Momma Interviews: Meet Tonya Rocker
The Momma Interviews is a new blog series by Catherine O'Brien, LMFT highlighting the thoughts, experiences and wisdom of a unique real-world mom each week, to normalize and validate the struggles and triumphs that are a part of the universally human experience of motherhood for women everywhere.
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Each week, I've been bringing to you real stories from real mommas that are truly "in the thick of it" with their babies or young children. This week I'm excited because, for the first time in this series, we have a momma that has truly been there, done that--her kids are now grown up. She's got great wisdom and perspective to share as she reflects on her experience.
I'd like to introduce you to Tonya Rocker--a momma who has lived through it and come out the other side. Here's her interview:
How do you balance the mom, work, and relationship roles?
I try to get really good at understanding my priorities. Take time each day to write that "to do" list and schedule in things are there important, but not necessarily a "task" such as "thinking time", relaxing time" "eat lunch". My children are grown now but I find that there still is a lot of "people and relationship" time that has to be made because it's important. The ability to say "no" sometimes is very important, and understand that sometimes saying "no" doesn't require an explanation.
Most moms I speak to say there are moments when they are ready to throw in the towel. Can you describe a time you felt this way? What got you through it?
So many times!! Having a child with special needs and getting yet another phone call from the school that he acted out and needs to come home (for the 4th time in 2 weeks). When my older (and typically developing) daughter would get mouthy, and have an attitude over something as simple as "please clean your room". I got through it because my mantra was always "this too shall pass" and now that they are grown...it's true, it does pass. Although, different challenges or concerns arise once you get past some of those other things. Having a "don't sweat the small stuff" attitude can be cliché, but determining what is the small stuff is key.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed, overstretched, or less than?
Working out, reading, taking one thing at a time. I gave up trying to be the perfect, multitasking, mom/person a long time ago.
I've had parents tell me that one of the hardest things about being a parent is the comparisons and judgements from other parents. How do you personally cope with that?
I've been lucky that I haven't felt that from other parents from which I'm associated through my children's school, sports or other activities. Part of which was because I simply didn't have time to worry about what others thought. However, after getting a divorce from their father having to answer to him and members of his family was tough. They weren't in my home any longer, but seemed to make judgements about my choices for my children. With that, coming to an understanding that "I'm doing the best I can" was all I could do. Looking back, I believe I could have been more open and less defensive. It may have made things smoother for everyone.
What is the great lesson you've learned as a mom?
That I can't control everything and that I absolutely did the best I could. Can I look back and see things I would have/should have done differently? For sure!!! Was I selfish at times? Definitely!! But I did the best I could with the information I had at the time.
What is your favorite quote that inspires you as a mom?
All children (all people for that matter) have their own unique gifts....some just open their packages at different times.
What is your favorite song that inspires you as a mom?
I don't have one in particular but I've always enjoyed music with my kids and there is a bit of pride when my daughter remembers our Friday night "dance offs" or a particular song that we sang together in the car.
What do you feel is your greatest personal struggle with the experience of motherhood?
Now, I believe it's watching them make their own choices and stay as non-judgemental about their choices as possible. Also, now hearing from them (mostly my daughter) of the mistakes I made that she holds on to. Things I did or said that are still on her mind and affected her in a negative way.
How has your relationship with your partner changed? How has it stayed the same?
My ex-husband and I married young and had children right away. Then when our son was diagnosed with autism, I didn't have the maturity to nurture a relationship with my husband and focused completely on my children. That was part of the breakdown of our marriage. I can't say I'm unhappy that we aren't together, but I do wish I knew then what I know now. Since then, any relationships that I have had have known upfront what my struggles, joys and challenges are with my children.
How has your relationship with your friends, family or support system changed? How has it stayed the same?
I gained a whole new support system after my son was diagnosed, Many of them are still a strong support system, even 22 years later. Some though, did not. I believe your support system has to change depending on what is the current time in your life. When your children are small much of your support system is other parents of small children, when they are in sports - the "soccer moms' are now part of your support system and it goes on. Many relationships, though, are able to grow with you and span many of your life changes.
What is something that has surprised you about being a mom (i.e. something you didn't realize you'd enjoy, something you didn't know babies/kids did, something you didn't know could bring so much joy)?
The things I would enjoy doing with them. Simple things like singing in the car together or cooking a meal.
What is the one piece of advice you'd like to give to other moms?
Just breathe...it's all going to be ok. Children are resilent and being a mom is one aspect of your life. Don't be afraid or guilty to explore parts of your life that don't involve your children, but be sure to get into their world early and often.
How many children do you have?
Four: two biological and two bonuses.
Share your relationship status.
Getting married this year.