Wondering if you’ll be a good mother? Welcome to the club, girlfriend! It would be a rare mum-to-be who hasn’t questioned whether they’re cut out for #mumlife. And to be honest, it would be an ever rarer mother who hasn’t wondered if they’re doing things right. I STILL ask myself this question, eleven years into the game! So why do mums question their ability to mother and is there a way to tell how you’ll score in the parenting stakes? Let’s investigate further.
The ‘perfect mum’ myth
Ah yes, the ‘perfect mum’ myth. You’ve probably seen this one perpetuated on social media or in Mother’s Groups, at least before everyone has realised that no one actually has any idea what they’re doing. The perfect mum has all her ducks in a row. Motherhood is effortless. Her baby sleeps when they should, feeds perfectly and can switch from breast to bottle like a magical unicorn. Tearing? What tearing? Stretch marks? Are you kidding! Tender, lumpy, leaking breasts? Unlikely. You know what else is unlikely? This idea actually being a reality. Social media (and print media before that) have a lot to answer for when it comes to the perfect mother myth, an idea that has led to mothers all over adopting unrealistically high expectation for how motherhood ‘should’ look and feel, then ‘less than’ when it doesn’t unfold that way. The thing is, the perfect mother doesn’t exist. Yes, some people may appear to adapt to motherhood with more ease than others but that doesn’t have anything to do with their ability as a parent. Motherhood looks different for everyone, and ‘perfection’ is a highly objective term. We’ll let you in on a little secret; EVERYONE finds it hard at times. Every single parent who has ever lived has likely felt overwhelmed, underprepared, exhausted and tearful at some stage. Heck, I still have moments like that today! Does it make me a ‘bad’ mother? Absolutely not. This is why we celebrate a different ideal, the good enough mother.
Being a ‘good enough’ mother
Forget perfection, setting your sights on being a ‘good enough’ mother is the way forward. Psychologists working with women are huge advocates for changing the terminology to try and eliminate unrealistically high expectations. Psychologist Dr Bronwyn Lee from The Centre for Perinatal Psychology writes that; “the good enough position stands in contrast to the ‘perfect’ parent and recognises that it is not possible to be empathic, available and immediately responsive at all times.” In a nutshell, you can’t be perfect. Good enough parenting is all about being a responsive, present parent while allowing accepting that sometimes things won’t work out the way you had planned. The baby will cry because they hate being in the car, they’ll get a tummy ache from drinking too fast, their nappy will be wet longer than you’d planned because you couldn’t find a parent’s room. A good enough mother recognises that she is doing the best she can for her child, meeting their needs, caring and nurturing them, keeping them safe and if/when things go pear shaped, it will be ok because that’s #mumlife and it doesn’t mean that she is a failure or a ‘bad mum.’
Navigating the hard stuff
Whatever age your kids are, newborn to teens, there will be tough stuff to navigate. These are the things that test you as a parent, where you might question whether what you’re doing is right and if you are, indeed, good enough. This is an especially common thought pattern when thinking about discipline. If there is one thing we know for sure it’s that kids of all ages know how to push their parents buttons. We also know that children have brains that are still maturing and that their ability to assess risk is still developing. This is one of the reasons why discipline and setting expectations for behaviour is so important. Better Health Victoria defines disciplining your child as teaching them responsible behaviour and self-control. The most important thing to remember is that a child’s understanding develops over time. A baby or young toddler has zero concept of right or wrong and can’t misbehave or ‘be naughty’. Their behaviour might be frustrating, but they aren’t doing it purposefully. As children get older, they can begin to connect their actions with consequences, both good and bad. This is usually when experts recommend introducing expectations and consequences in an age-appropriate way. Demonstrating what good, safe, respectful behaviour looks like, explaining your expectations and rewarding children for making good choices (instead of just punishing them for bad) are all great ways to create routine and consistency.
So am I cut out for motherhood?
If you’re reading this article, then the chances are good that you absolutely are! Questioning the kind of parent that you are going to be (or are!) is a sign that you care deeply about your motherhood experience and how you can ensure that it’s a good one. Motherhood is a journey, no-one has all the answers, especially at the beginning, take it one day at a time, ask for help when you need it and finally, remember, you’re the best mum for your baby, not a random person on Instagram who may seem to have it together. Your baby doesn’t care if you’ve forgotten to change your soggy breast pads. Likewise, your toddler is indifferent to the fact that they’ve had the same breakfast everyday for two weeks. They love you because you are what they know, and you are their safe space. Keep that in the back of your mind when the days seem long.