On Being A Good Mother

By Melodee

I sometimes hear mothers proclaim with great confidence, “I am a great mother!” This is often in tandem with a complaint about a mother-in-law’s meddling ways and criticisms, but still. There are women–mothers–who absolutely know that they are doing a fabulous job.

I am not one of them.

I worry. A lot. About whether my kids will be the ones who inhale glue or walk on railroad tracks or become fixated on pornography. I waste time wondering if my boys will grow up and marry cold-hearted women who are bossy and sarcastic and then blame me. I am terrified that my kids really won’t remember anything except the times I scream, “This is driving me crazy!”

Maybe that’s why I take so many pictures. We always look really happy. The kids seem to be having a great childhood. Yet, I have no confidence that I am a wonderful mother.

See, a wonderful mother plays Monopoly with her kids whenever they ask. She makes a hot, homemade breakfast and packs a delicious, nutritious lunch that her children eagerly eat. She doesn’t wear June Cleaver pearls, but she does have on matching clothes and a cute haircut. And make-up. She never yells and her laundry is always caught up. Oh, and she doesn’t fly into a frenzy when yet another glass bowl bites the dust right next to the baby’s feet. She needs no time to read, to think, to shop, to write, to talk with grown-ups. She is completely, slavishly devoted to her children, even the older, smelly ones.

I fret that my boys are going to freak out some day about the fact that they are adopted. I worry that they have fantasized a Perfect Mother in their heads–she probably resembles the Perfect Mother I have in my head. I torture myself with the reality that the twins cannot remember the times they slept on our floor in the middle of the night and the times we took them to playgrounds and the times they ran through the sprinkler and rolled in mud and shrieked with laughter. They’re approaching the “I’m bored, this is not fair, no one ever listens to me” stage of pre-adolescence. They can’t remember the first four years of their lives when they were the center of our universe.

Most recently, I have worried that the addition of the younger children has robbed the older children of everything–of our time, of our money, of our attention. Our middle son was born just as the twins went to kindergarten. I couldn’t be the Room Mother. I couldn’t go to their baseball games. I couldn’t practice with them to prevent baseball humiliation. I answered, “No, the baby is sleeping,” too many times to count. I shushed them constantly.

They have to share a room. They have to share their toys. They have to be nice to their little brother, even when he’s being a pain in the neck.

And then, just when things were getting manageable, we had a baby girl. Our middle son was four and a half.

I do not recommend this spacing. At all.

My wish for each of my kids is that they could be Only Children. I wish they each had their own room, their own space, their own solitude, their own private, personally attentive mother. (Or maybe that’s just what I wish I had!)

I can only be cut into so many tiny little pieces. I feel like the kids get their piece and whine, “No fair! He got a bigger piece!” I am never enough.

My hope is that what my kids lose–attention, time, money, things-–are outweighed by what they gain–companionship, lessons in getting along with people, lifelong friendships with their siblings, experience, compassion, generous spirits.

With any luck all the little pieces I hand them will fit together to form a beautiful mosaic–or at the very least an amusing hodgepodge of a childhood they can remember with fondness.

Originally posted at Actual Unretouched Photo.

9 Responses to On Being A Good Mother
  1. Carrie
    July 19, 2009 | 1:34 pm

    Oh, yeah, I don’t think those ‘perfect mothers’ really exist. 🙂 We all have good moments & bad moments, good days & bad days – the last two mornings have been HORRENDOUS for me, but the last two afternoons have been amazingly wonderful, so it’s not even day-by-day sometimes. 🙂 And don’t forget – God is the one who gives us our children, in HIS perfect timing, and He’ll provide everything we need to parent them, no matter how they’re spaced. 🙂

  2. edj
    July 19, 2009 | 5:25 pm

    I can so relate to this!

    But a happy thought. Some study has shown that kids from slightly larger families (I think 5 was optimal) end up happiest. Turns out a little benign neglect is good for their development. Hope so anyway, cuz mine are getting plenty of it. 🙂

  3. melissa
    July 20, 2009 | 8:30 am

    The only perfect thing that exists in this world is how the world was created with the many varieties of animals, plants, humans etc. Humans are far from perfect so the so called perfect mother is bogus! Don’t worry we do tend to remeber the good times and forget the bad times as much as possible 🙂

  4. Tiffany
    July 20, 2009 | 8:51 am

    I believe that the best thing we can give our children is a sibling(s) close enough in age that they have to do stuff with. They have to share a room, share toys, play together, and learn to get along.

    This is where they learn about life. That it rarely goes like you want, others can be mean, and sometimes you have to do things by yourself. Also you have to do chores and sometimes have to do things you don’t want to so you can do things that are fun.

  5. candace
    July 21, 2009 | 9:13 pm

    I am a perfect mother for my son. He is 3 years old and he really has the best of both worlds. He gets one on one time with us but also gets time at preschool away from his parents. I also think I am a good mom because I make time for myself as well. People try to make me feel bad(they fail miserably) b/c my son is 3 years old and no siblings in sight for him. My husband and I believe siblings are not a requirement to grow up stable and healthy. If fact my son is independant in his own ways, shares all toys with all children, and can take up for himself at only 3 years because we have taught him all of that. Sorry Tiffany: but dont agree with your thinking on siblings.

  6. josett
    July 23, 2009 | 7:04 pm

    Great post, I enjoyed reading it. But let me ease your fear. The “good mother” you are thinking of only exist in story books. Real mothers are what we are we go through life just hoping to get to the next without losing our minds. We give our all to our kids, because we love them at the end they know that we are people too and not super humans.

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