What Makes a Good Mother?
I remember being a young teenager (14-15?) And this was the question on the flip board at church in my Sunday Class one week. We, all girls age 13-15, were in our Sunday best in the “over fill” room with dividers between our class and the boys our same age next to us.
The Teacher posed this question to us and our prim proper naive little hands shot up with all kinds of wonderful answers. A good mother is kind. A good mother is patient. A good mother sings songs. A good mother makes healthy meals. A good mother is well kept… and on and on it went. I have no idea what the point of this lesson even was other than to romanticize an ideal in our minds that was supposed to make us all gush and leave the building super excited to start using our bodies for their intended purpose, childbearing.
The question of why this should be a Sunday school topic can be saved for another day. Wherever I heard it, all women have heard something similar to this every day of their lives. Either through church, media, movies, even other moms who know better but have to hide behind the image they have developed of what motherhood has to look like to the rest of the world.
But our daughters deserve to be handed something better than an ideal, and our sons need to know that “mothering” isn’t going to be graceful and easy for their partners any more than it was for us. So, for just a minute lets be honest with ourselves and others, lets say what that Sunday school teacher should have said to a class full of young girls. Lets lift the motherhood utopia cloud that every cook book, magazine and pledge commercial is trying to shove down our throats and just be real.
Motherhood is hard. There I said what we we're all thinking. Sometimes I don’t actually like my kids. Sometimes hearing my name made into 15 syllables makes me cringe and hide in the bathroom. Sometimes I don’t care if they eat healthy as long as they just eat! Sometimes I fake a migraine because I need an excuse to lay in a quiet room.
Some days what separates a good mom from a bad mom is a 20 minute freak out and hot bath. Sometimes dishes get broken. Sometimes there is no differences between a good mom and a bad mom there is just a mom who’s tired, and crabby, and has way too much crap piled on her in a 24 hour period.
No one told me in that Sunday school room so many years ago that a flip chart can’t define a good mom any more than it can an omniscient being who all life comes from. No one said that while you are picking out baby booties and onesies with funny sayings on them your kid is growing and going to turn in to a creature you don’t even recognize. No one said, “hey, when you are at your wits end and the self help books tells you to take a deep breath and count to five and then you throw that book across the room and break the blinds because whoever wrote it is likely a man with his own mommy issues… that that’s okay.” Where is the Pillsburry commercial that shows a mom crying in the corner of the kitchen because she doesn’t want to bake the damn dinner rolls?
A seasoned mom told me recently that parenting is like walking a tight rope. She is right, it is, but not like a Cirque du Soleil tight rope walker who has beautifully shaped legs and a tight butt. It is not like that at all. It is like my 65 pound pit bull with a chunky frame and missing hip socket trying to walk a tight rope with four paws. It’s comical and wrong and all kinds of unflattering and awkward. That is what parenting is like. You won’t see that in your Sunday school room or on the Focus on the Family section of the news. So there it is. I’m telling all those new, or yet to be, moms out there that there is nothing “well kept” about motherhood. If you really want to know what it’s like picture an uncoordinated, slobbery dog trying to walk a tight rope and falling over and over again but still getting up each time and putting her toes on the rope. Bring that image to the table and then we’ll have a place to start from, because in the real world what makes a good mother is someone who has no idea what she is doing but still loves her children enough to keep slipping and fumbling with the stupid rope.