Guide to Being a Good Mother
Have you ever asked yourself what makes a mother, a Good Mother? I sure have.
When we think of mothers, we often think of women who are good at everything. They are good at cooking, cleaning, taking care of children and pets, organizing, entertaining, the list goes on. But here is something mothers are really bad at – asking for help and prioritizing themselves.
It’s exhausting to even think about all the tasks that stereotypically fall on mothers’ shoulders. We end up responsible for everything that has to do with the daily workings of a house and caring for kids. On top of it all, we often hold full time jobs. And then, we are somehow also required to work out, have raging libidos, have interesting hobbies and make sure we look good doing all of it. Who has the time to do and be all that? I can tell you, NO ONE!!!! There isn’t a single woman out there who has all those balls up in the air and balancing them elegantly in 5 inch stilettos. It’s a myth and a damaging one.
Think as far back as you can: what were you taught constitutes a Good Mother? Was it something along the lines that a Good Mother puts her children first, takes care of her husband’s needs, makes sure her house is clean and presentable, and enjoys every minute of it. Have you ever thought that there is a problem with this mindset? Did this mindset set you up for failure? Do you now believe that asking for help makes you a bad mother? If it has, I urge you to continue reading because I want to talk to you about how to combat these damaging messages and learn to set up healthy boundaries and expectations of yourself as a mother.
The “Good Mother” Myth
First, let’s unload the Good Mother myth. There are obviously good and bad mothers out there. But what makes a woman a good mother is far more complicated than being a martyr. In fact, being a martyr will not make you a Good Mother, it will make you a resentful, bitter, angry and clingy mother.
Whether the stereotype of a martyr mother is deeply entrenched in your psyche or not, there is no denying that there is a mental shift when a woman becomes a mother. We grow a life inside of us and that is a life changing experience. We can’t help but put so much value on this life. It’s something that used to be a part of us that now lives outside and faces all sorts of dangers. We become so invested in keeping this being alive that everything else just falls by the wayside.
And it’s simply a biological drive to ensure the survival of our species. But on top of that drive, our society has piled on expectations that essentially negate a woman as a fully functioning human being once she bears children. From the point of the first pregnancy, a woman is just viewed as a receptacle that exists to care for children. All other endeavors are not viewed as favorably. And that’s why it’s important to dismantle the Good Mother myth and create a reality that allows for many types of mothers to exist without judgement.
A Good Mother Asks for Help
Are you ready to let go of the stereotype and embrace being a mother that you want to be? I know I am. So let’s start first by learning to ask for help. Asking for help is very difficult for so many people. It may be the way we were raised (only weak people ask for help) or the way it makes us feel (I don’t like depending on anyone) that makes it hard for us to ask for help. But it’s an important skill. And it’s an even more important skill for a mother. You need to remember one simple thing: There is only One You and You can only be in One Place at a time. So if you need to get multiple things done, you need help. And you need to ask for it.
Since it’s not easy asking for help, first think of a person you are most comfortable asking. It may be a family member, your partner, your friend, your neighbor, or someone you hire. When you’ve identified this person, go and ask them for help. Maybe it’s easier for you to think that you’re delegating a task instead of asking for help. If so, do it.
Now tell them what you need help with. And don’t be wishy washy (I’m guilty of this) and give too much freedom. Because the person helping you will most likely end up confused and not do things to your liking. Establish a time frame in which you need the task completed and explain what needs to be done. Don’t be so detailed as to overwhelm your helper but detailed enough so they can do it to your specifications while still maintaining their own autonomy.
Start practicing this the moment you get pregnant. So that by the time the baby comes and you feel overwhelmed, at least you mastered the skill of asking for help. And have let go of the guilt. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to asking for help. It doesn’t mean you are weak or incapable. It just means you are human.
A Good Mother prioritizes herself
The next step in repainting your picture of a Good Mother is learning to prioritize yourself. This one is usually difficult for most of us to do. As mothers, we often feel that no one can do as good of a job as us and so we end up pushing away help and doing it all ourselves. Then, it doesn’t help if our family or friends keep reminding us that once you become a mother, you essentially sign your life away. The combination of these internal and external forces often make us put ourselves last. And what does that lead to? It leads to burn out, resentment, dissatisfaction with life. Which in turn often turns into depression, anxiety, issues with sleep, issues with libido, weight gain. And I think all mothers deserve better!
We need to remember that prioritizing ourselves is not being selfish. And even if sometimes it is being selfish, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. For those who have a male partner, ask yourself, would society demand the same level of commitment and selflessness from my partner, as it does from me? The answer to that is no, it wouldn’t. So if a male parent is not required to sacrifice his life and interests for his kids, neither should the female parent. No matter what you hear to the contrary.
So start by repeating to yourself that you are a person and your needs matter. Being a mother does not mean being consumed by motherhood. Yes, circumstances often put us on a hamster-wheel and we get consumed by the everyday. But if you don’t take care of yourself and make yourself a priority, your life will start breaking down. You may get angry and resentful and you will take it out on your kids and partner. You may be so tired that you will fall asleep behind the wheel and create a dangerous situation. So don’t put yourself last, make yourself a priority!
A Good Mother sets up boundaries
The way to make yourself a priority is setting up boundaries. You need to identify things that are musts for you. For example, daily shower, 10 minutes to workout or meditate, sleeping in once a week, 1 night or day out without the kids once a week. And then you need to work with your partner to make sure your “musts” happen. You can accomplish that by identifying times during the day and week that you need to work on your “musts” and make sure that those don’t get interrupted by anything except an emergency.
Setting up boundaries also requires being able to say “no” to things that don’t matter but may threaten your “musts”. Being able to set up boundaries will serve you in the long run and you will be able to teach this valuable skills to your children as well.
A Good Mother Follows Her Heart
This goes along with prioritizing yourself. You are a Good Mother if you choose to stay at home with your kids. You are a Good Mother if you choose to go to work everyday. And you are a Good Mother if you dedicate time to pursue a passion project or volunteer work. Whatever you choose, you are still a Good Mother.
Just because you are a mother, your life does not need to completely revolve around kids. You are absolutely allowed, nay, encouraged to spend time away from them pursuing your own passions. You are a full and complete human being and your kids needs to see that. Yes, it’s tough when your little one is hanging on your leg and crying as you are trying to leave for work. Or your older child throws a hurtful insult at you and then says you never spend time with them. None of those things need to dissuade you from having the life you want. Yes, make sure you are not completely ignoring your kids, but other than that take the time to yourself. Kids will grow and kids will leave. You don’t want to be left feeling empty with nothing going on for yourself.
You are a Good Mother
Just remember that you don’t have to be a martyr to be a Good Mother. No one will remember whether the dishes were done every day and every speck of dust was cleaned. But what will be remembered are the times you laughed together, made s’mores in your backyard, found a super fuzzy and bright colored caterpillar on your walk, listened and empathized with the problem your child had, and then made them their favorite snack.
Take care of yourself, mama! The whole family will benefit.