Half Mom


He looked up at me with moon eyes, deep cerulean pools.

“Mommy, do I ask too many questions?” Worry was stitched in the little place between his eyebrows.

“Of course not. Why do you ask?” I said.

“Sometimes I just feel like I do. Like I’m bothering you.”

The tone of his voice, which had become increasingly more blunt and demanding over the long, bitter cold winter, was now flat and scared.  He was begging for me to listen. I put my phone down and searched his eyes, his face. The same face that first looked up at me on a Wednesday afternoon in October. Same face.

Half Mom 2

I was in a fog when he was born. After some 30 hours of induced, grueling, intervention filled labor, I barely remember his first cry, his first grimace, his first attempt at nursing. But I remember the first time I held him, some hours after his birth. His moon eyes searched mine then, as they did now.

“I’m your mom. Of course you’re not bothering me.”

I said it but instinctively I knew, I’d let him down. The root of the problem was  not that Sean talks too much or that I don’t want to listen. It’s Half-Mom.

Do you know Half-Mom? Wake up. Check e-mail. Hear background noise of breakfast conversation. Check Facebook.

In a minute, I will wrestle with you.

Let me finish emptying the lunchboxes, then I will look at your drawing.

Just as soon as I finish folding this laundry, I will help you fix your lego ship.

And my son. My kind, sensitive son. He sees the minutes ticking by, the ones where I am trying too hard to cram everything in. He hears, “pick up your socks. Feed the dog. Turn off the light.” I’m not shouting much these days, which is good but it’s still loud in my house. My voice is noisy, robotic, terse.

The quiet signals I’ve sent my son tell him to stop asking so many questions.

The phone, ready to spring to life at any moment, tells him he comes second.

This happened slowly. Once upon a time I didn’t know how to post pictures to Facebook. I left my phone in the car. I watched movies with my kids, instead of scrolling and checking. This little demon phone. With it’s bubble gum pink case it looks harmless. I want to smash it. I want to hurl the worst curse words I can find into the air. At myself.

It’s easy enough to realize that you’ve screwed up as a parent and then try to improve.  But when your child tells you, it’s enough to shatter. And  holy hell, did I feel shattered.

A few weeks ago, a mom I know confided in me that in hard moments when she doesn’t know how to parent, she thinks, “what would Trish do?” Although this was the ultimate compliment, it was the worst kind of curse. She has seen me as Best Mom. The one with never-ending patience, who crouches down on child level and listens. The one whose kids come first and whose cell phone isn’t in sight. The one who lets the dishes sit for an hour more.  She doesn’t know about Half-Mom, I’m careful not to let Half-Mom outside of my house. But my seven year old knows Half-Mom all too well.

Luckily, my son offered me some advice. “Turtle,” he suggested. “I will say turtle to you every time I feel like you are getting that voice, everytime I feel like you don’t care.  Turtles look at everything and take their time.”

And with that I saw myself as the hare, the sprinting creature, clawing my way to the finish, so opposite of the mother I want to be. So opposite of who I have been and lost.

It’s hard  to hear your son tell you that you act differently inside the home than in the public eye. It’s harder to know that he’s right. But it’s hardest yet to change.

And so here I am, trying to be the turtle. Slow and sometimes feeling like I will always be plodding across the hot sand.

But lucky for me, my perceptive son who craves honesty at all costs, wasn’t afraid to speak the truth. And he showed me that the only perfection he and his sisters crave is a perfectly present mom.

Half Mom 3


  1. Thank you for sharing this! Cell phones or not, I think we can all fall into this time and again. The housework calls, dinner, etc…I love you son’s solution as well. I might have to add a little turtle to my day when I’m feeling torn.

  2. Trish – lovely. I love how honest you are, a reminder that calling it like it is helps to change it up…even if we only get to 3/4 Mom, its at least not slipping back to 1/4!! I think my favorite part of your story is your sons ability not just to advocate for himself, but to put himself in the position of being your coach. After all, they are the ones teaching us, right? What a beautiful sentiment – “hey, Mom, I’ll call you out when I think you are veering off track, but I’ll do it in a nice way so you don’t feel bad!” That is the greatest gift EVER!! And TURTLE??!? How freakin adorable & brilliant is that. I would say Half mom doesn’t stand a chance with your little man around!! You are blessed, dear lady – truly blessed!!

  3. Totally needed this today Tricia. I’m definitely falling into the trap of the half-mom. Way too much social media and busyness in my life as of late. So glad that there is endless amounts of grace for the imperfect parent 🙂

  4. Awesome! He sounds like an amazing and wise kid. I am all too familiar with half-mom, and the look in my 3 year old’s eyes when he knows he’s not my top priority (or hearing him yell “put the phone away!”). Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing this


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