Hey there, Myth-Busting Mamas! We’re cruising into week three of our series with encouragement today from my friend MoNicka “Mo” Montañez!
I got to know Mo while serving together at Faithbridge Student Ministry (FSM). Her warm smile and kind words are a blessing to kids and adults alike. She’s befriended many moms in our church and neighborhood—and more than a few of us have binge-watched her Instagram cooking tutorials for meal ideas during the pandemic shutdown. Mo also loves developing students, especially as a mentor to young women in her high school Bible study group.
But Mo let me in on a secret:
“People would tell me, ‘I bet you never yell at your kids! You are such a good mom,’ because they would see that I worked with children and students. Then, at home, I couldn’t understand why I bumped heads and argued so much, especially with my younger son. I thought I was parenting the ‘right way,’ but I felt like such a bad mom because what worked with one of my sons didn’t work with the other.”
However, Mo eventually uncovered a myth she’d bought into, and she got to work replacing it with truth. You’ll be encouraged by what she has to say, plus she shares a mouth-watering dessert recipe to tempt your family to log off those Zoom calls and come to the table.
Cassia: Can you tell us a little about your motherhood journey and a “motherhood myth” you’ve had to replace with truth?
Mo: The myth I bought into comes partly from my early motherhood journey and also from my experience as an only child. Richard and I had a miscarriage early in our marriage, and that was hard. In fact, when I became pregnant with my oldest son, Jordan, we waited until I was six months along before even telling our family. So, I was pretty protective of him and wanted to be very nurturing and affectionate with him all the time, and with his personality, that worked well!
Once Jordan started elementary school, we decided to have another child, but I wasn’t sure how I should parent two kids. My dad died when I was two, and since I’m an only child, I always had my mom (and then my mom and her husband) to myself. Everyone had advice, but one thing they all told me was, “You know, when you have more than one, to be a good mom, you have to love them and treat them the same way.” So, I believed the myth that the way I parented and showed love to one kid should automatically be the best way to love and parent the other one.
I thought that I was doing a pretty good job until my younger son reached fifth grade. Then, we started bumping heads all the time—all the way to the end of eighth grade! I’m a “touchy-feely” nurturer, and I thought I had to show love to Daniel in the same way I had done for our older son—helping him with his hair, picking out his clothes for him, being close with lots of hugs—in order to be treating them fairly and with the same amount of love. But Daniel has a completely different personality than me and Jordan, and he resented my actions. Every day it seemed like we argued and I yelled at him. I felt really out of control—I’m not normally a yeller or one to lose control like that. I knew there was love between us, but I would cry at night thinking, how can I be such a good mentor to students and such a bad mom to my youngest son? I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong, and all I knew was that I was trying to treat Daniel the same way as Jordan. That was what I was supposed to do, right?
Cassia: When did you realize you may have bought into a myth, and what changed things for you?
Mo: Pastor Ken was speaking in either a sermon or an FSM leader dinner about each child being different, but also that when you have an independent and very smart kid, their brains may be wired differently than yours. I began to see that Daniel is programmed differently than me and has a different way to get to an end result than what I might think. So, if I’m asking Daniel to do “A,” he’s going to see that he can get to that same goal the A, B, or C way.
I realized the tension was coming from the fact that I am a nurturer who likes to feel needed so I would jump in to help him do whatever I had asked him to do according to my way so I could help him succeed. That was me showing love like I did with my older son who has a similar personality to me, but Daniel interpreted that as rude and resented it, as in, “Why would you think I would fail? At least give me the chance to make my own decisions.”
I’ve also realized that with having my father and then my mother die when I was so young, I try to be this mother bear to protect them from falling, so I’m over them trying to get them to do things my way to keep them safe. Once I realized that Daniel doesn’t have to do things my way, per se, but his own way as long as he gets it done, our relationship started changing.
I could finally let my kids be themselves when I realized I didn’t have to treat them exactly the same to be a loving mom. I can love them both completely, but it’s going to look differently.
Cassia: Are there some specific tools and advice that have helped you battle back against the myth that there’s a one-size-fits-all way of loving your kids?
Mo: First, I want moms to know you’re not a bad mom if you don’t treat your kids exactly the same way. It has nothing to do with the amount of love, but you have to understand their love language—how they feel loved. Jordan is like me and really touchy-feely affectionate. But Daniel wants to be seen and heard, and he’s very independent. Fortunately, food is also his love language so it’s really good that I’m passionate about cooking, something I got from my own mom!
As far as things that have helped, FSM did a leader training class called Love and Logic (https://www.loveandlogic.com/) to help us in working with the youth group, but I’ve found it really helpful to me as a parent, too. I’ve learned I can say, “I want you to do this. If you don’t, these are the consequences.” Then, I step back and wait to see what happens! It’s hard because I like to be in control and to feel needed (which I interpreted as being loved), but I have learned that my children aren’t rejecting or saying they don’t love me just because they need space to “do them” instead of being just like me.
I am also thankful for things like student ministry, Bible study groups, and mission teams that give kids other leaders. They can open up to those mentors, including about their parents!
Cassia: This has been so helpful since I believe a lot of us struggle with family dynamics and wanting to make sure we love well. You’ve told me some about your mom and how the way she loved you and others well has impacted you. Can you share a little about her as we close?
Mo: My mom has definitely been the woman who has influenced me the most! She died when I was twelve, but those twelve years that I had her were amazing. She knew her time was short due to a progressive illness so it was like she was urgently trying to teach me everything she could. That’s why food and cooking are so important to me! The passion and love of food reminds me of my mom. The smell of certain foods makes me picture what she was doing at that time in the kitchen. She would open up the window so people would know she was cooking, and then people would start knocking on the door or calling on the phone. People would say “Georgia Mae, whatcha cooking?” And she would say, “Come over, sweetheart!” They would come over and music would be playing, and everyone would eat and take food home with them. She always had her arms open with so much affection, so even though it was just the three of us, we always had a houseful.
Cassia: We’re so thankful for your story and for how you care for so many of us, including through your passion for cooking and food! I’ve included one of your mom’s recipes so we can share the love:
Georgia Mae’s Icebox Pie
3/4 cup juice from large, fresh lemons
(2) 8oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed milk
1 graham cracker pie crust
Leave cream cheese sitting out for 1 hour to get soft.
In mixing bowl, mix softened cream cheese until creamy, then add vanilla and condensed milk. Once all mixed, add the lemon juice, mix well, and then pour into crust. Put into refrigerator (the Icebox!) overnight. The acid from the lemons “cooks” the pie. Enjoy!!