Ladies, I’m about to own up to some of my deepest, darkest secrets about being a mother. Over the years, it is true that I have found myself thinking these kinds of thoughts:
- I should be more fun
- I should want to read the kids bedtime stories even though I’m so tired I can’t see straight.
- I should decorate the house better for the holidays
- I shouldn’t have yelled
- I shouldn’t have lost my patience
- And I definitely shouldn’t be so relieved when the kids walk out the door for school and I’m left alone, in the glorious silence.
I know, I know. I’m sure I’m the only woman who has ever felt this way. 🙂
I actually used to think I was alone in these thoughts. I kept them hidden because surely a “good mom” would never feel this way. So because I was the only one who secretly dreaded building with Legos, or who felt a little cuckoo when the children – all five of them – were all talking animatedly to me at the same time, deep down I feared this was all evidence that I wasn’t a good mom. Because I knew exactly what a good mom looked like. And it wasn’t what I saw when I looked in the mirror every day.
Oh yes, I could see a “good mom” clearly in my mind. I had been piecing her together for years before my children ever came. “I’ll have a home like hers, a marriage like hers, a body like hers, hair like hers, patience like hers, and –of course – happy, obedient children like hers.” Never mind the fact that no one woman could ever personally embody all of these qualities. You can’t dissect other women, choose only the pretty parts, glue them all together, and hold yourself accountable to a standard that has never been achieved by a real person.
But boy, did I try. And as I’ve worked, and worked, and worked to understand how to be happier as a mother, I have learned that I’m not the only one who is chasing an ideal that doesn’t even exist. I think as women, we are masters at conjuring up an unrealistic standard in our heads, and then raking ourselves over the coals for not measuring up to it. The really sad part? Instead of questioning the standard, we question ourselves instead.
One day, in a humble, teachable moment, I finally listened when a friend said to me, “Jenny, being a good mom doesn’t have to look a certain way.” I’d heard these words before, so I don’t know what was different that day. But the stars must have all been in alignment because instead of instantly rejecting what she said, I caught a glimpse of a new possibility in mothering. Could it really be true? Hope began streaming in as I wondered, “What if being a good mom is nothing like I have always thought it needed to be? What if, in the end, being a good mom is a whole lot easier?”
With a tiny seed of hope, I stepped in front of the mirror. And for the first time, as I looked at myself as a mother, instead of focusing on everything I was not, I took a bold, brave look at everything I was. And I was astonished by what I saw.
Looking in the mirror, I saw an imperfect woman who loved her children fiercely, who would do anything to help them live their best lives. I also saw a woman who was a fighter for her own dreams. I saw the possibility of designing a life that allowed for my own personal fulfillment and the love and nurture of my children. I saw them growing up empowered, motivated, and independent. And I saw myself at peace as a mother and as a woman.
In other words, it was in that moment I gave myself permission to just be me. And that’s when the miracle happened. Suddenly I knew what a good mother looked like. She was looking back at me in the mirror.
My hope is that despite what any of you might be thinking, you will all realize that you are “good moms.” If each of us were to look in the mirror, and open our eyes to all that we are, instead of all that we are not, a good mom is exactly what you would see. We would all come to the same wonderful realization I did – that you are perfect for the children that came to you. They didn’t end up yours by mistake. Whatever it is that YOU do best – that’s exactly what they needed from a mother. All children don’t need mothers who are crafty, or soft-spoken, or organized, or any of those other things you have been feeling guilty about not being. They need what you are best at giving. That’s what good moms do. They give their best, and they let go of the rest.
What does a good mother look like? It looks like a woman who stops listening to those thoughts that tell you that you aren’t good enough. You look in the mirror and, without any apology to anyone, you simply be yourself. Because you’ve been doing it right all along.