On the Struggle to Be a “Good Mother”

What does it mean to be a good mother?

Picture of the mythical good mom that I think I’m not but can’t define.

I don’t know if you all are like me, but I have to admit that I struggle with feeling like I am not a good enough mother. I often feel like I am a bad or terrible mother. I promise you, I am not writing this to elicit comments from you all that I am a good mother, but stick with me and you’ll see my point eventually.

I think the most frustrating part about this is that if you asked me to define a good mother, I don’t even think I could. I have a ton of friends who I would classify as good mothers. And none of them parent the same. Or I would come up with artificially high and inflated standards like always does the dishes or other ridiculous stuff like that.

It seems pointless to strive for something that I don’t even know how to define. But I have this very concrete fear of being a terrible mother. And sometimes, I even feel like a terrible mother. I get caught up in all the things that are going wrong. Like the fact that one of my kids is very whiny and I try soooooo hard not to give into his whining, but sometimes I’m just tired. Sometimes I’ve just hit my whining limit. And the fact that getting the toys picked up before bed is a struggle almost all the time. I feel like there’s some mythical mother out there who doesn’t yell at her kids, whose kids always pick up their toys, and who is somehow impervious to whining. I feel like somehow if I just try harder, I can be her. I can be this amazing magical mom.

But I can’t. I’ll never be perfect, no matter how hard I try. And lots of times I think this struggle to be a good mother is just my perfectionism expressing itself in a different way. And perfectionism is a trap. Perfectionism is a slave driver that will whisper in your ear that you failed because you aren’t enough. That you should try harder. That you should always try harder, even if you feel like you’re already trying with everything you’ve got.

I talk with Nick about this. I talk with him about it so much so that he’s exhausted. Because in his eyes, I am a great mother and he doesn’t understand how I question this. But he texted me something once and I have held onto that text in all the hard times. And what he texted me was the three most important questions that I should ask myself every day to try and figure out if I’m a good mother.

So here, for you, are the three questions. In case it helps you the way it helps me.

Do you love your kids?

Do I love my kids? Yes, I absolutely love my kids. I do this, every day, without fail. There’s no time that I’m ever not loving them. Even when they upset me. Even when they drive me up the wall. I still love them. This love for them makes me a good mother. Even my imperfect love, it’s still love.

Are you trying to do what’s best for them?

I am a research personality if you didn’t know that already. I like to read and research everything. And parenting is no exception. I have read so many pregnancy and parenting books that I have all this knowledge in my head. Sometimes, it’s too much knowledge. But still, at the end of the day, I take this knowledge and try and use it to make the best decisions that I can for my kids. Sometimes, what’s best for them changes – sometimes we get more information. But still, I am trying to do what’s best for them every day, and that makes me a good mother.

Are you working on raising them in Godliness?

My husband and I both believe in God. And we both believe that it is important to pass that faith onto our children. And that that faith is more than just showing up for church and Sunday school on Sunday mornings to check a box. Even though this is the last question, it is the most important. If my kids are perfectly behaved angels all the time, but they don’t know God, it’s meaningless. If they can do calculus and write 10 page essays, but don’t know God, it’s meaningless. Our works can’t earn us heaven and neither can my kids’ behaviors. This is the big picture. And sometimes in the day to day, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture when you’re just trying to make it through another 5 minutes.

While I still have days where I struggle, when I try to keep these things in mind, it definitely helps. Nobody is perfect – even me – but in the day to day struggle of things, it can definitely be easy to lose track of the things that are going well. It is much easier to focus on everything that’s going wrong.

How do you define being a good mom? Do you struggle with feeling like you aren’t a good enough mom? What questions do you need to ask yourself? 

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