If you’re a mom, you’ve probably wondered at some point whether or not you’re a good mother. Motherhood is one of the most challenging jobs in the world, so it’s no wonder that we sometimes feel as though we don’t measure up.
After all, a good mom would never yell at her kids. Or let her baby cry. Or give her kids PB&J for lunch three days in a row. A great mom always has the house clean and the laundry done, her kids always behave perfectly in public, and she’s always delighted to read Llama Llama Red Pajama for the 28th time today.
In my experience, none of that stuff is what matters.
What are the qualities of a good mother?
You might be confused here. If it doesn’t matter whether or not you feed your child an all organic, gluten-free diet, what IS important?
I’ll tell you a secret: there is no right or wrong way to do motherhood.
The important thing is that every decision you make for your child, you make from a place of love and a desire to do what’s best for them.
If you can do that, then everything else will fall into place.
But if you find yourself wondering, “how can I be the best mom possible?” you should start by taking care of yourself. You’ve probably heard all of the cliches: ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup!’ and ‘You’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask first!’ etc. It’s so important to take care of your own basic needs so that you have the energy and strength to meet the needs of your kids.
You get to decide what that looks like for you, because self-care doesn’t have to be all about expensive massages and pedicures. It might simply be getting up 15 minutes earlier than your kids to get properly showered and dressed for the day. May it means putting the screaming baby in another room with the door closed for 10 minutes, or making sure you get your workout in, or turning on a show for the kids so you can have a minute to drink your coffee while it’s still hot.
A good mom also invests time into relationships apart from her kids, especially her marriage. Being a good mom doesn’t mean that the kids always have to come first. In fact, treating your relationship with your husband as more important than your kids is actually a really great example to set for your children. Having a mom and dad who love each other helps kids feel more loved and secure. Sacrificing your marriage in an effort to be awesome parents isn’t worth it, and usually backfires.
Take care to nurture friendships and develop community with people outside your own home and family, too. Women especially thrive on relationships, and your husband, wonderful though he may be, is not equipped to provide for your every relational need. Sometimes you just need a girlfriend to talk to. The emotional, spiritual and physical support that come from friends and mentoring relationships are vital to thriving as a mom, so work hard to make those people in your life a priority.
What is the role of a mother?
Over the last few years, we’ve entered into an era of parenting known as “intensive parenting,” where we as parents seemingly make it our life goal to make sure that our children are either being entertained or educated every waking moment of the day and always, always under our careful supervision.
We put our kids is music lessons, swim lessons, soccer and t-ball. We take them to playgroups, to the library, and spend inordinate amounts of money to make sure they get into the very best preschools and day cares. During the small amounts of time that we do spend at home with them, we’re constantly in their faces, asking them how their day was, sitting on the floor playing with them, and otherwise taking it upon ourselves to ensure that they don’t get bored or unstimulated. We rarely leave children alone to let them figure out how to occupy themselves.
I say we’re making the world of parenting and motherhood way more difficult than it needs to be, and we might be hurting our kids in the process.
Your role as a mom is not to keep your kid entertained all of the time. It’s not your job to keep them happy or to make sure that they keep up with the gymnastics skills of their peers. I would even venture to say that it’s not even your job to keep your child safe at all times.
Your job as a mom is to provide a loving and (reasonably) safe environment for your child to grow up in, and teach them how to become a functional adult. That’s all.
If accomplishing that involves being on a few sports teams or learning to play the clarinet, fine. But I think we sometimes mistake those peripheral things for the main purpose of parenthood, and make things more difficult for ourselves in the process.
This is why I have yet to spend a penny on extracurricular activities for my daughters, yet they are every bit as vibrant and creative as their peers who spend every moment being carted around from activity to activity all day long.
This is why I’ve helped my daughter learn how to entertain herself, screen-free, for two hours every afternoon while her younger sister sleeps. ‘How neglectful of you,’ you might say. But actually, it’s become one of her favorite parts of the day. It’s a chance for her to let her imagination run wild. She gets 120 uninterrupted minutes to sing songs and read books to herself, to talk to and play games with her imaginary friends. She complains when I tell her that quiet time is over and it’s time to go wake up her sister.
This is why I let my girls climb up to the top of the playground from the moment they could walk. Do I worry that they might fall? Sure, and sometimes they do. But the benefits they reap from having the freedom to explore and see what their bodies can do without someone chasing them or calling after them to “be careful!” far outweigh the risk of a broken bone or two. (Which hasn’t happened yet, by the way.)
So relax a little, mama. It’s OK to skip t-ball this year if it means you can spend a few extra evenings at home during the week. Resist the urge to check on the screams coming from the other room right away (you know the difference between a hurt cry and a frustrated one), and give them a chance to work it out. Give your kids a little room to figure out life on their own.
You just might find that in giving up the things that you thought made you a good mom, you’ll become a great one.
How do you know if you’re a good mom?
I was incredibly insecure about my motherhood in those first days and weeks after I brought my babies home from the hospital.
I agonized over whether or not I was doing this mom thing right. I was sure that my incompetence was destroying my baby for life.
But I found out that there’s an easy way to know if you’re a good mom: If you change your baby’s diapers and tend to their cries in the middle of the night, you’re a good mom. If you find yourself exhausted at the end of the day from taking care of your new baby, you’re a good mom. If you’re worried about whether or not you’re a good mom, that means you’re a great mom.
If you find yourself lying awake at night because you’re so concerned that you’re failing your kids, it’s a sure sign that you’re not.
Trust me, a bad mom isn’t concerned about the choice between formula and breastfeeding.
Being good mom doesn’t mean being perfect, never making mistakes or always knowing exactly what you’re doing. A good mom just does the best she can, and leaves the rest up to God.
I, for one, mess up every day. My patience wears thin with my kids and I let it show. Just a couple of days ago after a difficult morning where I didn’t control my emotions as well as I should have, my daughter walked up to me and said, “Mommy, I don’t like you to make me sad.”
The truth of her statement broke my heart, but instead of denying my behavior or explaining it away, I simply scooped her up and told her I was sorry for getting frustrated.
I shouldn’t have yelled at her, but the fact that I did gives me a chance to be open and honest with her about my faults. By apologizing, I get to model humility and repentance look like in real life. I believe seeing that example teaches her more about what it means to be a good mom than my efforts for perfection ever could.
How can I enjoy more motherhood?
Let’s be real, motherhood is exhausting. There’s nothing easy about being responsible for meeting every single need of children who literally can’t do anything for themselves. Changing their explosive diapers, preparing meals that none of them eat, getting up a million times every night with them, making sure they’re properly bathed and clothed, playing with them, reading to them, trying to accomplish other tasks while they hang on your legs begging to be picked up….It can easily feel like too much.
And yet on top of all of that, there’s this societal pressure to enjoy motherhood. There was a time when my kids were really little that I would have slapped the next old lady who told me to enjoy my kids while they’re small.
Because yes, while little kids are adorable, that is basically their only redeeming quality. I’m convinced it’s a defense mechanism, and a testament to just how difficult motherhood is. We’d kill them if they weren’t so cute.
People with grown kids wistfully look at the cuteness and forget just how hard the early years are.
But guess what? It’s OK if you just aren’t feeling this stage of motherhood. It’s OK if the baby is crying and all you feel like doing is crying right along with her. It’s OK if you dread read-aloud time with your kids or if sitting on the floor and playing with toys is basically your least favorite thing to do. It’s OK to fantasize about the day when your children can finally wipe their own behinds.
Being a good mom doesn’t mean you have you to enjoy yourself all of the time. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it. Give yourself permission to let go of that expectation, and know that there are easier days ahead.
How to be a good mom while depressed?
It’s OK if you don’t always love being a mom, but you should make sure there isn’t something deeper, like depression, going on under the surface. Postpartum depression is extremely common, so you and your partner should be aware of the signs and know when to seek help.
Don’t hesitate to see a counselor or talk to a friend. It’s easy to feel like no one could possibly understand what you’re going through, but you might be surprised to find out just how many of your mom friends have experienced the exact same feelings that you’re having.
There’s no shame in seeking help. Whether it’s in the form of talking to someone, taking medication or some combination of both, you’ll be able to be a better mom as a result.
How can I be a good working mom?
Being a stay at home mom is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, so I can only imagine that being a working mom is that much tougher.
One of the the major drawbacks that most women struggle with in going back to work is not being able to spend enough time with their kids. ‘How can I work and still be a good mom at the same time?’ we ask ourselves.
According to Lean In, working moms today actually spend the same amount of time taking care of their kids that stay at home moms did back in the 1970s. So even if you go to work, it’s likely that you’re spending just as much or more time with your kids than your mom did with you.
I’ve never worked full-time as a mom, so I can’t pretend to know what that life is like.
But one of my favorite working moms, Christy Wright, talks a lot about combating working mom guilt by being present wherever you are in the moment. If you’re at work, focus on being a great boss or employee. When you’re at home, put your phone away and focus on spending time with your family. You’ll never be happy if you’re always busy feeling guilty for not being with your kids when you’re at work or feeling guilty for not working when you should be enjoying time with your family. Be confident that you can do both well!
You’re a good mom!
If you’re reading this article, you’re a good mom. Even if you don’t feel like you are, you obviously cared enough to Google “how to be a good mom” or clicked on that Pinterest image promising to tell you the secrets to being a good mom. Yes, you’ll make mistakes, but that is okay. Kids are a lot more resilient than you think, and if you’re doing the best you can, no on can ask you for more. Keep up the hard work, mama!
Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.