What constitutes good mothering?
When Lenore Skenazy shared that she allowed her 9 year old son to 'roam' the landscape and subways of NY she felt a huge public backlash. The confessions of Amy Chua's tiger mother approach started a firestorm of debate about over-controlling parents. And Sarah Palin is always an easy target for arguing that she is too involved or not involved enough in her children's lives and their Dancing With The Stars bids.
Most mothering is judged as too hard, too soft, too absent, or too emeshed with their children. With the end result being the same message - we are bad mothers.
It is a disappointing commentary on our support for motherhood. Sure, there are bad mothers out there. But most mothers are good, caring moms who try to get it right every day. Even if they do it differently than we might, we should at least be honoring each other's efforts.
And we don't really bother to get the facts either. Read Chua's book, she's a good mom. So is Lenore Skenazy. And whatever you think about her politics, Sarah Palin loves her kids as much as any mother can. Are any of these moms making mistakes? Yup. But they are all caring mothers investing in their roles. Let's not forget that.
Let's also save ourselves some trouble and get right to the truth. We all get things wrong as moms. We step in too much, not enough or at the wrong time. We overdo, underdo or forget to teach some valuable life skill that our child could use some day. We say things we regret and don't say things we should. We miss important moments, call our kids by the wrong names, lose our tempers, share our discouragement and definitely share our baggage.
But as long as that's not all we're doing, this don't make us bad moms, it makes us real moms. Yet moms who are likely wondering if we are doing it right enough every day. Especially when, if you look at what the world is saying - no mom is.
So here is my parenting advice for you: Just keep thinking like Goldilocks. The goal is to shoot for 'Just Right' even though you know you won't really get there and even if you do, there's always tomorrow.
What does 'Just Right' look like? Consider these criteria:
Do you feed, clothe and provide your child with a safe home?
Do you pay attention to your child's health and education?
Do you give your child responsibilities and limits?
Do you give your child opportunities to succeed and fail?
Do you pass on your knowledge and model your values?
Do you keep your crazy to a minimum?
Do you mix reasonable explanations in with 'because I said so's?
Do you listen to your child? and then REALLY listen?
Do you love your child and show them how to love themselves?
And finally - even though you could likely do every one of the above actions better - do you keep showing up and trying to get it just right every day?
If so, you are a good mom - even if you are a bit too lioness, tiger or bear! I commend you for caring and hopefully I am not the only one. Frankly, your kids are lucky to have you. Unlike Goldilocks, whose mother was nowhere to be found while little Goldi was off traipsing in the forest. Seriously - what was she thinking?!
Annie Zirkel, LPC is a Parenting Consultant, Workshop Presenter and Author based in Ann Arbor, Mi. If you would like to be a better parent and want some help, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org