As I sit here writing my phone is pinging with sweet texts and email messages wishing me a happy mother’s day. We will have a brunch later on, further celebrating this day. It’s a lot of pressure, this day of focus. It makes me think about the messages women receive to be a good mothers.
Is there any such thing as a good mother? I think the very concept of being a “good” mother is kind of dumb. The essence of being a mother is to be good. Motherhood (and fatherhood) is a commitment to take care of someone other than yourself, to put that person (or multiple persons) ahead of you all the time, every single day.
That’s not necessarily being good. It’s just being a mother. It comes with the role. Once you’re in it, it’s your new role for the rest of your life. You are forever changed. It’s not a matter of being changed for the good or the bad. You’re just changed. Before you weren’t a mother and now you are.
Of course, there are bad mothers, those who neglect or abuse their children, who cannot prioritize their progeny. But this essay is not about them. This essay is about all the other mothers, the run-of-the-mill mothers like me who strive every day to do the best job they can. Sometimes they are amazing and enlightened TV show moms. And sometimes they are bored to death with hearing about what happened at school again.
When we throw around the term “good mother,” it sets a precedent for competition. To be better than all the other mothers. It’s like being labeled a “good student.” Only students who perform in a certain way are good. Those who have different learning styles or abilities don’t get rewarded with that label.
When I hear the term “good mother” it makes me think, “Am I good enough?” I wonder if I am working as hard as I can, as hard as the mother across the street or down the block. If I was a good mother would my child be a better student? Would she have more friends? Would she be the lead in the play or the captain of the soccer team?
As I sit here, making a list of all the women I want to send a shout-out today — my sisters and friends, my mother and step-mother, my aunts and sisters-in-law — I think they are all good mothers. But it’s not because they drive the most days of carpool or do the best arts and crafts at home. It’s not because their kids are the most well-behaved or got into the best colleges. They are good mothers because they are doing their job every day.
So, happy mother’s day to all of you moms, but today, try not to stress about being a good mom. Just sit back, pour yourself a cup of whatever, and bask in the glow of motherhood. You’re a mom and that’s enough.