Good Mother


I really hate the term “good mother”.


It gets thrown around, casually.  It gets used by people with children, people without children, people with no interest in children. 


It bothers me, because it implies that there is a set of known standards for the job.


There aren’t.


I wish like hell there were.  If you fulfill requirements A, B, and C, you will get result X, and will thereby be considered a Good Mother.  A success.


Instead, we get to guess.  And second guess.  And guess 200 times over, into the wee hours of the morning.


You can’t even, really, base it on results.  If a kid turns out to be a productive member of society, or if he’s a drug-dealing piece of crap, it may have jack shit to do with his mother.  Could be he was a bit of a dud, right out of the gate.  Inherently flawed.  Or not.


Who gets to decide if you’re a good mother? 


The mother is usually too hard on herself.  Or too easy.  Other parents bring their own biases to the table.  Strangers don’t have all the information.  And kids haven’t been around long enough, they lack perspective.


Are good intentions enough?  How about trying to find a balance?  For a lot of people, the terms “good mother” and “martyr” are interchangeable.  (I disagree with that one.  Vehemently.  Teaching my son to expect servitude from any woman makes me ill.  Teaching my daughter to sublimate her own wishes, needs, desires makes me equally nauseous.)


I really hate the term.  People are using it to praise, and using it to pass judgement.


The problem?


I can’t come up with a better term.

11 responses to “Good Mother

  1. I agree,being a mom is not only one of the most difficult jobs in the world, particularly with the world trends in working hours and the expectation of society that you should be able to do it all( Im admittedly a bit of a perfectionist, a blessing and a curse as a mom) just remember that through all of that its still one of the most rewarding jobs around, if you make the time for it.

    What about Supportive mother? Support,guidance and love at the end of the day is all there is to truly give a child the best start in life! I think its just about creating a balance between these…its really how you look at it and the kind of love, support and guidance you offer that makes you a “good” mom or not at the end of the day!

  2. Man you are so right about this. Recent research has discovered that kids come out of the gate with a ton more personality traits inherent than we ever thought possible before. What they are finding is that parents have a lot less influence on the outcome of the child’s personality than they ever imagined possible.

    Not that one shouldn’t keep trying to instill their own values in their kids, just that it might not be possible to any great degree.

    As for the parenting making the child… well I always think about the fact that Jeffery Dahmer has a brother who is married and has a couple of kids and is just leading a normal productive life. Quite the difference even though they had the same parents.

  3. Ya got me. All I know is I tried my best. Sometimes I did okay, sometimes I didn’t. I can sleep at night though, because the last thing my children say as they walk out of the house or hang up the phone is “I love you” and I know they mean it.

    I think I got at least that right.

  4. Derfina nailed it. Reminds me of a book I saw once . . .

    “Ten Things Your Children Will Thank You For . . . Someday”

    How about Inspiration. Ya know, the whole Wind Beneath My Wings thing? Moms are the undercurrent for many a high-flying vessel . . .

    Or you can get your kids the My Mom Rocks shirt. My boys sport them regularly . . .

    Be you, my friend. And tell those who judge you to f**k off . . . out of earshot of the kids, of course


  5. How about conscious parent. thoughtful parent. I make mistakes all the time, but I’m conscious of my own junk I bring to the table and try to be conscious of how it might affect my kids and conscious of trying to do better when I know something I’ve done isn’t the best thing for them. I think about how I raise my kids, I contemplate what they are going to need for the future that I can instill in them now.

    I’m also conscious that someday I might be bankrolling some therapy.

    Ps. Wondering if you’re a ‘good mom’ is probably part of what makes you a good mom.

  6. The word ‘good’ just doesn’t cut it – to me the only criteria is being a loving mother. Once you have that – everything else falls into place.

  7. I dislike the phrase, too. It’s so subjective — good and bad. So tip-of-the-iceberg. So heavy with baggage and implications.

    I like ‘loving’ better. If you come up with something you like, let us know?

  8. How about compassionate, loving person instead? You’re more than a mother, even to your children. You’re their person, in the deepest sense of the word, warts and all.

  9. I always use it as a consolation term as a friend spins her tales of woe of raising children. So I say, “You’re a good mother; it’ll work out.”

  10. I think just the term “mom” is good enough to imply all the struggle, effort, heart-pouring and good intentions, the late night school projects due the next morning and the accidental bag of orange peels and coffee grinds meant for the compost instead of the lunch box (or was that just me?)

    As long as one doesn’t use the term ‘bad mother’ (which is far less varied in its definitions and not as casually thrown around, one would hope), then I say let the precise definition of ‘good’ stay well up in the air where it ought to be.

  11. care4children: “Supportive” is good. Kind of works better with older kids. Most of the “supporting” I do right now is of the “making sure the kids don’t fall over” physical support…

    Hedon: I went to sleep for the next 2 nights thinking about Jeffrey Dahmer’s brother. Weird. And good.

    derfina: Probably 🙂

    tysdaddy: Because you can’t argue with a t-shirt.

    formerlyfun: I think “thoughtful” is probably my favorite. It sounds kind of wussy, not very substantial. But it is at the heart of every good act I can perform for them, every lesson I can teach them.

    wendz: Welcome back! And it certainly does all start at “loving”.

    Saturn: Welcome! And I will.

    Rhubarb: Welcome to you too. And as to your comment, oooooh, I like that….

    faemom: As a consolation term, it is infinitely more bearable.

    Em: My son uses “bad mother” all the time. Ironically, that lets me know I’m probably being a “good” mother. He’s 5. Our opinions differ wildly.

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