But then my son said something that surprised me.
“Do you think I’m a good mom?”
Sitting on the couch with my oldest son, I found enough courage to ask him what he really thought of me. It was brave because he was only four at the time, and I knew he would be honest.
“Yes, you are a good mom,” he reassured me with a hug. It surprised me how nervous I was to ask. I remember thinking to myself before I heard his answer—What if I wasn’t a good mom? His answer brought relief.
A few days later, we shared a moment that was much less precious. He was taking his time in the bathroom, as he had a tendency to do in the early, post-potty-training days. I was in a rush for some reason, but that was not out of the ordinary either. After I realized I could not get him to do whatever I wanted him to do, I huffed out of the bathroom yelling, aware I was not in control of him or myself in that moment.
When my impatience shows like this, I question my mothering ability. Sometimes it seems being “a good mom” is just a fluke and now the real me is showing: “The Bad Mom.”
I think most of us mothers are secretly afraid we are blowing it, that we’re not capable, that we’re mean, and we don’t have what it takes. At least a lot of the moms I know feel this way. So our “bad mom” moments only seem to confirm our suspicions.
I stomped into the bedroom to give my son and I some distance. I did not feel like talking. I felt upset with him but mostly disappointed in myself.
But instead of taking my I-need-some-space cue, he stood in the doorway and called to me, “You’re a good mom. You’re a good mom.”
I stared back at him in disbelief. How did he know exactly what to say? I broke down and cried.
I didn't know how to respond as he repeated himself again, reiterating to my surprise the words completely opposite of how I felt.
I don’t remember what we fought about that day probably for this reason: I heard these essential five words from the only person whose opinion matters, "You are a good mom."
That day an inner voice of truth shouted at me, "You ARE a good mom." Through the voice of my son, it called right over my shame and self-hatred, past my own accusing finger pointed back at me.
How do I have the audacity to call myself a “good mom,” even when I don't act like one? Well, if I am a “good mom,” I can act like one. I can put the “bad mom” in the past anytime I want and move on from her. She’s not who I am anyway.
Even when I am yelling at my children, even when I am impatient, brooding and exhausted, who I really am is a “good mom”. And the key is: I’m just not acting like myself in that moment. We all have those moments.
The same is true for you. You are a good mom. Even when you don’t act like it.
The real you loves your children with a sacrificial love you didn’t know you had. The real you stays up late holding tired bodies and wiping tears, doling out medicine and singing lullabies when you wish you were snug in your own bed.
You give and give and give, and most of the time, no one sees you doing all this giving. No one knows. And we don’t always get acknowledged for this hard work. We don’t get medals or prizes or big bonuses. No front page news stories or interviews on the local news. And that’s what makes you a good mom. Because you don’t need that. You keep showing up anyway.
Not many people will tell us we are a good mom. But we need to know it, don’t we?
Mom, you’re doing it. You are a really good Mom.