I had the opportunity to talk about this article on KSL’s Studio 5 a few weeks ago. You can watch the video clip here.
What’s the definition of a good mom anyway? There are as many answers as there are mothers, and they evolve from our experiences with the mothers who raised us, the places we grew up, the places we currently live, how much media we let into our lives, and even how we’ve been educated. All these influences combine to create very unique and somewhat self-imposed ideas of what it means to be a “Good Mom.” And for some of us, we can never match up.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of my own experience:
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 experience 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 now spanned two or three generations of Supermoms.
Essentially, I created a monster — an amalgam of Martha Stewart, Kelly Ripa, June Cleaver, and Ma from Little House on the Prairie — and it wasn’t pretty. I failed to consider 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 per week, and no one expected Ma to 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, but I wasn’t quite sure where to look for help. Personal history? Popular culture? Pinterest? Little by little I worked things out for myself, and if you are one of those moms who feels more than a little discouraged by all the ways you seemingly fall short, I’d like to suggest five ways to create your own tailor made definition of what it means to be a “Good Mom.”
1. Start where you. Maybe you didn’t grow up with a great role model for a mother. Maybe you’re a single mom without a lot of support. Maybe you’ve got everything you could have ever hoped for but are nonetheless struggling with postpartum depression. The myriad of personal challenges and life situations that influence our ability to measure up to our ideas of what a good mom is can’t be addressed here, but we can all take an honest look at our lives and promise to simply start where we are. A mother of five young boys is going to do things completely different than a mother of one teenage girl, and the same goes for a mom with significant health concerns versus a mom who has all the health and energy in the world. When we take into consideration the unique challenges each of us face in our mothering journey, we are much more likely to create a realistic and achievable definition of a good mom.
2. Get rid of outdated, unrealistic, and irrelevant expectations. Ask yourself some 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?” If you have a bunch of things on your to-do list that aren’t bringing you the peace and fulfillment you’ve been looking for as a mother, then check them off for good.
3. Look inward, not outward. It’s very tough in this world of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and mommy blogs not to look to social media for “ideas and inspiration.” But more often than not, mothers come away from these sources feeling overwhelmed and a little less enthusiastic about their own lives. Getting caught in what I like to call The Compare Snare is something that can be easily avoided by turning off your computer or smart phone and tuning into your own life. You may be surprised by how much easier it is to feel good about your own definition of a “good mom” when you aren’t so focused on someone else’s.
4. Do what you love to do. Can’t cook but love to paint? Do artwork with your children over mugs of Progresso soup. (No one will die of malnutrition.) Terrible at decorating but great at organizing? Your kids will be much more grateful to find their shoes every morning than to have designer pillows on the sofa. Horrible at organizing but full of patience and good humor? Fantastic! (Really, what’s more important?) Remember that being a “good mom” is ultimately about the relationship you develop with your children and the important life skills you pass on to them. You can do that best by simply doing the things you love to do.
5. Own your choices. When your mom asks why you aren’t making her traditional homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, tell her that doesn’t work for your family. When your friend asks why you stopped going to yoga five mornings a week with her, tell her that doesn’t work for your family. And when your neighbor keeps pressuring you to join the PTA and help her out with the next big fundraiser, just tell her emphatically (you guessed it!) that doesn’t work for your family. Resist the pressure to feel like you have to do and be what all the other moms in your little subculture are doing if it doesn’t fit your new definition. Be yourself! Do what feels right to you and make no apologies.
QUESTION: What’s your personal definition of a good mom? What’s getting in your way?
CHALLENGE: Take a few minutes to sit down and define on paper what it means to be the best mom you can be.