I am firmly entrenched in mommyhood. I’ve been here for 5 years, and now I am doing double duty. Many of my friends now are moms. Some I have met since becoming a mom, some I have met through my kids, and some I have known forever, and now we’re moms, as well as childhood friends. We all approach our roles differently but we all have the same goals: happy, healthy, well adjusted kids. Something I am learning as I get older (almost 30…although that suddenly doesn’t seem so old) is that there is more than 1 way to do something right. Just because you do something differently than your mom did, doesn’t make you wrong. Just because you, with your 2 kids, approach parenting differently than your friend with 4 kids, doesn’t make her wrong. Even if you and your sister share very different basic philosophies about what is it to be a mom, you both can still be right. Here are some examples:
1. Moms who take time away from their kids – who take vacations without them, who send them to grandmas for the night because they have plans, or just because they want a night to themselves… this doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids, doesn’t mean they aren’t good parents. In fact, in most cases they are doing exactly what THEY need to do, to be good parents. If they didn’t take the breaks, the time away to recharge, they would be stressed, they would feel like they had lost themselves as women, and this would have a negative impact on their kids. Some moms need to feel like they are more than just somebody’s mommy, and this is how they do it. They take days away, they take vacations with their husbands to reconnect as husband and wife. They take vacations with their girlfriends to remember what it’s like to just be one of the girls again. They take time away to recharge. They get pedicures, hire housecleaners. play baseball, play golf, play volleyball. They do what they need to do to feel good about themselves. And when they feel good about themselves, they are better mothers. Some people don’t need to do things like that, they already do feel satisfied and content, with their kids around all the time. Some people can come down pretty hard on moms who take time away from their kids, just because they want to. And some mothers cannot imagine being with their children 24/7 without regular breaks. Neither way is better than the other.
2. Mothers who work outside the home vs Mothers who don’t…one is not better than the other. Many mothers who do work outside the home freely admit that they need to, in order to be good mothers. Others mothers cannot imagine missing a single moment, or letting someone else teach their children all the wonderful lessons of early childhood. Some mothers require that second paycheque, in order to ensure their children are taken care of. Some mothers are willing to live on less in order to stay home with their children. Some mothers earn paycheques that the family doesn’t NEED financially, the mother uses it as her own spending money, because she likes to be able to buy things without having to ask her husband for money. Some mothers choose to stay home to be there for their own kids, while earning money by providing childcare for other children. Other mothers couldn’t imagine being home all day, every day with their own kids, never mind other people’s kids. Neither lifestyle is better than the other. In all cases, these mothers are doing what is best for them, and for their families.
3. Some mothers need to be on social assistance, or be a part of certain programs, that others don’t…and that makes them better mothers than what they would be if they weren’t a part of those programs. Of course this is a hard one not to judge, and comes with a lot of stigma. But until you have been a part of one of these programs, or delivered one, you have no right to judge. Mothers enter these programs from all walks of life, for all different reasons. Some need to be there, or have been “ordered” to be there, others choose to be there and come freely – because they believe there is always something to learn. They are being proactive and preventative in their roles as mothers. As a faciliatator of a number of these groups over the years, I have realized many things about what it is to be a mother, and how the vast majority of us have the same goal – to be good moms for our kids. Some moms have a harder time with that than others, and in trying, some mothers face obstacles that others will never be able to comprehend. I have met many mothers in these groups that, given their situations and what they have overcome, or are dealing with on a daily basis, I admire. And I have realized, more than once, that in the blink of an eye, I could be in situations just like they are. That has humbled me, and made me a lot less judgemental than I used to be. I am no better than they are…luckier maybe, but not better. They are doing what they need to do to become good mothers, and for that, they need to be commended. Not gossiped about.
Some mothers need to have a clean house all of the time, some do not. Some mothers want to have a fridge covered with handmade crafts, some do not. Some mothers need to feel they are giving their child every opportunity, by enrolling them in sports, the arts and a whole host of other extra curricular activities. Some mothers don’t feel this is necessary, or can’t afford it. Neither way is better than the other. Neither choice makes you a better mother. Some mothers bake their kids’ birthday cakes, some mothers buy them. Some mothers buy their children only new, brand name clothes while others scavenge second hand shops, yard sales and hand me downs, because they are on a tight budget, or because they cannot imagine paying $30 for a pair of jeans their child will only wear for a year or less. Neither way is “better” than the other. Some choose to put their kids in daycare, others would never dare allow someone else to “raise their kids”. Some of those moms who do use daycare recieve subsidies. Some don’t. Some mothers breasfeed, some mothers formula feed. Some mothers allow their babies to “cry it out”, some mothers cosleep with their children. Some mothers enroll their kids in public schools. Others would never send their child anywhere but a Catholic, Christian or other school that teaches religion. Others firmly believe homeschooling is the best way to educate their children. None of these things make you a better parent than the one who does it differently. Just because you don’t understand it, just because you do it differently, doesn’t mean “they” are wrong. Doesn’t mean you are better.
What makes you a good mother?
When you are satisfied with the choices you have made, with the way you live your life, however that may be…when you are at peace with your pedicures, your housecleaner, your purchased birthday cake. Because you know that is what works for you. When you are not ashamed of your subsidy, your government assistance (financial or social) or your hand me downs. Because you know you are doing what’s best for family. You are not too proud to ask for, and accept, help. When you are at peace with your lifestyle, and like who you are, that helps you to be a good mother. That reduces your stress and increases your self esteem. When you know it doesn’t matter what they think. If you can come home to a house that has already been cleaned and that lowers your stress level, because otherwise, you wouldn't be able to relax until it WAS clean (yes, there are people like that) and that allows you an extra hour to read or do puzzles on the floor with your child, that’s what matters.. If you don’t care that there are dishes in your sink and have no idea when the last time was that your floor was mopped, but you DO know that your child’s favourite book is “love you forever”, because you read it to him ten times a day, THAT’S what matters, If you know that buying that cake saves you feelings of embarrassment because the one you made yourself isn’t “good enough” or “doesn’t taste right”, then that’s what matters. If you learn something at that parent group, about how to budget your money, or how to better discipline your child, or how to understand your baby’s cues, that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise, that’s what matters. If your child can get in daycare what you can’t give them at home, for whatever reason, THAT’S what matters.
And when you are less stressed, and are at peace with who you are and the life you are living, that naturally has a positive impact on your children.
Every mother has strengths, every mother has weaknesses. Some moms try very hard to hide them, but they are there. Some mothers like to remind us about the fancy vacations they take every year. Some mothers like to remind us that they have NEVER been on a vacation since their kids were born, or would never dream of going on a vacation, or a weekend away, without their kids. Neither mother is better than the other. Each one is doing what they feel is best for them and their family. For some mothers, this whole “idea” of motherhood is a lot harder than for other mothers. It’s not as easy. It doesn’t feel as innate, as natural. Some mothers accept their identity as ‘mommy” whole heartedly, and are quite happy to put their previous identities on the backburners for awhile…even years. Other mothers don’t want to do that. They still want to be the sexy wife, the fun friend, the career woman. As well as somebody’s mommy. Because that’s what makes them feel good about themselves. All mommies approach and fulfill their roles differently. And as long as their kids are happy and healthy, even if it’s because they have help, they are good mommies.
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