Toughest question ever
A close friend once asked me if I think I am a good mom and I wasn’t able to give her an answer.
“Why is it so hard for me to answer the question?” I thought.
After all, it is a simple question with a straightforward answer of yes or no right? I could not answer with a confident ‘Yes’ as I do not think that I am a perfect mom who has everything together or a mom who is free of guilt from what she has not done for the child. Neither am I a mom who is confident of my choices in my parenting journey.
Yet I am also unable to answer the question with an absolute ‘No’ as I am aware of the good things and also the efforts that I have given to Samuel to ensure that he is raised in the best manner I can provide. My friend and I ended that conversation with that question for me to chew on and that was about two weeks ago. To date, I am still gnawing at the question and wondering if I can ever answer that question with an absolute yes.
I can have the most wonderful experience with a group of mothers over an afternoon playgroup session, but a snide remark about my parenting will cause me to waver in my confidence and bother me for the rest of the day, or even weeks. A simple remark such as what you feed your child, whether you sleep-train your child or do schedule feeding, whether you breastfeed your child, how you handle a public tantrum, or where you choose to send your child to school – can make one mother feel deeply personal and hurtful. Whether you are new to the job of mothering or not, such snide comments about your parenting can cause you to seriously self-doubt about your parenting skills.
“Do you ladies ever doubt your parenting choices?” I threw this question to a group of like-minded mothers that I’ve been with for a long while, as I always doubted my own parenting choices. “YES! ALL THE TIME!” one mother replied with much confidence and another replied, “Who doesn’t?” Self-doubting is one of the occupational hazards that comes with being a mom. So how can we know if we are really good mothers?
In a ‘She knows parenting’ article write-up¹ by Julie Weingarden Dubin who interviewed Ann Dunnewold, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box: Cut Yourself Some Slack (and Still Raise Great Kids) in the Age of Extreme Parenting, Ann shares her insight on the question. “You will have to find your own “perfectly good mother” inside of you. What are your skills and strengths? What gifts do you bring to this role? Being a perfectly good mom — not a perfect mom — means embracing your strengths. It also means seeing your child as an individual, and matching the way that child’s life is organized to fit that child’s strengths, foibles and interests.”
It is true because there just isn’t any single “right way” to parent, it is important for us as mothers to figure out what works for us and our kids and learn to trust ourselves. Tuning in to that self-confidence and owning our supermom within is the best way to answer this question – “Am I a good mom?”
Unrealistic world expectations
However, tuning in to our self-confidence within is never easy. It often comes with unrealistic expectations that are set by the media or the world. Unlike in the past when mothers are only required to work, have kids and to keep the house clean, the supermoms today are expected to do more than that.
We are expected to also breastfeed our children for as long as we can, to feed them only with organic foods, send them up to enrichment classes, and playgroups, buy the most interactive and educational toys for them, ensure that they are responsible and respectful; and still look slim, fashionable and glowing as a mother of 5 kids. These expectations are unrealistic, we know, yet we also know of many women, even myself who appear to try to meet these expectations.
Jen Singer, a mom to two preteen boys, the founder of MommaSaid.net², shares in her book “Stop Second-Guessing Yourself – The Toddler Years -“ that moms are likely doing a better job than they think and, that perhaps, we’re all taking ourselves a little too seriously.
Tuning in to our self-confidence and owning the supermoms in us
Being aware that these expectations are unrealistic is the first step to tuning in to the self-confidence and owning the supermom within you.
Our second step in tuning in to our confidence is to learn to lighten up as parents, give yourself a break. Most of the parents that I’ve met ever since I entered this journey are also often caught up with feeling guilty about the things they didn’t do or wish to do. We need to turn on the radar to source for the positives in our motherhood journey, and know that you have done your best!
Focusing on the “what we have done” list rather than the “what I should have done” or “what I should not have done” list at the end of each day will definitely help us appreciate the work and efforts we have placed into raising our children for that day. Tally up what went well that day and give yourself a pat on your back! How many hugs did you dispense? How many meals are fed and diapers are changed?
Our third step is to silence the critics around us which will cause our self-doubt to heighten. Many times when we thought we were just having a friendly conversation, but the exchange would suddenly take a different turn. A concerned grandparent may constantly nag about how we ought to have done better to raise our children and how to care for them better. An alpha mom wannabe may take all opportunities to share about the “victories” her child has made such as when he/she has started to walk or the number of words he/she can speak.
Or a lady whom you’ve met at the grocery store may judge you for not breastfeeding your child for more than three months. Try this the next time someone comes along to give a snide comment about your parenting skill: “Thanks for the input!” or “Wow that’s great!” that polite and non-engaging statement somehow would stop parenting knows-in-all in their tracks.
But it’s the internal critic in our brains that many of us need to silence more than the external. A simple innocent comment by a caring grandparent such as “Oh he looks a little thin,” would be heard as “You are starving your child.” In fact, without that little voice inside our heads creating doubts about our parenting skills and ourselves will surely make us feel that we are better mothers. We will definitely need to give ourselves a break from this little voice and lighten up! It will surely do our children and us some good too!
So relax and lighten up ladies! Let us start tuning in to our self-confidence and own the supermoms within us. Yes, I am a good mom to Samuel and so are you, to your beloved children.
¹ “Parenting Guru: Are you a perfectly good mom“, by Julie Weingarden Dubin, 7 Feb 2012.
By Yvonne Chee.
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