What makes a good mother? What is the secret sauce that indicates mothering done well? Since children don't come with instructions, how are we to know if we are doing well or not? If you have read this far, then you are almost certainly on a good track. But here are a couple of indicators and a whole lot of encouragement for you.
Read and be encouraged today.
"My mother was such a good mother!" "My mother was cold and controlling and I have very few good memories of her." "My sweet mama! What would I do without her?" "I haven't spoken to my mother in six months. It's so draining." These comments are a few that I have heard recently. Every time I hear any of these I wonder what happened to make or break this powerful relationship. What went wrong? What went right?
I'm not a psychologist, but it seems to me that the mother/child relationship is the most impactful one that humans have. When it goes wrong, there is hurt that continues for life. When it goes well, it is a bond that can not be severed and binds us closer than any other. Perhaps that is why most of us are especially concerned with whether or not we are good mothers. It matters. To many of us, motherhood matters more than anything else we do.
In the sleepless hours of a dark night following a day filled with challenges we ask ourselves, "Am I a good mother?" We crave affirmation. We need assurance. We want someone to notice that we did our best, even when our best seems to have fallen short of good enough. We need to hear that parenting is filled with highs and lows and that the low points do not wipe away the high points.
We do not have to be perfect. Rather we are called to be, in the words of the great 18th century theologian John Wesley, "be moving on toward perfection". Just keep going, and work to be better today than yesterday. Have grace for yourself. You are good.
Here are a few indicators that allow you to see that you are doing well as a mother. Read these, and you will feel better:
You are care about the outcome. If you are aware that your words and actions toward your children today will have a strong effect on them throughout their lifetimes and you consciously work toward being positive, then you are a good mother.
You understand that, as a mother, you no longer have the right to be the most important person in your life. How often have you craved a quiet afternoon on the sofa and sacrificed it for a day at the park? How often have play dates for your children replaced solitary runs or hikes? You know what I mean. Your children's needs are automatically and, usually, cheerfully put at the top of your priority list. This is as it should be. The window of time that we have to raise our children is short and you know this. If this is your understanding, you are a good mother.
You understand that you are raising adults. The end goal of motherhood is to have competent, successful, independent adults that become your cherished friends. That doesn't mean that mothering ever ends, it doesn't . But it means that the responsibilities change and so does the relationship. You'll know you did a good job if your adult children no longer need you but instead they want you in their lives. If you understand that one day your children will grow up and you are helping them to mature, then you are a good mother.
You are engaged in their education. No matter how you choose to educate your children, parental engagement is the undisputed, number one, most important predictor of how well educated your children will be. Nothing else comes close. Are you involved in their education by checking in with their teacher about homework or assignments? Do you work to maintain a good relationship with the teacher? This is key. Your child's teacher wants every child to succeed, including yours. Work together and it is easier. If you take an active interest in your child's education and you work to keep them on track you are a good mother.
You care about your child's emotions. Children are little people with big emotions. They are developing the ability to regulate emotions and they need your help. The help they need is your calm, steady assurance that you are there to support them and that you are their greatest ally as they deal with emotions they can not yet get under control alone. It is scary to be little and to have big feelings that overtake your mind and spirit. Your reaction to their over the top responses to stimuli is key to how well they will learn to self regulate and how they feel about their feelings as they get older. If you help your child deal with their strong emotions without (usually) going crazy yourself, you are a good mother.
Let's be really real. We all come unhinged sometimes. We all have serious parenting fails and moments that we would like to forget. We make mistakes and sometimes they are big ones. All you can do is look at the overall indicators that I have listed above, and remember that parenting is a long term project. One bad day, one bad mistake, one bad moment does not destroy the entire continuum of motherhood. You can apologize and move forward. You are good. You love, you lead, you live, and that is being a good mother. Get some rest, now. Good night.