I’m not going to tell you that you’re a good mother.
I won’t even tell you that you’re doing a good job.
Because when I do, you’re going to think back to this morning when your toddler threw that sticky clump of oatmeal at you, and you snapped. You just snapped. She’s small. She’s frustrated. You’re the adult here. But you didn’t recognise your voice as the anger and helplessness rumbled in the pit of your stomach and you growled furiously at her. You didn’t feel like a good mother then.
I won’t tell you that you’re doing such a great job with your kids. Because if I do, you’ll feel guilty about that moment yesterday between dinner prep and your husband coming home, when all hell was breaking loose and the chaos of your life almost paralysed you as you sat on the couch with your eyes closed, thinking to yourself, “I didn’t sign up for this; I didn’t think it would be like this“.
I won’t tell you that you’re clearly a natural, because you’ll think to yourself about how so many things, in fact, haven’t come naturally to you at all. You’ll think about how you’ve had to make a conscious, tremendous, sometimes nearly impossible effort to do better, to be better. And you still don’t feel like you’re there yet.
In my own, never-ending quest to be a “good mother”, I’ve been reading about how we praise our children. Every time I’m really impressed by something I read, I can’t help but notice that if I apply the same principles to myself, or to the other adult relationships in my life – bingo. It still works.
And so, I had an “aha” moment today. The thing about praising our kids for being “so smart”, “so good”, having done “great work” or a “great job” – while I know it comes from a desire to show them my support, boost their self-esteem, show them that I acknowledge their effort – is that it often has the opposite effect. It often results in them focusing on those times when they weren’t good, or great, or perfect, or wonderful. It makes them think that in those moments, they’ve failed; they’re no longer entitled to proudly bear the badge of honour of being a “good kid”. They might wonder if I really know them, if I really see them.
So I won’t tell you that you’re a good mother.
But I will tell you this.
I see how desperately you love that child.
I see how much sheer willpower and emotional energy you put into staying patient and calm while he is screaming inconsolably, no matter what you try to do.
I see you putting your needs last, and theirs first.
I see you spending so much of your time researching, learning, absorbing everything you can so that you can guide your little ones through whatever it is that they’re going through right now.
I see you worry. I see you question yourself. I see you doubting whether you’re doing the right thing.
I see your arms open every time she comes to you for comfort, even if you haven’t finished your coffee, even if you’re completely touched out, even if you’re in the middle of a conversation, even if you really, really don’t have the time or energy right now.
I see it.
And in a role where there is so much that is unseen, so much that is invisible, so much that happens between just you and them, I hope you know that I see you. I see you struggling and striving, worrying and wondering, trying and triumphing.
I see you, and you are so much more than just a “good mother”.
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