From the moment I found out I was expecting, I thought to myself, “Will I make a good mother?” That, and “Oh no! What did I do!?”
Prior to getting pregnant, I viewed motherhood as a spectator sport. I have nephews, a Godson, and besties with children; all of their mothers have different parenting styles and they’re all great mothers. Then there are those women that I observe on the street, in the subway, at the mall, in a restaurant – anywhere – that give me pause. I found myself making judgments; I’m not proud of this fact, but it happens.
I cringe at the mother who is giving her baby soda and donuts for breakfast on the train. I wince when a mother curses at her child at the mall. And I try to keep myself from giving a disapproving stare when I see a child scream or hit their mother and call her out her name because she told him “no” when he asked if he could have a toy.
But then I think, “I have no children…so what do I know?”
Now it’s my turn, and it’s my job to figure out what I’d feed my son, how I’d handle a tantrum, and what preschool I should send him to – all personal decisions that have nothing to do with anyone else. I’m sure once I become a parent, someone will give their own disapproving stare of how I choose to raise my child.
I’m approaching the six months mark and I catch myself at the doctor’s office studying the parenting magazines. You should breastfeed until the kid is 20 years old, only feed him organic food, start teaching him different languages at six weeks old, giving piano lessons at age three and the list goes on and on. If you follow their rules, your child should have no problem being accepted into the college of their choice.
I’ll be lucky if I change his diaper correctly.
Arming yourself with information can be useful. But too much expert advice can lead you into the trap of believing that there is only one right way to do things, and that if you’re not doing it that way your kids will suffer. That, of course, is the perfect recipe for mother’s guilt.
The reality is, there is no recipe for what it takes to be a good mother. Sometimes mothers lose patience. They yell. They feed their kids junk sometimes because it’s just easier at that moment. Some mothers let their kids get away with things that they shouldn’t because they’re just…tired. But one of the things that those articles never mention is that children are very resilient, smart…and they know that when you act in love that you’re acting on their behalf. That’s being a good parent.
For now, I’ll just have to trust my internal mothering guide. They say kids don’t come with directions, but they sort of do in the form of their parents. The directions are your instincts and values that you use to make sound decisions. If you make a decision about your child that comes from love and having faith in yourself (and a higher power if that’s part of your belief system), you should do just fine. It’s the internal critic that many of us need to muzzle because it does the most damage. Without that little voice inside our heads creating doubt about our mothering skills, comments and judgments made by others would be less likely to take hold.
Doing what you believe is best for your children and your family makes you a good mother, no matter if it fits anyone else’s standard (so long as you’re not deliberately hurting them or putting them in harm’s way). There will always be decisions you make that others will be able to find fault with, but your true allegiance is with your kids. When you’re comfortable with your decisions, you need to stand in them and own them and recognize that the only one you have to answer to is yourself and your child. You don’t have to answer to anyone else.
When all is said and done, being a mother means tuning in to what really matters. I can’t wait to look into my child’s eyes and see that sparkle, the confirmation that tells me that he loves me. It’s that little feeling right there gives me confidence that I just might join my sister, and all the other great mothers that I know, in making a great mother one day.