When I found out I was carrying my daughter, I went to the bookstore.
I loaded myself up. Books on the philosophy of parenthood, books on childhood development, and books on enlightened childbirth. I was going to be a Good Mother.
You know the one. That mythological being who swans about with her baby adoringly gazing up at her from an organic cotton sling. She spends minutes in the kitchen preparing her own homemade baby food from organic produce. Her husband changes diapers and plays with the baby so that she has time to relax and nourish herself. It’s clear from her glowing skin and beatific smile that she was made for motherhood.
Don’t you hate her?
But it’s so hard not to compare yourself against her.
If only I were a Good Mother, I’d _________.
I’d sign us up for baby sign language.
I wouldn’t be so tired all the time.
I’d make my own homemade Play-Doh.
I wouldn’t bribe my child with candy.
Being a Good Mother is ALL that matters.
No one cares whether you raise prize-winning turnips, make a mean chicken pasta, or run an entire office. They just look at your children. From your kids, they infer everything.
“She’s a nice woman, but just look at how her kids turned out! Guess we never really know what’s going on behind closed doors.”
The problem with trying to be a Good Mother is that the goalposts keep getting set back.
In my grandmother’s day, it was an accomplishment just to keep the children alive to adulthood. “Little Billy made it to 18. Whew! Give me a cold cloth for my head and something strong to drink.”
But these days we’re not just responsible for our children while they’re under our roof. We’re responsible for them for the rest of their mortal lives.
“Did you hear Betty’s daughter got divorced? I just knew something like that would happen. Betty let her run wild when she was a girl. Comes from playing with all those boys.”
So here’s a solution.
It sounds kind of crazy, but I think it could revolutionize Motherhood as we know it.
Focus 49.9% of your energy on sorting out your own stuff.
That’s it. The kids can have the other 50.1%, but that’s all they’re getting.
With the rest of your time, you’re going to:
Read a few self-help books. Take a fitness class. Get into meditation or yoga or some other New Age woo-woo.
Get a therapist. Get a nutritionist. Get a financial planner.
Make sense of your childhood. Find peace in the present moment. Track down where your happiness went and bring it back home.
Be the best human being you can possibly be in this lifetime.
And let your children see it all.
Let them watch you trying hard to be a better person.
Let them watch you make mistakes, apologize, and try again.
Let them see you take time to center and ground yourself in the midst of chaos.
Let them see you take a few deep breaths and close your eyes.
Let them know that Mom is a person, too, and all people need some time and space to themselves.
Let them know that this is life.
Life isn’t all organic fruit handed to you on a platter.
Life isn’t having Supermom at your beck and call.
Life is appreciating we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, even if we have no clue what we’re doing or whether it will work.
And here’s the crazy thing:
Your children will benefit more from the 49.9% of your energy you spend on yourself than they will from the 50.1% of your energy spent on them.
Kids pick up things from the strangest places. They plug up their ears to your lectures, but they watch your behavior like hawks.
They mimic behaviors you didn’t even know you had. Those exasperated sounds you make, that funny look you wear when someone’s saying something you don’t agree with, the words you use when you’re really mad.
They become like you. Not the you you’re proud of, but the you who swears in unguarded moments and makes self-deprecating comments about her thighs in a bathing suit.
So it makes sense that the very best way to be a Good Mother is to be the Best You.
If you’re not good with money, learn how to be good with money. If you’ve got some issues with your family, work them out or go to therapy. If you don’t deal well with stress, then learn how.
Living for your kids is a noble aspiration, but living life for yourself will teach them more than you could ever know.