Just a note…some of this is a re-print from an earlier blog I wrote, and some of it are new thoughts I had on the same subject that I wanted to add on! Feel free to comment…
My daughter and I sit on her bed. We have just finished reading her two bedtime stories, her Bible story and sent up prayers. We chat for a while, and then the conversation turns to the subject of making good choices. “Sweet pea, when you make good choices, that makes the other little ones in the daycare want to make good choices too.”
She looks at me very seriously and says, “Mommy, I just can’t beat sin.” She takes her little fist and pointedly pokes it at the air. Bam, boom. I smother a laugh, but before I can say anything more, she continues.
“Three months ago, I beat sin. I was good all day. I was nice, kind, I shared…,” she says, proudly looking at me like I might let her off the hook for all the other days in between. But today, she just can’t beat it.
Sin- gets you every time.
I finish tuck-ins, and then do the rest of my rounds. One has a tummy ache tonight, so I heat up the bean bag for her in the microwave. Another had a rough day, so I stop for a little longer than usual in his room to make sure things are okay before falling off to sleep. Then, I head downstairs to do what I love to do. Write. After my children go to bed, I love to be that writer, dreamer, creator that lives inside me by day. To be sure, that woman is still me by day, and I hear her voice when I read my students books and poetry or when I am talking to my own sweet children about the concerns on their heart.
The writer in me is there all the while. But she becomes the writer I always wished to grow up and be when I am alone with just the computer screen in front of me.
Tonight, I happened first (before writing) upon a link to an article found in The Globe and Mail on-line newspaper over the weekend titled “The Good Mother Doesn’t Exist. She’s a Myth.” I read the article with interest, as the both the act of mothering and being a mother have been weighing heavily on my mind of late. Curious, I wanted to see how one woman’s perspective on mothering might influence me in my understanding of what the ideal mother might entail. In the interview about her book titled The Conflict, Elisabeth Badinter contends that the model of motherhood as a full-time job, as opposed to one facet of a woman’s life, is setting woman back in our cause for equality. Badinter, a feminist active in the women’s movement in France, further argues that natural or attachment parenting, as is the latest trend in parenting of the 21st century, is carried out to the detriment of the mother and her adult relationships. She has further strong opinions about women who choose to stay at home, even when their children are young, so as to raise their children and give them their best start to life. To do so, Badinter says is a step back in the fight for equality for women in the working world where salaries, raises and career options have traditionally been “less than” for women than they have been for men.
Badinter takes issue with the idea of the good mother. She says the personification of the good mother does not exist, and if she was to be a possibility, she would be as rare as Mozart. She states this opinion on the fact that all mothers, good, bad or otherwise carry with them baggage that deters them from being the ideal they might wish to be. Badinter says, “We may be mothers, but we’re human beings – we have our limits, our own neuroses, our own subconscious, our own particular history. Whoever we are, we want to do our best. If women think they always do exactly what they’re supposed to for their children, they’re wrong, because we’re not gods or goddesses.” Thus, in not being perfect she appears to believe that mothers currently cannot aspire to even be good at what they do.
Realizing that there is a lot of food for fodder in this piece, I am trying to process what is it that just does not quite jive with those ideas I have already formulated about mothering and what it is to be good at being a mom. I am left with this thought. Badinter has very strong personal ideas about what the modern mother should look and act like. Her ideas reflect her worldview. Badinter is a mother, and she is a thinker. She has never said she hates being a mom, so I have to assume that being a mother is important enough to her that she would say it matters. On the other hand, I also have very strong personal ideas about what it means to be a mom. My ideas reflect my faith as well as my worldview. And being a mother is important enough to me too that I decided to write about it tonight. However, whether or not I embrace attachment parenting or not, choose to be a stay-at-home mother or not, whether I breastfed or not or even whether I know what it is to be a good mother or not, all I know is that good mothers care enough to think about and reflect on what mothering involves. Are they always going to agree about best mothering practices? No. But what they do share in common is the interest in what those practices might look like for them personally.
A while back, I had a chat with a mother friend of mine who is a bit older and wiser than I am. She shared with me that when her children were young, she often felt she was a bad mother. She had one daughter that she would constantly butt heads with and she continually dealt with this child’s behavior and attitude. When she went to her daughter’s first Grade 1 Parent-Teacher Interview, she told the teacher how inadequate she felt as a mother and that she felt she was failing her daughter as a mom. The teacher said this, “The fact that you are even thinking you’re a bad mom means you are not one.” In other words, to think about and reflect on your relationships with your children is proof that you care. You showed up and that is the first step in being a great mom.
Great moms show up in many different ways. They show up for all those things we traditionally think moms should show up for (soccer games, piano recitals, Christmas concerts, family get-togethers), but great moms also show up for discussion and reflection on their identity as a mother. And they show up for discussion on-line as well, whether they hold to beliefs and views from the more traditionally inclined or to those of the more feminist approach. Or from something in between.
Good moms are not a myth. Moms can be good at mothering, yet be burned-out and at their wits end. Good moms can suffer depression. Good moms can feel isolated, alone and scared. Good moms have days where they wondered why they ever thought it was a great idea to be one in the first place! Good moms can also be women who have the vigour of the Energizer Bunny and the qualities of the ubiquitous Proverbs 31 woman as laid out in the Bible (she is hard to live up to, but a great example to us all!). Good mothering does not follow a definition: it follows the heart.
And those kinds of mothers who follow their hearts, as well as their convictions, are found on both the websites that challenge traditional views as well as those that do not. I believe this because I believe good moms show up and when they do, they make important personal choices about what it means to be a mother. The fact that women can thoughtfully reflect on their own ideas of motherhood says a lot about who you are as a mother and what you value and hold dear to your heart.
Badinter herself said it best, really. “Whoever we are, we want to do our best.“ I couldn’t agree more. Mothers are not as different as we often think we are. At the end of the day, there are more things that unite us than those which might divide us.