As Mother’s Day approaches I have some thoughts on motherhood. Where did we get so off track on the idea of what makes a good mother?
When did we begin believing that it was expensive and elaborate themed birthday parties, or the complete absence of gluten, germs of any kind, or peanuts within a half mile radius of our homes? What led us to believe that filling every spare moment of a child’s life with lessons, practices, meetings and homework so that they fall asleep at the dinner table is of some benefit?
Furthermore, when did we start to believe that being a good mother meant being a friend first and an example second? Why did we decide to abdicate the teaching of things like good manners and respect for those around us, or giving up on the idea that integrity is a more valued commodity than being cool?
These are of course, generalizations and before everyone hastens to inform me about their friend’s sister’s nephew that has a life-threatening peanut allergy, I know, it happens. But the message is not in the details.
To all the mothers approaching “your day” exhausted, stressed and overworked…oh well. That’s life. There are a bunch of fathers out there feeling the same way and that’s what we all signed up for by being a participating member of the human race. Instead of trying to meet the expectations of Hallmark or your socially ambitious neighbor when it comes to what makes a good mother, I submit an alternative.
First and most basically, love your children. Among other things love them by setting a high, yet attainable, bar and continue to give them tools to learn how to reach it. Goals are not bad, competition is not bad. Learning to work hard, strive, and sometimes fail in the attempt of acheivement is not bad, it is confidence building at its best. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT love them by doing whatever they want in order to ‘make them happy’. News flash, they are often not happy no matter what you do and they will often be sure they hate you, frequently well into adulthood. This has nothing to do with you…remember that.
Second, give them the gift of learning to be alone. Not alone with their smart phone or the flat screen, but alone with a thought-provoking book, alone flat on their stomach in the yard or the park examing a blade of grass and trying to make it whistle, even staring at the wall as they begin to contemplate existential theory.
Third, try not to fight their battles (remember they will hate you). Instead of railing against the bully; which by the way, bullies are not a new phenomenon and they have existed for hundreds of years, give them the ability to render the bully powerless. And no, things like this are not easy. But the idea that life will often present itself as difficult is a better lesson than the one about ‘you are unique and special and deserving of nothing but unicorns and glitter’. While we may wish it so, it is a disservice to suggest it.
Finally and most important, do you put your head on the pillow at night knowing you have done your best? Don’t buy the hype or accept the pressure of a society that wishes you to feel bad that you don’t do enough, try enough, buy enough; that you are not enough. Don’t wonder if you are perfect, you aren’t; none of us are. But if you have done your best then you ARE a good mother, case closed. It is all any of us can do and even then, sometimes children will go astray, they’ll make bad choices. No matter. If you can end each day with the knowledge you did the best you could and you will make the same effort the following day, you are enough. You ARE a good mother. Happy Mother’s Day!