I've Given Up on the Term 'Good Mom'

No one is a “good mom.” I don’t even know what that phrase means. What’s the measure of a good mom? Here’s a hint: If parenting means that much to you that you’re taking the time to read this, you’re a good mom. You aren’t perfect. This isn’t English class. There is no syllabus to follow, there are no tests to take, no papers to write for the Master Teacher of Moms to use in order to evaluate your progress.

Which is probably why most women today have a really hard time with being a mom.

We’re that post-bra burning generation of women who were taught to excel at achieving in accordance with popular standards. If men could earn advanced degrees, so could we! If men could have well-paying careers, so could we! There was always a standard for us to live up to thanks to our feminist mothers. It just so happens that standard was measured in terms of traditional male roles.

Okay, so we said we could do all that, but somewhere along the way we gave up the “too” (as in, “we can do that all, too”). We gave up the chick stuff, the mom stuff, the stuff that consumed time and energy and got in the way of living up to society’s new and improved standards. Motherhood is so difficult for our generation because our foremothers, quite honestly, put it on the back burner.

Here’s a prime example. My mother’s high school home economics class could’ve just as easily been titled Wife & Mother 101. “If you want to serve a pie for dinner,” her teacher asked, “when do you need to begin preparing it?” My mom said the correct answer was to begin preparing the pie in the morning so it’d be ready to eat for dessert that night. My answer: On my lunch hour, when I pick it up from the bakery.

My home economics experience began and ended in 8th grade with one required elective that involved learning how to sew a “locker pocket” to store extra pens. The point was pretty clear: The most I’d ever need to sew would be an emergency button onto a suit in the middle of a business trip. And as far as cooking goes, the only thing I recall was our teacher measuring out the chocolate chips for us so we didn’t snack out of the bag while making cookies.

We didn’t learn meal planning, let alone life planning. That was something you talked about with your guidance counselor when you met to review college applications. Career. Career. Career. Man or woman, that was your expected life path. Which is exactly why the only women in their twenties unafraid of conquering childbirth and rearing either come from religious communities and/or lack much schooling beyond a high school diploma. It’s not an insult, it’s a fact. You don’t take on student loans to hurry up, get married and have kids.

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.

So, the next time you encounter a woman convinced she’s a bad mom, you should congratulate her for just being a mom altogether. Worrying about whether she’s good or bad isn’t a reflection on her parenting skills, it’s a sign that she recognizes what the rest of our culture has missed: That motherhood matters a whole (agonizing) lot.