What Is a Good Mother




1976,1981, 1983
I have been a mother for 35 years. My daughters are 35, 33, 29, and 26. At the moment, they consider me a good mother, who needs to fight her judgmental nature, specifically about the right balance between mothering and careers. I am reluctant to criticize Palin’s mothering, because I am not sure what good mothering means. When I had one child, I was much surer than I am now. Who decides whether you are a good mother? All of the following will demand a vote. Of course, I am not suggesting they should be allowed a vote.
  • You and your spouse
  • Your mother, grandmother, siblings, cousins, friends, or employers
  • Your babies, toddlers, preschoolers, teenagers, adult children
  • Your children’s teachers, coaches, guidance counselors
  • Your children’s psychiatrists and therapists
  • College admissions staffs
  • Your children’s lovers, partners, spouses
  • Your church, the mass media, the USA, most other mothers
What are the criteria? Please, don’t imagine I think these questions are reasonable. I just wanted to highlight the insane expectations of mothers, imposed by society and demanded of themselves. Given that none of us are divinely perfect, such crazy demands destroy our confidence and undermine our mothering.
  • Whether and how long you breastfed your children
  • How long you waited before returning to work
  • How often you screamed at your kids, how often you lowered their self-esteem, deservedly or not
  • Whether you ever spanked them
  • How many trips to the emergency room were necessary
  • How many bones they broke
  • How many times they got sick
  • How clean and orderly you kept your house
  • The nutritiousness of your meals
  • The amount of TV they watched
  • Their hours on the computer
  • How many books they read, how many you read to them
  • How many times you took them to the library
  • How many musical instruments they played
  • How many sports they excelled in
  • When they first had sex
  • How many sex partners they had, whether they got STDs
  • Whether you were rich enough to send them to good schools
  • What grades they got, what colleges they attended
  • Whether they became alcoholics, drug addicts, child abusers, criminals
  • Whether they had an abortion
  • Whether they chose public service careers
  • What candidates they supported
  • Whether they got married, became gay, had children of their own
  • What careers they pursued, how much money they made
  • How often they visit, call, email, share their lives with you?
  • Whether they accept your values and your faith
  • Whether they honor their grandparents, aunts, and uncles
  • Whether they attend family reunions
  • Whether they observe birthdays and anniversaries
  • Whether they can be relied upon during a family crisis
Can children evaluate your mothering before they become parents and realize what it is like? Can a good mother have rotten children? If you had a rotten childhood, do you get a handicap on motherhood? If your children turn out badly, can they evaluate your mothering fairly? If you remember a thousand instances of bad mothering, are you a good mother if everyone has been deceived or have more perspective?

There is a dark side of motherhood. When I volunteered to counsel parents suspected of child abuse, the volunteer coordinator asked me if I could imagine abusing my children. They refused anyone insufficiently honest or self aware to say yes. Every child at times is an unwanted child:) Raising children on the 20th floor in Manhattan tests your impulse control:) Often it is easier to be a good mother to one child than to another, but that doesn’t mean the easy child is your favorite. Good or bad temperamental matches play a crucial role in mother-child relationships.

My mom was a good mother to her 6 children, absolutely there for us all our lives. But she and I had a conflicted relationship because we were so different temperamentally. Watching my mother care for her mother as she aged, I marveled how alike they were. How difficult it must have been to have a daughter who confronted and argued. Ultimately we did well with each other. I will always be grateful that she lived with me the last four years of her life, that she died at home.

Being a good mother, like being a good person, is something you need to work on every day of your life. I am finding the transition to grandmotherhood almost as perplexing. I desperately miss my mother, who knew me and my daughters equally well and could interpret for all of us. Many of us are probably better grandmothers than we were mothers.

I have saved my best qualification for good motherhood for the last. Here are my children’s picture books arranged in alphabetical order.



About maryjograves

Children are my passion. I have 4 daughters, 5 grandkids under 5 with another on the way, 5 younger brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, 8 great nieces and nephews. I advocate a revolution for a child friendly US. I have been an editor, public librarian, social worker, and internet educator. Tweet @RedstockingGran @ChildrensWings
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