep when they are tired, so don’t obsess. And, yes, they will get through those teenage years.”

Cokie Roberts

Photograph by Benjamin Tankersly/Alamy.

Journalist

Mom to Lee, 45, Rebecca, 43

What I did do:

“Lucky for me, I had a mother who actually said to me, ‘Relax, love them like crazy, and it will be fine.’ I’m sure I made a million mistakes, probably a dozen a day, but my offspring would be the experts on this, and they are wise enough not to tell me.”

What I didn’t do:

“In the teenage years, I worried all the time. I called it ‘praying them into the driveway’ when they were out at night. But I’m not sure that was ‘too much.’ If you don’t worry in those years, you clearly are in deep denial—doing a nice imitation of an ostrich.”

Bottom line:

“Looking back, I probably would have established more structure, but that’s tough in a house with two journalists as parents. Frankly, my kids are such nice grownups that now I don’t think about shoulda, coulda, woulda. Also, that would involve taxing my poor memory, and to what end?”

Rynthia Rost

Corporate Vice President

Mom to Katie, 34

What I did do:

“I think I focused on the right things at the right points along the continuum of my daughter’s age. I read a lot about each stage and what to expect; skills that she needed to acquire, attitude she could have towards being supportive, giving back to others, spirituality, compassion, devotion, connections. I made sure she had a great group of caregivers, and that I had enough support to also have a life of my own.”

What I didn’t do:

“I would have paid more attention to who her friends were, and what impact they would have on her life, for the good or the bad. And I worried that I didn’t spend more time as a mother baking cookies and being at her school, rather than trying cases across the county [as a lawyer].”

Bottom line:

“Someone said it takes a village, and I adhere to that. You need a team and a village to help you raise a good person.”

Kay Kendall

Non-profit consultant

Mom to Katherine, 44, Syd, 41

What I did do:

“I appreciated the individuality of each of my children, and I supported their passions. A wise person once advised me to practice a bit of benign neglect; I think that was good advice.”

What I didn’t do:

“I worried too much about their missteps. I wanted to protect them. I also wish I had been more vigilant about teaching chores. Luckily for them, I think life experiences taught them those lessons in responsibility, but I could have done a better job at home.”

Bottom line:

“Be very patient—cherish the moments! When mired in carpools, or breaking up squabbles, the necessary focus may seem draining, but one day it will seem that the opportunity to share in their lives flew by.”

Debra Lee

Photograph by Zuma Press/Alamy.

Media CEO

Mom to Quinn, 25, Ava, 21

What I did do:

“I have always tried to talk to my kids about everything, and I let them know they can talk to me about anything. I love them unconditionally and I am their biggest cheerleader. I’d tell my new-mom self, if I could go back in time, not to worry so much; they’ll grow up to be great people.”

What I didn’t do:

“I think I could have been more of a disciplinarian. Luckily, my kids did not really need much of that, but I was not the best at it. Also, being a working mom who traveled a lot, I used to beat up on myself about every little thing.”

Bottom line:

“I made lots of mistakes, but I have absolutely no regrets. Being a mom is the greatest joy of my life.”

Kathleen Matthews

Executive

Mom to Michael, 30, Thomas, 27, Caroline, 25

What I did do:

“I worked hard at being happy. For me, that meant having a spouse that challenged me to have a TV career, raise three busy kids, take exciting family vacations, and enjoy a social life with friends. As crazy as it was sometimes, we worked hard to have dinner together as a family every night; that kept us close.”

What I didn’t do:

“I think I’ve forgotten the times when I thought it would all tumble out of control, and have instead focused on how it all seemed to work out in the end. I did worry about whether my kids needed quantity time, rather than quality time. I envied mothers who could attend all the games, pick kids up at school, and listen to the conversations in the back seat of carpool.”

Bottom line:

“Try to have it all. Stay close to your kids, provide interesting experiences, share your careers with them; they’ll turn out to be interesting people and great parents themselves.”

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