‘Good mom’ redefined

What is the definition of a good mom anyway? There are as many answers as there are mothers, and those answers are formed by the mothers who raised us, where we grew up, where we currently live, the amount and type of media we let into our lives, and even how we’ve been educated. All these influences combine until each of us has our own somewhat self-imposed idea of what constitutes a good mom. And for some of us, we can never measure up.

If you are one of those who feels more than a little discouraged by the ways you seemingly fall short, I’d like to invite you to spend a few minutes 1) challenging your preconceived notions, 2) casting off unrealistic ideals, and 3) redefining what it means to be a good mom based on your own personal strengths and circumstances.

Why is this even important? Because a mother who feels like she is failing based on unchallenged stereotypes isn’t nearly as confident, content, and successful as a mother who recognizes and works with both her unique strengths as well as her personal challenges.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of how this little mental switch worked for me.

My default definition of a good mother basically boiled down to a domestic goddess. Someone who could cook, clean, sew, craft, and garden like Martha. I’m pretty sure this came from my own experiences growing up. I have memories of my mother canning her own garden fresh produce, sewing Barbie clothes, and making homemade bread. I can remember her mother — my grandmother — cooking three hot meals a day, tending a large flower and vegetable garden, and making gorgeous dolls from old bleach bottles to give as gifts or sell at the church bazaar.

Rather unintentionally, this definition grew over the years as I approached my own journey into motherhood. It didn’t just evolve based on my own generation’s special flavor, it ballooned into an impossibly broad definition that included both the domestic goddess as well as the fitness guru, fashionista, home based businesswoman and unstoppable soccer mom. My definition of what it meant to be a good mom was now spanning two or three generations of Supermoms.

Essentially, I had created a monster — an amalgam of Martha Stewart, Kelly Rippa, June Cleaver, and “Ma” from “Little House on the Prairie” — and it wasn’t pretty. What I failed to consider was that Martha had only one child to my four, Kelly had a personal trainer and chef, June didn’t drive her kids to 27 activities every week, and Ma most definitely didn’t do yoga each morning before gathering the eggs.

After several years of unsuccessfully trying to do it all (crashing and burning more than once), I started to recognize that I needed to drastically change my definition of a good mom if I wanted to live with myself, and I needed to begin by throwing out the things I didn’t even like to do such as sewing and crafting, frequent shopping for clothing and home decor, and yoga. (Despise them all.)

I also started asking myself tough questions like, “Does it really matter if my home is spotless every day?” “Is making 32 hand frosted cupcakes really the best use of my limited time and energy on my child’s birthday?” and “How do I want my kids to remember me? Trim and toned, or soft and accessible?” (Of course, for those who can do it all and still be at peace with themselves, congratulations! But for most of us, something’s got to give.)

After throwing out the things I didn’t enjoy (with the exception of those things that can never be completely obliterated, like diapers and dishes), and weeding out others that felt irrelevant to what I really wanted to accomplish as I mother, I realized there were now some serious holes in my definition. I needed something to go on. Where could I look for help in creating a new and improved definition that would work for me? Personal history? Popular culture? Pinterest?

The answer was clear. I needed to look within myself.

Come back next Friday for Part 2 of “Good mom” redefined


  1. Jacque

    A good friend of mine once told me about her mother-in-law dropping in unexpectedly. She and her children had paper and finger paints spread out all over the place, and she was very embarrassed because of her untidy home. Her mother-in-law sized up the situation, and with some thoughtful insight said, “This is just cute clutter”. Leave the pressure of perfection behind and spend some time creating “cute clutter” with your children. Loved this blog. We are all much to judgemental of ourselves.

  2. M

    It’s too bad that the high school curse of wanting to fit in reaches into Motherhood. I think we put in our minds the ideal mother as “popular” ones who run in our same circles. The ones who always have the clean house, can eat whatever they want and not gain an ounce, and look put together.
    I think it boils down to self esteem. In my 12 years of Motherhood I’ve seen how I’ve changed and become who I really want to be (some days) and it’s only just begun!

  3. Malta

    The article was good. The photograph included was a total visual contradiction to what was written. Images are a powerful tool to communicate–too bad this one just reinforced that you need matching pristine white shirts, a beautiful gourmet kitchen, only two children, perfectly baked cookies, and a smiling dad around to be a good mom.

    • Emily Eyring

      @Malta, thank you for your comment. The photograph was meant to be a light-hearted illustration of what people think a perfect family looks like. We agree that this is not at all the portrait of a real-life “good mom.” This stereotypical image was meant to stand in contrast to Allyson’s description. Thank you for pointing out how this could have been misunderstood, though.

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