What do you believe makes a good mom?
We need to start exploring our beliefs around what it means to be a good mom. What meanings have we consciously or unconsciously assigned to this role in particular?
It’s such a complicated one, because most of us strive to NOT be like our own mothers! We say things like, “All I know is that my kids will have it better than I did.”
“When I grow up, I’m going to be such a better mom than she was to me.”
“I will have a better relationship with my kids. They will be able to tell me anything.”
Notice that second thought in particular: “When I grow up, I’m going to be such a better mom than she was to me.”
Many of us have been designing our utopia version of motherhood in our minds since we were children ourselves!
Now consider how long those beliefs have been rooted in your brain. Probably for a good chunk of your life.
That’s why it’s crucial to start here. Really explore these thoughts about the ultimate mom that you have designed in your mind. Write them down. Be brutally honest and don’t hold back.
What does she look like?
How does she behave?
How does she show up for her children?
Is she always patient and kind?
Is she a friend and confidante?
Does she serve her children at all times, preparing all of the meals, performing all of the household chores?
Is her house always clean and orderly?
Is she highly organized, having no problems multitasking and shuttling kids to extracurricular activities?
What are all of the things that make her the best mom ever?
What does it mean to you to be the mom who is close to perfect as humanly possible?
Now I want you sit with these questions and your answers to these questions for a bit. Sit with them and really reflect before you ask the next question.
What do you make it mean about you?
I want you to look at the list you’ve made about your ideal mother…the version you expected yourself to be.
Is this aspect of your life, this role in particular, the be all and end all of who you are as a person?
Now I want you to consider your current reality and make another list of all of the ways that you show up in your mom role.
Do you feel exhausted trying to keep up with everything in the household while balancing work, your own social life, and other activities?
Do you find yourself consistently putting your child’s needs above your own?
Are you stressed out, overwhelmed, and frustrated?
Do you sometimes yell?
Do you question your parenting skills and wonder if you’re doing it right?
Are you worried that you’re teaching your children to be lazy or disrespectful?
Do you think they express enough appreciation for all that you do and all that you are?
Both of these lists are going to be hard to look at because they will end up being a contrast of idealistic and realistic.
I encourage you to ask yourself often, “What am I making this mean about me?” That’s where we really get to the heart of our people-pleasing and perfectionist behaviors that are embedded in our subconscious.
Because if we can just get our kids to love and appreciate us in a big way, that means we are worthy. We have done a good job. We have achieved this part of our dreams.
Anything short of that is failure.
That’s what most of us have been making it mean about ourselves. What we have been making our ideal version of motherhood mean.
Anything short of that is failure.
Oh yes. I need you to sit with that realization too for a bit. Because it’s about to get real up in here.
Get brutally honest.
Really seeing the truth for what it is may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary.
The truth is often that you are trying to control the outcome.
You want to ensure your children have better thoughts about you than you did of your own mother.
You want them to have nothing but pleasant childhood memories.
You want them to speak of you with adoration long after you have left this world.
You want to leave a perfect legacy.
You want to manipulate their thoughts!
Here is where you’re going to want to push back and protest. “That’s not all what I’m trying to do!”
“Manipulation is terrible, and I would never do that to anyone, let alone my kids!”
Ah, but the truth is that you do.
Because if you think that you can mold their thoughts about you through your own actions, you are attempting to manipulate them.
It’s not something we even consider. We go through life doing this within all of our relationships, really. We think that if we look and act a certain way around others (and we adjust based on the person) that we can earn their love and respect.
We think this will come automatically as a result of our efforts.
That’s not how it works, though. The love and respect that others, including your children, feel for you comes from their own thoughts. You cannot form their thoughts for them, so why are you trying so hard to do just that?
My friend, you are people-pleasing your children. Stop it. It’s not going to get you the results you are seeking.
The truth is that motherhood is messy and very complex. We’re all just doing the best we can within any aspect of our lives. Sometimes it’s glorious and other times it’s heartbreak. That’s life. Half amazing, half terrible.
Your job is to embrace it all.
Your job as a mother is to show the tiny humans that you are raising how to do the same.
The best thing that you can do is to…
Find your balance.
Here’s how you go about it.
I want you to revisit your lists again. Yes, again. We’re on an exploration here.
For all of the characteristics you’ve listed for Super Mom, I want you to identify the ones that you’re willing to let go of. Acknowledge the impossibility of it all. That’s not who you are.
For all of the messy reality version of the mom that you have become, I want you to develop a strategy to change the things that you want to change.
Let’s say your kids are a little bit older. They’re not toddlers anymore. They aren’t super dependent on you, yet you’re still behaving as if they are. Because you want to ensure that they develop positive thoughts and memories of you. So you’re trying to be Super Mom and keep up with everything in the household. Probably in addition to working full time, by the way.
So we’re here with the impossible version of Super Mom and I’ve just asked you to revisit your list and your thoughts with the intent of identifying what you might be willing to let go of.
For example, perhaps you wrote something like, “I want the kids to do more chores around the house, but they don’t do it right and it just ends up being more work for me to stay on them about doing it. Most of the time, I end up yelling at them, so it’s easier to do it myself.”
Break that very long stream of thought represented here and identify the obstacles, then develop strategies to address each one. Sometimes your strategies will simply be new thoughts to think.
For example, I would take the obstacle thought, “I end up yelling at them,” and identify a strategy as a new thought such as, “Sometimes moms yell. If I lose my cool, I’m not going to beat myself or make it mean that I’m not a good mom.”
You come up with your own list and develop strategies that will work for you and your family. The main thing is that you don’t waiver. If you continue to be inconsistent with your expectations, your kids will continue to be inconsistent with their performance.
Model the way and they will eventually fall in line. And if they don’t, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mother or unworthy of their love and respect. It simply means there is more work to be done, and it may be work on yourself.
Explore your version of the role of mom.
Really take a step back from all of your unrealistic expectations of yourself and your dream version of perfection.
Of course, the answer to How To Be A Good Mom is ultimately what you define it to be. The best advice I can provide is this. I’m going to give you four suggestions that have worked for me and I highly recommend them.
- Let go of competing with your mother. Or any other mom, for that matter! Motherhood is not a competition. It is complex as I’ve stated several times now. It is complex, messy, ever changing, and different for all of us. No one is doing it “better” than another and none of us are doing it “wrong.” We’re all just doing the best we can with what we know.
- Stop manipulating your children. You cannot control their thoughts. Accept that there will be moments when they hate you, whether or not you feel deserving of any negative emotion. Embrace it as part of the half terrible moments of life. Their thoughts are their choice.
- Extend compassion to yourself. You create your own experience of this life with your thoughts. Notice how you think of yourself and get to work on changing any negative self-talk on replay. Your brain will often send you invitations to a downer party. That’s what our brains do. That’s how we have programmed them to work. You don’t have to RSVP to that party. You always have a choice to decline your negative thoughts and the energy that comes along with it. Remember to extend compassion to yourself. Recognize that you are also still learning.
- Become the guide. Your children will have many friends in life but their relationship with their mother is much deeper. When you show up as the loving guide, put here to show them how to become wonderful, responsible humans, shining their own light and embracing the bad parts of life as well as the good, your relationship will most likely strengthen. You were not put here to serve them as in doing everything for them. You were put here to teach them how to navigate this world. And you’ll be amazing at doing this because you’ve learned how to do it yourself.
We mothers have to learn how to untangle all of the messaging from our own upbringing and society as a whole in order to get to the truth. We have to uncover the beliefs that have been created over our lifetime and make choices to adjust in order have a greater experience of being human.
The best thing we can do for our children is to clear up our own minds, demonstrate the power of doing so, and teach our children how to do the same. So much emotional suffering can be eliminated through this lifelong practice.
Be willing to play the long time, learning and growing right alongside them.
“When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” – Rumi
So you know how to be a good mom? You look in the freaking mirror and you say it to person looking back at you.
Even when you make mistakes.
Even when you have bad days.
Even when you lose your shit.
You ARE a good mom.
One that is perfectly imperfect, acknowledging that you’re willing to grow and learn and change too.
This post is a partial transcript from my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 22. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Spotify or Apple!