These days we have unprecedented windows into each other’s family lives. I see Instagram posts of happy families playing board games and tromping through apple orchards. I marvel at elaborate birthday cakes and intricate Halloween costumes splashed across my Facebook feed. And I drool over creative chore charts and organized food pantries on Pinterest.
I’ve mused that someone is a good mom because she plays learning games with her kids. I’ve felt a little wistful that another friend is a good mom because she can maintain an organized meal schedule. And I’ve been awed by a fellow mom’s steady stream of kids crafts, often murmuring that she is a good mom.
I don’t think I am alone in admiring my friend’s good mom moments.
- Those are healthy snacks – she is a good mom.
- Her kids always get to bed on time – she is a good mom.
- That is an awesome chore chart – she is a good mom.
- Look at that activity calendar – she is a good mom.
But lately I have backed off from this line of labeling and categorizing moms as good moms based on their real or perceived parenting prowess.
It’s not that I think we should stop cheering each other on. But we need to be careful. Because in a world where our parenting triumphs are paraded in front of each other ad nauseam, it can become difficult to insulate our mommy hearts from self-criticism and comparison.
This is particularly true when we consider what is subtly happening the other side of the equation.
We increasingly use the term bad mom to describe our parenting when it doesn’t measure up to the artificially constructed examples of good mom activity. Often we are joking when we describe something we did as a bad mom moment. But when you stop to think about it, most things we describe as bad mom moments are actually just normal life.
- I put my kid in front of a screen – bad mom.
- I was late to school drop off – bad mom.
- I sent my kid to school in mismatched shoes – bad mom.
- I let my kids eat ice cream for dinner – bad mom.
- I forgot to schedule a well-child checkup – bad mom.
The list could go on and on of silly little mundane occurrences that we sheepishly or jokingly chalk up to bad mom moments. But even if we are joking, the language we use to describe ourselves can subtly inform our view of our parenting. And it only contributes to self-deprecation when we categorize normal life into good mom or bad mom categories.
It is hard not to feel pressure to be a good mom today when we are saturated with information, ideas, suggestions and research on how to do it. The obvious culprits are social media, blogs and magazines. But doctors, schools and even churches tuck parenting nuggets and ideas into their communication.
And while the plethora of parenting ideas flooding our existence on infinite repeat are not all bad, we have to keep it in perspective.
My mom never dreamed of color-coded chore charts or successful crafts as marks of a good mom. Nor did most parents in previous generations. They had to make do with very little information and they barely knew of each others triumphs and great ideas.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure my mom would have welcomed more ideas to get our lazy buns off the couch and cleaning the house. But that wasn’t an option for her. And as long as we were fed, clothed, clean, in warm beds and showered with lots of love, she considered herself a good mom.
Most of us would agree. And if what makes someone a good mom hasn’t changed, then the language we use to describe a good mom shouldn’t either.
I am all for giving credit where credit is due, but I propose we use accurate language to admire each other:
- Look at her color-coded calendar – she is an organized mom.
- Look at how she calmly handled her toddler’s meltdown – she is a patient mom.
- Look at that amazing birthday cake – she is a creative mom.
- Look at how many veggies her kids eat – she is a healthy mom.
And I propose we do away with joking about bad mom moments altogether. Because being real and even making the odd mistake doesn’t make anyone a bad mom. So why would we describe ourselves that way?
Let’s remember this truth: the mark of a good mom hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. When your children are loved, protected, cared for and nurtured – you are a good mom. And you can tell yourself that every day.