It is my pleasure to introduce you to my daughter Elsa and her friend Hannah, two girls that represent the next generation of moms! I have had this post on my heart for months, so I am happy to be able to finally share it with you today.
Months ago, Elsa had her friend Hannah over to play. I was changing my daughter’s diaper on the floor, and Hannah and Elsa were watching me. Out of the blue, Elsa said to Hannah “Are you going to be a good mom when you get bigger?” Taken aback by this question, I responded immediately with an adamant “You girls are going to be AWESOME moms!”
I don’t remember what else I said that day, but it doesn’t even matter. The fact is that I was shocked that my six-year-old was asking her friend IF she was going to be a “good mom” someday! I couldn’t help but wonder how it was she got to this place. How is it that in our American culture, a six-year-old has been exposed to so many messages about mothering, subtly and not so subtly, that she is already questioning a friend about her future mothering abilities? And what does that say about my own daughter’s confidence in her future mothering abilities? If she’s asking her friend “Are you going to be a good mom when you get bigger?” then she is likely asking that of herself.
Whether we innately want to be “good moms,” or this message is passed through our culture, or both, I have come to despise the phrase “good mom.” And the fact that my daughter already has a sense or fear about this “good mom” concept makes me want to stand up for all the girls of the next generation and say with all clarity and conviction – let’s eliminate the notion of “good mom” once and for all!
I was a “good girl.” I can’t say exactly what constitutes a “good girl,” but I know I was one. I didn’t do much wrong and I didn’t cause much trouble, and that’s just who I was.
So when I became a mother, I naturally wanted to be a “good mom.” The only problem was that I was never exactly sure what a “good mom” was, nor am I 10 years after becoming a mother. We all have a sense of a “good mom” when we see one, and there seems to be a lot of pressure to be a “good mom.” Even before I became a mom, I had people tell me I was going to be a “good mom,” but funny thing is once you become a mom and have some real experience behind you, nobody goes around telling you if you’re actually a “good mom” or not, so you’re never quite sure how you’re doing. Yes, your instinct tells you when you’ve done something right, and you’ll certainly find out when you’ve done something wrong as a mom, but there is no concrete definition of “good mom” we can use to verify YES, I’m doing this right, or NO, I’m doing that wrong.
“Good mom.” This nebulous”good mom.”
Does a “good mom” give birth naturally, medication free? Is she a “good mom” if she has an epidural? (3,680,000 results on Google search)? What if she has a c-section? (59,100,000 results on Google search)
Does a “good mom” breast feed until the recommended one-year of age? Is she still a “good mom” if she nurses until three months and then formula feeds (6,190,000 results on Google search)? What if she only formula feeds?
Does a “good mom” make her baby’s food from scratch, boiling organic food and then milling it by hand? Is she still a “good mom” if she just buys the old fashioned jars of Gerber baby food? (173,000,000 results on Google search)
Does a “good mom” stay home full-time to care for her children? Is she still a “good mom” if she chooses to work part-time or full-time, or if she has to work full-time or nights or weekends to make ends meet (132,000,000 results on Google search)?
Does a “good mom” send her kids to public school or private school, or does she homeschool? (2,290,000 results on Google search)?
Does a “good mom” hover over her children, supervising them every moment, making sure they are behaving properly, not getting in harm’s way? Is she still a “good mom” if she sends them outside to play and only checks on them once in a while? Or does a “good mom” play with her children and engage them during all waking hours so they can achieve optimal development? (24,600,000 results on Google search)?
Does a “good mom” prepare a homemade meal every night and include all the food groups? Is she still a “good mom” if she gets a basic meal on the table most nights and brings her kids out for fast food here and there? (2,140,000 results on Google search)?
Or how about some even more nebulous ones…
Is she a “good mom” if she gets called by her child’s principal because her child misbehaved in school? Is she still a “good mom” if she gets called two or three times?
Is she a “good mom” if she brought her child to school one day too soon after the lice treatments, and even after all the work she did, it’s discovered that the lice weren’t gone yet and have now spread to other children in the classroom? (I’m sure it’s happened thousands of times.)
Is she a “good mom” if her teen hates church when faith is the most important thing in the world to her?
Can she feel confident she is a “good mom” when her child has autism, a learning disability, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, attachment disorder, some vague undetermined “not otherwise specified” or “developmental delay” or any number of diagnoses where the cause is unknown, not fully understood, and/or partially genetic, and she has therapists and doctors and psychologists reminding her of all the different ways she needs to parent her child? (Let me be clear on this one, the answer is YES.)
Listen folks. I could go on and on. This makes my head swim and seeing those Google stats makes me realize why moms have a hard time feeling confident.
The fact remains true. The definition of a “good mom” is nebulous and therefore unattainable.
Perhaps we should reframe our notion of “good mom” into something like “doing her best as a mom” or “loves her children with wild abandon even though she’s not a perfect mom.”
Give yourself some grace as a mom, extend another mom grace for her journey, and fully accept the grace God offers you every single day. I will never feel sufficient or proficient to carry out the task of mothering on my own, but I am not alone. For God says in 1 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Although we are not perfect human beings, nor perfect moms, and maybe not always “good moms,” we can rest in peace knowing there is a God that offers grace. And there are millions of moms, dads, grandparents, and others to provide support when we need help along the way.
So on that note, let’s ditch that old-fashioned notion of “good mom” for all the moms of the next generation.
For Julia & Lucy.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 1 Corinthians 12:9
*A special thanks to all the moms that gave me permission to use their daughters’ pictures in this post.