Last weekend, I was chatting away with two mothers about our when our children misbehave. I declared my son demands proof of my backbone at the most inopportune times. Like when my pregnancy hormones give me maximum wobbly levels or my self doubts have my self-esteem hovering at my ankles.
He senses my humanity, feels insecure, and immediately demands the parental goods be delivered. He needs my smack down to be inevitable. He needs me to be stern, unwavering, and in charge so he doesn’t have to be. One woman turned to the other and said, “She’s such a good Mom”. I wasn’t as flattered as I was flummoxed.
In North America, we are overachieving hovering neurotic parents overwhelmed by our own unrealistic expectations. We’re convinced we must raise children who will be better, perfect, scholastically superior, and unique individuals at the same time we make sure to fit them in. And the overload of our expectations has created a weird popularity to bad mothering.
By defining ourselves as “bad” underachieving mothers, we then get to excuse all the choices we know we ‘should’ make to be stronger “better” parents. We knowingly chuckle as we admit how it’s easier not to discipline then deal with the hassle. And then, as Little Johnny is doing something dreadful, we say “I don’t know how got that way”.
I feel the best we can do is a little better. I’m all for cutting myself slack where I can but not at the cost of his self-worth. If I rise to what I don’t feel like doing but know needs doing, I prioritize my child and myself. Because when I say “No”, I also model self-respect. Children know when what they’re doing is wrong. They test us to make sure we love them enough to say no. Do them a favor, pass the test, and prove to them they are loved and their behavior is unacceptable. And that you’re in charge and they’re not.
Smart mothering starts with your absolute certainty that you are in charge. And know you are allowed to make bad choices and mistakes and you are still the one making those choices. Children have none and they’re better off. As long as we strive to learn and become better moms and better people for them, them we are always the best Moms we can be.
Good and bad are ridiculous labels when these choices define the self-esteem of both mother and child. The break that we Mothers need to cut ourselves is the respect to take care of our needs. In taking care of these, we are then energized for their time and energy sucking needs. We model self-respect and personal care when we go get a manicure or some quiet time at the library. And we come back with the knowledge that we can be strong for both them and ourselves.
PS. All this can be applied to ourselves as well. The “Did It Anyway” post I wrote went there I believe.