Close your eyes. Create an image or picture in your mind of a “good mother” What does she look like? Dress like? Act like? How does she compare to how you evaluate yourself as a mother? Do you measure up or fall short?
Now think about where you got your idea of what a good mother is. Was it from the example your own mother set? From what you see your friends do? Maybe you got your idea from books, movies, or social media. How does thinking about this idea of the “good mother” make you feel?
So many women walk around with this idea of what a good mother is. The job qualifications are usually full of should-type thinking. A good mother should breastfeed, be happy to get up at night with her baby, love every minute of parenting, not miss her work/friends/life before baby. And when you don’t measure up, it’s pretty easy to start getting down on yourself.
I believe the myth of the “good mother” is actually a collection of myths through all the stages of parenting that starts even before you become a parent! I share some of these myths down below .
Pregnancy: Good mothers find it easy to get pregnant, and her pregnancy is welcomed and planned, she glows and is full of joy as she waits for her little bundle.
Labor and Delivery: A good mother believes that a natural delivery is the only way to go and the only thing that’s best for your baby, if she requires a c-section it means there is something wrong with her body and she has failed, once the baby has arrived she feels immediately bonded to her baby and an outpouring of love.
Parenting: The good mother always put herself last and does it happily, she never loses her patience or expresses anger ESPECIALLY toward her infant, she focuses on all the gifts parenting brings and can’t identify any loss/grief experienced in parenthood, makes perfect Pinterest creations for every birthday/celebration and does it all without asking for help which is a sign of weakness, she experiences “Mom Guilt” which is normal/natural and is the mark of a good mom.
If these are the messages we are immersed in how do we shift our thinking about the good mother? Here are some helpful tips.
First: Stop the comparison game. When you are comparing yourself and your life to others you are often comparing your blooper reel to someone else’s highlight reel. Rarely are people posting their most raw, vulnerable, ugly moments on social media or sharing it at a backyard cookout. Stay away from situations that suck you in to this comparison pattern. I often suggest moms to take a social media break or “break up” with that competitive mom friend. Check in with yourself and ask if what you are doing or who you are doing it with makes you feel good. If it doesn’t, stop.
Second: Focus on what you have done/accomplished rather than what you haven’t. Having young children is hard. Some days even a shower is hard to come by. Instead of focusing on the sink full of dishes or the clean laundry that hasn’t been folded, take inventory of what you have done today. How many diapers have you changed, sippy cups have you filled, kisses and cuddles have you given, etc, etc, etc. If you stop and think about it you are working all day long accomplishing many tasks that are essential to your baby’s well being. Pay attention to what you are doing instead of what you aren’t and give yourself a pat on the back.
Third: Let go of “should” thinking. There are capital “S” shoulds and lowercase “s” shoulds. The uppercase ones are non-negotiable like brushing teeth and buckling your seat belt. The lowercase ones are typically based on unrealistic expectations and usually serve no purpose but to make you feel like you are not measuring up. Let. Them. Go.
Fourth: Stop trying to be perfect and strive to be “perfectly good”. Perfection is unattainable, but being perfectly good is certainly achievable. Lowering the bar does not mean admitting defeat, it’s just meeting yourself where you are and allowing yourself to be human. You have little eyes on you that are learning how to treat themselves by watching you. Extend some self-compassion when you miss the mark, and keep trying your best.
Hopefully this series has been helpful. Please feel free to share with whomever you feel may benefit from the information. If you attempt the four tips above and still struggle with the impact the myths of motherhood have on your emotionally, mentally, in relationships or otherwise please reach out to a mental health professional for help.