“Before our lives became so easily promoted and quickly communicated, we were all in our homes doing our own thing. Coloring ornaments or opening a box. Baking cookies or opening a box. Doing life handmade or opening a box. And nobody knew, and really nobody cared. Because we were all making it work best way we knew how. Our kids were loved, and that was all that mattered.”
There seems to be a lot of opinions as well as judgement out there on what makes a good mom, many of them conflicting with each other.
When I was in college I worked at a treatment center for troubled teen girls. This was challenging at times, but one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had. These girls came with all sorts of issues they were dealing with, from drugs to mental illness to suicidal thoughts and actions. Before or after our shifts we had the opportunity as staff to read from each girl’s “Book of Life,” is what I called it. In these books contained each girl’s story–their treatment plans as well as their past history and all the hardships–and often times abuse that they had experienced. What made this job unique for me was that I had never in my life felt such strong love for an individuals that sometimes treated me so badly. Meaning, at times I was the target of some of the meanest things that have ever been said to me, and yet their insults (and sometimes physical bites and punches), were not taken personally. Why? Because I knew their story. I knew what they had been through in their life and this gave me a unique love and perspective for their current circumstance.
There’s No “One Way” to be a Good Mom
Since that time I have often had the thought, “what if we had the book to each others lives, especially as mothers?” I think we would love each other a lot more and judge each other a lot less. I have also wondered why we can’t be just a little more like men in this way. How rare would it be to witness a group of men gathered together discussing other men’s parenting styles, weight loss patterns, or why the man next door is letting his wife bottle feed their baby? Pretty rare. Not that men don’t ever gossip, but it is much more rare.
I feel that if we knew each other’s life, story and the intentions of our hearts we would extend a helping hand or listening ear rather than a critical judgement. As a mom I’ve been shocked at some of the things that come out of other mom’s mouths, statement about “the bad mom” that doesn’t spend enough time with her children or the neglectful mom that doesn’t immunize, or the “lazy” mom that doesn’t discipline and teach like she “should.” I’m sure we’ve all heard, read or been the object of various judgements when it comes to working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, strict and protective parents vs. lenient and careless parents, and don’t even get me started with breast-feeding! The reality is that the mom that isn’t spending enough time with her children (like we think she should), is probably exhausted, tired, and over working herself in ways we don’t understand. The mom that isn’t immunizing her children has probably not made her decision on a neglectful “whim,” but has probably done a lot of research and chosen what she felt was best. And the mom that isn’t “disciplining” her child as we thought she out to? Maybe she is actually in tune with her intuition as a mother and knows her own child better than we do, or maybe she’s doing 5 times better than how her own parents did with her. These moms are good moms.
And unfortunately, I have been guilty myself at passing judgement at times. Just last week and article went viral on Facebook about a mom’s plea for other mom’s to take things down a notch and stop making a big deal out of all the holidays. She mentioned the moms that go out of their way to home make their valentines, set leprechaun traps, and celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. A lot of moms agreed with her, but my first reaction to her post was, “What fun-spoiler!” I passed judgement on her as a mom in a way, and was feeling regretful about it days later. In retrospect, this mother just finds joys in mothering differently than I do. I personally love doing little things to make celebrations out of the ordinary, but I am also in a different phase of life than her and I have more time for it. She loves her children, and more than likely she is doing her best to be a good mom just like the rest of us. With a few more years and a few more children, I might even find myself agreeing with everything that she said.
One thing I don’t want to regret when I get to the other side is the way that I perceived people. I don’t want to look down on the life that they lived, or their “life story,” full of challenges, worries and frustrations and say, “Wow. I totally judged you wrongly. How did I not know how amazing you really are?” I’m sure we will all experience a little of this, but I would like to limit it as much as possible.
One of my favorite movies is “the Help.” I think it does a good job of portraying both sides: How mean and nasty we can be to each other as women, and also how compassionate, kind and caring we are capable of being. I especially love the relationship between Celia and Minnie.
Here is the clip of their first meeting. I love how different they are, and yet they grow to be great friends.
Even my husband teared up at the ending scene when Celia and her husband honored Minnie with a special meal. I think one of the most beautiful things to witness or be a part of in this life, is when two people who originally see each other very differently, or even strongly dislike each other–when those two people grow in love and respect for each other and become the greatest friends.
In reality the majority of us are doing our best with what life gives us, and each of us struggle and triumph in different ways. Some mothers are better teachers, some mothers are better at discipline, some are more sensitive to their children’s emotions, and some are better crafters and cooks. We would all be more successful if we were quick to notice each others strengths and take a moment to learn things in a different way. One thing I love about my mother-in-law is that she is completely opposite of my own mother and yet I love everything about her. I love my own mother and I adore her for the wonderful job that she did in raising us kids. She taught us the things that really mattered and a lot of the good things that have occurred in my life I owe to her influence; however, having a mother-in-law with a completely different personality has taught me that success as a mother can be accomplished in a million different ways, none of them being particularly “right” or “wrong.” I’m really lucky in a way because I get to learn from both of these women and decide in what ways I would like to emulate them both. Likewise, I have had the opportunity to watch both my own siblings as well as my sister-in-laws parent in a variety of different ways. Each of them parent in a unique way, and each of them love their children a whole bunch. Because of our large families and the variety of personalities that exist within in them I have a whole rainbow of examples to observe and learn from, and I admire each of them for their strength and diligence to be the most amazing parents that they know how to be.
May we delight in our differences as mothers and be each other’s best support. May we use Pinterest as a great resource for recipes, ideas, and printables when we have no time to come up with them ourselves (and not as a “measuring” tool for comparing us with other mothers). And may we, like Aibileen from “the Help,” uplift and teach each other: “You is Kind, You is Smart, you is important.”
And if your toughest critic is yourself, ease up on yourself. You are doing better than you think. Just keep doing your best. The moms that I look up to are the ones that are doing their best to be as kind as they can be–to other moms, to their husbands and to their children…and when they mess up or have a “grumpy day,” they pray for God’s help and start all over again the next day. This is the mom I hope to both be and become.
I love this quote by M. Russel Ballard: “There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children.”
Since Mother’s Day is only a month away, let’s have fun by spending the next month praising and supporting other moms. Send this free printable card to another mom letting her know that she’s doing an amazing job!
What’s the best and most tactful way to turn conversation when moms start to gossip?
What’s the best way to keep perspective when you want to pass judgement on another mom?