Fail…a word I hear a lot among quite a few of the mothers I know. I know I have used it plenty of times myself (shame on me) yet I’m always the first to jump to their defense and tell my fellow mama’s that they aren’t failing. I usually hear it in the context of “I have failed my child, I am not a good mother”. But my question is, what is a “good mother”?
One that loves her child unconditionally?
One that would do just about anything to keep her child safe and happy?
One that leaps out of bed several times a night to her crying baby and feeds, burps, changes, rocks, sings and cuddles them for possibly hours on end to make sure they are rested and content?
One that plays peek-a-boo behind her hands for hours in the hopes to make her newborn smile and hear the beautiful sound of their giggle?
One that takes her baby to the doctor for the seventh time in a week for a cough she feels just isn’t quite right only to be met with rolled eyes and assurance that it is just a cold?
One that worries at least a few times a day about the world her child is growing up in and if they are going to be safe and happy as they grow into adults?
One that looks at her child as they sleep with tears rolling down her face from pure gratitude and joy that they were chosen to be their baby’s mother?
If you are any of the above then I’m sorry (sorry not sorry) to tell you, but you are a good mother.
I don’t actually know where societies expectation to be a perfect mother has come from. I am yet to meet the perfect mother as I am pretty sure she doesn’t exist. We are all human and we all make mistakes from time to time, it’s how we learn and grow. How boring would life be if we never made mistakes, if we never forgot to restock the nappy bag and had to learn how to improvise with random pieces of used tissues and old rags in the car after a poo-splosion, if we never took our eye off them for just that eighth of a second and they rolled off the couch so we scooped them up and squeezed them tightly as they cried (more than likely also wailing ourselves) and then within seconds they continued trying to master eating their foot showing us how resilient they are (disclaimer: not condoning leaving children unattended on furniture), if we never accidentally shouted “FUCK” with a toddler in ears reach and then they randomly said “fuck” in front of their grandmother and strangers for the next week coz they are just too darn smart for their own good. Shit happens, but that doesn’t mean you failed – it means you’re learning.
We as mothers put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be supermum that we neglect to see how lucky we are to just get the title of mother. I don’t know if it’s more of a comparative thing with other mothers or just us thinking we need to be the best at this mumming gig so people don’t think we were undeserving in the promotion to Mother Dearest. It’s like there’s this unspoken expectation to have your shit together to be considered a good mum. I know I’m never going to be one of those mums that has perfectly mannered children that don’t play up in public, that always has a ‘show home’ looking clean house, that never has clothes on the line overnight (or over-three-nights lets be honest) and I’m definitely never going to look down or judge another mother for how they choose to parent or make them feel like they have failed.
For me the expectations started when I was pregnant, I would always ask myself what kind of mother I was going to be and if I was going to be good at it. There are things I said I wouldn’t do that I have done many times over and there are things I thought I knew how to deal with that have had me absolutely bewildered at times. Being a mother isn’t something they teach you in school, there isn’t any special qualifications you require before you can procreate and that’s because no ones parenting journey is going to be the same. Just because what you are doing it differently to Susanne next door doesn’t mean you have failed, just because her DS (dear son for those that don’t speak mum) crawled at 6 months and your baby is still doing the downward dog and that cute nappy-bum twerk doesn’t mean you failing at teaching them to crawl – it means they are still learning just like you (and lets be honest, once they start crawling they don’t stop so don’t be too disappointed). The perfect mother doesn’t exist, just as the perfect baby doesn’t (and if it does tell me where to find him/her so I can clone it’s DNA for when I am ready to have another) – they are perfect in our eyes and that’s all that matters.
Something I will definitely be reminding myself and my mama squad the next time we feel like we have failed or that we are not good mothers is that we are doing the best we can and if anything else we love our children more than anyone could ever possibly love another human. And for me, that is more than enough.