It has become ingrained into our vernacular. “She’s a good Mom.” “You’re a good Mom.” Even if the compliment is directed my way, somehow it always makes me cringe.
It’s the same feeling I have on Mother’s Day sitting on an uncomfortable chair at church, listening to someone drone on about their perfect Mother – the one who never raised her voice or had a bad thing to say about anyone.
It’s guilt, I guess. It’s being reminded of all the times I wasn’t such a “good” mother, all the mistakes I’ve made. The fact is mothers make mistakes. I think we should retire this “good mother” mantra thing forever. Here’s why:
We get caught up in being “good”
I used to have a checklist in my head of what I needed to do in a day to be a good mother to my children. The list included such things as giving them their vitamins, making sure they brush (bonus points if they floss) their teeth morning and night, reading to them, not losing my patience, etc.
Those are all good things. Some days the stars align, and I can check off each one. Or maybe I miss something on the list, but I have an important talk with my son and learn he’s being bullied at school. Other days, not so much. Other days, everything just seems to go wrong, and motherhood is about survival.
Life is never just a series of checklists and gold stars. Life is complicated and messy. Our children don’t care about our to-do lists. It’s not what they’ll remember about us as parents. In fact, the very best parts of motherhood have nothing to do with those lists at all.
We shouldn’t label our children, or ourselves
I’ve read countless articles on the importance of not labeling children. Dr. Robyn Silverman, child/teen development specialist, has said, “When we label our children, we unwittingly define them. We provide definite limits that tell our children what we think of them, what we expect of them, and who they are to be.”
I made the mistake of labeling my son as shy from a very young age. I noticed how he seemed to latch on to this label and would use it as an excuse to get out of something that caused him anxiety. Maybe if he hadn’t heard me describe him as shy to others, he would not have thought of himself that way and would be more confident as a result.
Likewise, I don’t want to label myself, especially in front of my children.
We may not be “good” at every moment
The capacity for good and evil exists in all of us. We are human, and therefore fallible. No one person is wholly good or bad. I don’t want people to label my boys as “bad” kids, and I try not to give them the “good” label either. That way, when they make a mistake, they’re not thinking that all is lost and they’re not “a good boy” anymore.
I can have a bad day and still be doing a “good” job as a mother. I can also be an example to my children by being humble enough to ask for their forgiveness when I do make a mistake.
What is “good” to one may not be “good” for another
There are many different kinds of moms out there and an ever growing number of parenting “styles.” What works for one family may not work for another.
Is someone a “good mom” because their children are involved in many extracurricular activities? Or does a good mother ensure that her children are not overscheduled and have plenty of down time?
We see the arguments play out over social media daily. Children – and moms – are individuals with their own unique personalities, needs, and challenges. What is beneficial and effective for one may have no bearing on another.
Our children don’t think of us in that way
My boys have a sweet habit of telling me I am the “best mom.” I always have to bite my tongue and suppress the temptation to disagree.
What is so bad about them thinking that their mother is great? I may not feel that way about myself at all times, but if they feel that way about me, I shouldn’t disregard their feelings or demean them by arguing that they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Our children don’t think about all the mistakes we’ve made. They just think of us as their parents.
Being a mother is all-consuming, but it’s not all that we are
When I was a young girl, I enjoyed many hobbies. As an introvert, they were generally solitary endeavors, but I enjoyed them immensely and feel they helped shape me as a person. Reading, playing guitar, singing, and journaling could keep me busy for hours. I may not have figured out who I was entirely, but I certainly knew what I liked to do.
When I became a mother, I threw myself into my new role with voracity, devoting myself completely to my children. While grateful for my newfound purpose, I also began to notice a loss of the girl I once was. I no longer enjoyed hobbies and even found myself one day trying to remember what kind of music I once liked. Somewhere along the line, I forgot the girl who wrote poetry, strummed a guitar, and dreamed of singing on a stage.
Life, and motherhood, is about balance. If I’m overly consumed with being a “good mother,” it can be easy to forget to take the breaks necessary for refueling myself as a person. So for now, I’m going to focus on doing the best job I can, just by being me.