Be Your Child’s Best Mother
By Kendra Atkins-Boyce, Portland, Oregon
Imagine for a moment your vision of the ideal mother. Picture what she looks like, how she feeds her children, what she does for work, and what she does for play. Now picture yourself. Do you fit your own idea of the ideal mother or do you fall short?
If you are like me, you may constantly fail to fulfill your own idea of the ideal mother. I don’t always look breezy and relaxed. My hair stays in a ponytail or messy bun. I don’t always love the lilting sound of my daughter’s voice or her non-stop chatter. I don’t really like to play make-believe games that turn my daughter into a dictator in a world only she understands.
I can’t seem to hold onto the elusive mother-woman balance that I crave, though I can sometimes touch it for a moment or two. I’m often tired and sometimes cranky. I don’t always have a clean kitchen. The carpet is sometimes covered with dog hair. I have many more unfinished projects than projects that I have finished.
I’m not exactly sure where my idea of the ideal mother originated. Perhaps she is a combination of observations of other mothers, childhood experiences, and the images and ideas found in the media. Wherever she comes from, the ideal mother can be negative. The idea that we should always strive to achieve an unrealistic ideal is damaging and untrue.
The fact is, no matter what we do, someone will judge our choices as bad ones. Our children will sometimes talk back, cry, and refuse to eat broccoli. We will have moments of despair and despondence. We will have moments when we question whether someone else could better mother our children. But still, we are the ones who have to make the tough choices and we are the ones who have to deal with the consequences.
Being a mother is joyful and beautiful, but it is also physically and emotionally draining. It is filled with questions over whether we are doing the right thing. Even if you are an expert in other areas of your life, motherhood can make you feel like a novice.
I think all mothers have a carefully guarded secret—we may feel afraid we aren’t good mothers and if our secret gets out, someone will accuse us of being a bad mother, confirming our worst fears.
I propose we adopt a new paradigm: the best mother. You are your child’s best mother. You are doing the best you can with the resources you have. If you need to change something about the way you mother, trust yourself to make that choice. If you have a bad moment, remember that you are human and can try to do better in the next moment. If you need help, ask for it, and find people who will listen without judgment when you talk about the parts of motherhood you do not like. It is okay not to like the minutiae of motherhood as long as you do what has to be done.
Whatever you do, stop trying to be the ideal mother, because she is just a mirage. Going forward, I am going to forget about the ideal mother image and focus on being my daughter’s “Best Mother.” I hope you’ll join me.