Mothering Strict Mothers

My Scandinavian Roots – Part 2 – Mary McLaughlin Sta. Maria

My brother who was about a year and a half older than me was given all sorts of rights and privileges. Then I'm coming up just afterwards and they're saying, “No, you can't do the same.”

Born in Minnesota, Mary moved to the Pacific Northwest almost 30 years ago where she works for the Sno-Isle Libraries. She lives with her family and two dogs.Follow this link to read part 1 of this interview

Mom’s Strictness

She was very strict when I was growing up. Lots of real tight rules and restrictions and curfews that my friends didn’t have. I was not that happy with her when I was a teenager.

I didn’t like my Mom’s strictness. I was definitely, I would say, more of a feminist type of person. She was not. My brother who was about a year and a half older than me was given all sorts of rights and privileges. Then I’m coming up just afterwards and they’re saying, “No, you can’t do the same.” I would say going out, doing things in my teens, being able to drive on my own was a freedom and I would go do all sorts of things with my friends.

Photo from Mary McLaughlin Sta. Maria

I learned to lie quite well because we could only be at one person’s house in a group. But you can just be driving around on the streets. Sometimes we were just driving around on the streets. I would just tell them the stories that they wanted to hear. Some of the rules were: The curfew always was 10 o’clock on a weeknight and 11 o’clock on a weekend, which was much earlier than any of my friends.

Photo Courtesy Mary McLaughlin Sta. Maria

What have I done for my children? I have said, “Let me know what time you’re going to be home.” I did not tell them what time it had to be. They would just make me aware of what their plans were. I knew where they were. It was never, “You must be home by 10 o’clock.” If you’re still doing something, you should still be allowed to keep doing it. Especially when they can drive themselves. I don’t have to stay over there or go pick them up. We always had to let our parents know when we came in and we’d have to wake them up.

Photo Courtesy Mary McLaughlin Sta. Maria

We also had a lot of chores that we did too. I have not made my children do too many chores, which is maybe not so good, but I mean now I hate doing chores. I don’t know if it’s better to be forced to do chores or not. I have made my kids do certain tasks to help out around the house, but not the extensive top-to-bottom weekly cleanings. 

You didn’t talk when they had company over. As children, we were not supposed to talk unless spoken to. It was the adults who did the talking. No interrupting. And although I would have to say that she was a bit of a racist, which was very much at loggerheads with me and my viewpoint, she did accept me marrying in a different race and dating people of different races and all of that. 

How I Understood Mom as I Grew Older

Despite all of this, I still love my Mom. Again, it came with age and experience and motherhood and realizing the reasons why she did those things—partly because of her own upbringing and because of her love and fear for our safety and wanting it to be all okay.

Just having her be gone made me realize in spite of our differences, just how much I really enjoyed her company and how much I appreciated everything she taught me.

When my older daughter graduated high school a few years ago, I thought quite a bit about my Mom and how much my daughter got from her Grandmother even though she only knew her one year of her life. But everything she taught me and gave to me and my husband and all of our family is passed on to Emily and Elena, too. There’s a connection there and a lot of good that was passed on to them from my Mom down to my kids.

Advice from Mom

Photo Courtesy Mary McLaughlin Sta. Maria

I did not receive much advice from my Mom. In many ways we really did not talk about a lot of issues. I was pretty naive growing up because she was not comfortable talking about things like that. It would be more of the practical things, how to cook, how to bake, how to clean. The practicalities of cooking, cleaning, making things. We did have a dog when I was growing up and she was opposed to having a dog at first because she grew up on a farm and dogs were kind of outdoor animals. But then she fell in love with our dog and he was a very good dog.

What parenting style did you experience growing up? Was Mary’s Mother too strict? Comment below.

The third installment of this three-part article, “My Mom’s Mysterious Death” will be available on Sunday, 16 May 2021.

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