Are You A Good Mom – part ONE – Learning to DROP the Mama Guilt
Am I a good mom??? Let’s learn how to DROP the Mama Guilt! This topic comes up A LOT with my clients. I was there once too. We love our children and want what’s best for them but at what point do we drop the mama guilt and take the circumstance at face value? We see these little people as a reflection of ourselves and try so hard to make them responsible, caring, clean, honest, respective kids but that’s the problem right there…we try so hard to MAKE them.
I read an article recently that said it’s not enough in this day and age to want success for our children but that we feel like we have to MAKE them successful. We drive them to music lessons and make them practice. We take them to school and make them do their homework. We enroll them in extracurricular activities and make them become well rounded…because if they failed it’d be a reflection of US as their parent.
It’s time to question our motives around our kids. WHY are we doing that? What would we make it mean if they quit music lessons? What would we make it mean if they failed a class or didn’t turn in a homework assignment? – obviously, I’m not saying we don’t TEACH them and let them know what consequences will happen (or might happen) if they don’t adhere to our guidance BUT WE CAN’T MAKE THEM BE SUCCESSFUL – THEY have to choose that themselves. It’s not our job to make them successful. Our job is to teach, encourage, and help them learn through LOVE.
A friend of mine shared this experience with me – her young son (5 years old maybe) was rather rambunctious at church. He didn’t want to sit in his chair during class time so the teacher was fed up and took him to his mother, no doubt with a frustrated and stern look of exasperation on her face. My friend felt embarrassed that her son acted up in class to such a degree that he was “kicked out” of class. So she starts walking down the hallways with her wiggly son and has this inner dialog, “This is embarrassing.”, “he shouldn’t act like this”, “Why can’t I teach him to sit still? So in so’s kid does just fine. Why won’t he listen?! The teacher looked so annoyed. She must think I’m a terrible mother. I must not be doing something right. I’m not doing a good enough job. I’m failing as a mother.”
Okay, how’d that spin from why can’t he sit still to I’m failing as a mother that fast??? Slow down mamas. This is important…write this down.
What your children do is NOT a reflection of YOU. What your children do is a reflection of THEM and how they’re learning to navigate the world around them. I know this is a tough one. But it’s liberating once you can finally let go of that weight and responsibility to make them successful – even at learning to sit still.
Ask yourself this question next time your child does something you don’t like: WHAT AM I MAKING THIS MEAN???
Why am I choosing to make this mean that something is wrong? Maybe he is just wiggly. Maybe that’s what a lot of other five year olds do. Maybe he’s supposed to require a little more activity that day. Maybe he doesn’t want to sit still. There are days that I don’t want to sit still. But the guilt and the shame thinking that something is WRONG – is because of what we’re making it mean. So look closely at those thoughts! What are you making your kids actions mean? And why do you want to hang onto those thoughts if they are painful?
So continuing with my friend and her son. She got a phone call later that week from the primary president asking her what steps she’d like to take as an intervention for her son so he can learn how to behave in primary. He is more of a challenging kid, you know.
This caught my friend off guard completely. She didn’t know what to say to that. She didn’t know her child was a “problem child!”
Now this is even MORE embarrassing! They’re talking about my son! They’re trying to find ways to “Fix the problem” – I can’t imagine what they’re thinking of me – or my son! and more and more pain because now she’s making it mean lots of things. No one wants others to not like their children. We love our children and we want everyone to love them as we do. So when they don’t, it can hurt just as much or more than if they rejected us, right? But again…this stems from WHAT YOU ARE MAKING IT MEAN.
I can totally relate to this one because I had (have) a wiggly son and every single week the teacher would stop me after class and tell me a list of everything he did that irritated her. It got so bad that I hated taking him to class – he didn’t care. He liked class. But I didn’t like the pick up and the chastisement or long list of his wrong doings brought to me each week. Then to make matters worse, one well meaning (but misplaced) sister actually told me they were getting help for him because he’s “special needs” – umm…what? This is news to me!
Now, at the time, I chose to be offended. I chose to be a victim and needed to blame it on the teacher…because clearly, nothing is wrong with my child! I also blamed myself. If only I knew how to teach him better then surly he’d be excellent in class.
Okay…here’s the thing…The problem comes from our thoughts. The facts of the situation is that he’s wiggly and he’s young. Pretty normal, actually…and he’s wiggly in the THIRD hour of sitting. No wonder he’s wiggly! He’s supposed to be. That’s way too long for any child to sit.
But we create pain for ourselves and mama guilt because of what we make the situation mean. We don’t know what others are really thinking and frankly it’s NONE of our business. So the next time you’re in one of “those” situations ask yourself, SO WHAT? So what if he’s wiggly. So what if he doesn’t want to sit in class- sometimes I don’t either – I need to stand and move too! It doesn’t mean anything is WRONG. It means your child is HUMAN and learning. It doesn’t mean your a bad mom either!
So define this for yourself: What makes you a good mom?
When I ask this question I get a lot of responses that have to do with the actions of their children. I’m a good Mom if my kids are honest. I’m a good Mom if my kids are kind to others. I’m a good Mom if they grow up to be responsible adults and have great jobs and contribute to society…those sound good, right? Who wouldn’t want those things for your kids?
But those answers DON’T make you a good Mom. Because what happens if your kid lies all the time? Are you a bad Mom then? What if your kid is a bully- bad mom? What if they grow up and don’t get jobs, they’re not responsible and really don’t show any interest in being productive or responsible. What if they break the law and go to prison? Are you a bad mom then???
Absolutely NOT. What your kids do (no matter what age they are) is a reflection of THEM. They get to use their agency to CHOOSE what they want to do with their lives. Your job is not to MAKE them how you think they should behave. Your job is to TEACH them, show them by example, LOVE them, and take care of them – clothe them, meet their basic human needs, etc. – we do more because we love them but what they choose to do with their lives on top of that is their choice. It is NOT a reflection of you or your parenting.
What’s the saying? You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink? Same here – You can TEACH and SHOW and LOVE but if the kid doesn’t want to do something it doesn’t matter how well you taught it or showed it or loved them. It’s their choice and their agency.
Separate yourself from their actions. Love, teach, exemplify but don’t make it mean anything about you when they choose another path. It’s not about you. What they choose is about them and their lives.
Define what a good mother looks like for you – it CANNOT contain their actions – they get to choose those – so what does it look like for you?
For me, I LOVE my kids so so so much. I teach them the things I believe bring happiness and JOY. I provide for their needs: Clothing, healthy food, Medical care, enrichment activities, etc. BUT all of these things do not guarantee that they’ll be wonderful, well rounded, never make mistakes children. They get to choose what path they’ll take with the tools I offer them.
No matter what if I can feel good about Loving, Teaching, and Providing for them then I can also know that despite what they choose to do, I’m a GOOD MOM.
What about you? Can you let go of the urge to MAKE them successful and just love them, teach them, provide for them, and then let them learn and grow?
What makes you a good Mom?
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