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 kids were growing up, she always had felt she was a bad mother. She had a 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.
Something I have noticed as I search the Internet for blogs written by other women is the dichotomy of perspective that presently exists between mothers who write on-line. There appears to be two main camps out there right now that hold to two different philosophies of mothering. I am being very general in describing the following perspectives, and keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rules.
In the first camp are mothers who are looking for something different, more attainable when it comes to the way they mother and raise their children. These moms are tired of the traditional mindset that moms are saints set here on earth with the sole purpose of design being to wipe dishes and tears as easily as they wipe dirty bottoms. I first heard about the Momastery blog back in January when Glennon Melton’s “Don’t Carpe Diem” essay went viral. Mothers everywhere went crazy over her message that we don’t need to be enjoying every minute of every day…if we can get in about fifteen minutes of Kairos moments each day, we are doing well. I read more of her writing in the days and months that followed and I could soon see that Melton was different, and out of the box, in her approach to parenting. Her main message is to not take yourself so seriously and to not set the bar so high that your goals are unattainable. Melton has other beliefs and truths she holds to, but the one I am focused on in this essay and that I find most interesting is this: she believes that being a mother is just part of a woman’s person. Mothers need not check their personality, goals, dreams and aspirations at the hospital door when they go to deliver. And for one to suggest that you might have days where you’d rather not be around your children, and actually admit so out loud, is okay. It’s actually smiled upon. Most importantly, moms don’t always have to like the job of being a mother.
Perfect mothers need not ascribe to this philosophy of mothering.
Another camp of perspective that seems to exist is one that holds to the more traditional view of what a mother should be in the home. Although many of these mothers work both inside the home as well as out in the workforce, what seems to be the point of separation from the first camp is that these mothers have a more cautious mindset, as well as differing beliefs about priorities, goals, focus and time-management. There is also an unwavering belief in this camp that to negatively challenge a mother’s level of enjoyment and desire for being a mommy is almost like a sacrilege. Or to irreverently suggest that you might not love being a mother most of the time is to not appreciate the role God has blessed you with. Furthermore, there is a view in this camp that to confront age-old beliefs about what it really means to be a mother, and thus shake things up, is risky and unwise.
I realize that there are moms that fall in between both camps. Moms are hard to pin down. However, I know that if you are looking for literature to support either of these two philosophies of mothering, you can find them out there in the blogosphere.
Interestingly, moms from both camps that I have defined hold to some traditional and even biblical views of mothering in the way that they both understand their responsibility to parent their children. How they go about that parenting is different, but the commitment behind the motives remains the same. Of course there are certainly differing convictions and standards set for what is right and wrong between the two camps, but as it pertains to mothering, women in both camps are still striving to be good mothers and raise great kids.
Great moms show up in 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 they also show up for discussion and reflection on their identity as a mom. And they do so as well on all these websites that I have observed, whether they hold to beliefs and views from the first or the second camp of thought as previously mentioned.
Good moms can be burned-out moms. Good moms can be at their wits end. Good moms can suffer depression. Good moms can feel isolated, alone and scared. Good moms can also be women who have the vigour of the Energizer Bunny and the qualities of the 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 don’t. I believe this because I believe that good moms show up. That alone says a lot about who you are as a mother. May we never forget that there are more things that unite us than those which divide us.