“Don’t tell me what to do. You can’t even keep the dishes up.” His words pierced me to the core — honestly, because it was the truth. “He’s right,” I thought to myself, “I am a complete failure.” I had always known it, my husband had just confirmed my deepest fears. I was floundering in the very role that I wanted most in life: to be a good stay-at-home mom to my four children under the age of nine.
He deeply regrets saying that now. Those words hurt because I didn’t want to raise my children the way I was raised. Another label that you could switch out for many of us baby boomers is latchkey kids. What I didn’t realize until many years later is that I was ill-equipped for the job of motherhood.
Apparently, not much has changed, according to my colleague Susan L.M. Goldberg:
“There are no “good moms” because our culture doesn’t educate women to get married, let alone raise a family. Approach an 18-year-old woman 150 years ago and give her the responsibility of running an office, saving someone’s life, or being secretary of state and she’d be just as fearful as today’s women are when it comes to getting married, getting pregnant, and raising a baby.”
She’s right. But just like I did, she’s missed the most important aspect of being a “good mom.”
Most of us are amazed when we discover how inept we are when it comes to juggling dinner and laundry with a baby on our hip. Kids and laundry piles grow at a mind-boggling rate. I was brought up to believe that only uneducated woman without the skills to do anything else would submit themselves to such mind-numbing, menial tasks as caring for a home. Any idiot can do that, right? So what else are you going to do?
Creating an environment in which children can flourish is important. Our home is the environment where we nurture maturing brains, bodies with eternal souls, and create emotional stability. And yet, this culture spends more time undermining the role of mothers than equipping them. Probably because it can’t institutionalize motherhood.
With that said, let me say this: There is such a thing as a good mother. But she is not defined by her housekeeping skills, her ability to win gold medals, or her skills at throwing themed birthday parties.
The term can be defined by the relationship she creates with her child. No, I am not talking about being her child’s BFF. I’m talking about the intimate give and take of leading and nurturing. Teaching, guiding, pushing forward, and pulling back. All are part of a dance of a lifetime that no one can dictate or write instructions for.
Good moms don’t always have good housekeeping or organizational skills. They don’t come in with breastmilk. These skills are important, but there’s time to learn them. But never allow the daily home-keeping tasks to taint the badge of a good mom — because your kids won’t.