“There’s More Than One Way to Be a Good Mother”

If you’re reading this post, there’s a decent chance you feel like you don’t have it all together as a mother.

Hands down, being a parent is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Motherhood seems to be the intersection of my best intentions and worst follow-through. It’s a job I couldn’t wait to have and then once I landed it, I panicked a little bit. And by a little bit, I actually mean a lot

Almost thirteen years later and I’m still prone to panicking on any given day.

If you’re a parent, perhaps you’re nodding your head in agreement. 

Motherhood has been like one of those dreaded 360 degree mirrors. 

It’s revealed all sorts of faults and sins I didn’t even know were there: selfishness, crippling fear, and cussing at my husband in the middle of the night because our insomniac baby had driven us both of us to the brink of crazy.

But it’s also revealed all sorts of virtues I didn’t know I possessed: sacrifice, perseverance, and the ability to wipe one toddler’s boogers while simultaneously wiping her baby brother’s bottom.

Not long after my first child was born, I realized that mothers give birth to three things when they have a child: the baby, the placenta, and The Guilt. 

I heard that a nurse tried weighing The Guilt one time after she weighed the baby. The scale broke into a thousand pieces.

We have a way of allowing unrealistic definitions of motherhood to defeat us before we can even get out of the gate. This cloud of “shoulds” continues to haunt us through each new season of motherhood.

No other generation of mothers has been bombarded with more information on how to be a good mother and raise great kids than this generation of mothers. How many books, articles, blog posts, pins, etc. have you read on parenting?

That’s what I thought. Too many to count.

I’m all about having a voice. I’m all about bringing your own uniqueness to the table and sharing what you’ve got. But perhaps there is too much bossy-ness about this thing of mothering. Too many “Sure-fire Ways” and “10 Best Tips” and “What Every Mother Needs to Know About McDonalds.” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live an authentic life, to show up each day with all that I have and all that I lack. Not comparing myself to the good mother down the street or the good mother in my head, but simply showing up each day and caring for my kids in the ways that are consistent with what is most true about me. 

When I was a teenager, my mom used to say: You be you.

That bit of advice isn’t just for the teenage years. I’ve spent entirely too much time trying to figure out how to be the right mother, all the while failing and flailing and floundering.

But the simple truth is this: I am the right mother because I’m the one they’ve got. 

Perhaps motherhood is more about trusting than it is about trying. Motherhood invites me to trust in a way that no other endeavor or relationship calls for. 

I trust that I’m the mom these kids got put with so there must be purpose in that.

I trust that God knows all the ways I fall short so there must be purpose in that. Falling short may be an opportunity for growth. Or it may be an opportunity to simply receive grace and carry on. 

I trust that God knows the ways my kids will struggle and the ways I will struggle and He gave us all to one another for reasons I may never understand. But I can trust it’s for our good and for His glory.

I trust that He will provide wisdom and resources for fruitful opportunities. I also trust that He will show us when to say no.

Sometimes we need to take all the extras we believe about “good motherhood” and let them go like helium balloons after the party. Sometimes we have to go back to the basics and camp out there. Sometimes I wonder if all the extra things we think “good mothers” are supposed to do are actually getting in the way of the simplest ways we’re called to love them.

Do you love them? Do they know it? Do you try to be available when they really need you? Are they fed? Are they clothed? Do they know right from wrong and have loving boundaries? Do you apologize when you mess up? Are they learning?

Congratulations. If you answered yes to these questions, chances are you’re a good mother. Chances are your kids wouldn’t want to have any other mother on the planet, even if they don’t act like they think that.

In the first episode of this season’s Downton Abbey, the Dowager Countess said these words to Mary Crawley: 

There’s more than one way to be a good mother.

Truer words were never spoken.

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  1. says

    Early in this post I found a line I wanted to copy, paste, and comment on. Then another. Then another . . . and another . . . and, well, you’ve got that picture now, don’t you, dear one?

    Perhaps one of your simplest, most straight-forward posts yet. And perhaps, also, one of the best. I LOVED everything, everything, everything you laid out here.

    I’m no longer in the trenches of motherhood. I’m more up on the hill above the daily mothering life-skirmishes being encountered by those four mothers I love especially dearly . . . cheering you on, praying earnestly, and thanking God for two things. One, that it’s not me (too tiring at my age!); and two, for the amazing, wonderful way you are all doing it. I love, love, love the results of the mothering that is being fleshed out in the homes where my thirteen grands live. God is so gracious!

    My advice to moms today: Put all those books down. Read this post. Go with your gut!


  2. says

    You are so right. There is so much now that makes a modern parent worry and feel guilty over. Analyzing my parenting/mothering/homeschooling use to be my hobby. I have finally found some new interests. What a load off my shoulders!

  3. says

    Love that quote…and great post! I’ve been writing a talk to speak to a Mom’s group next week, about trying to be a “really good Mom” for many years. (i.e. the perfect mom) This post just lined up perfectly with what I was thinking through!!!

  4. says

    Scooper, As usual your blog posting is so timely for me!
    Struggling to be that “perfect” mom again and you so gently encourage me that God is the perfect One — not me.
    I am so glad He blessed you with the gift of communication and am so thankful you choose to share it with us.

  5. says

    Loved this post & it really hit home for me. I caught that quote from Downton, too. It made me tear up when she said that. Thanks for the encouragement!

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