It was Mother’s Day a few weeks ago so this post is kind of belated. What makes a good mother? I could easily say this question has been on my mind for the past 6 years (ever since I became a mother) but I have really been thinking about it in earnest for the past year.
I started full-time work exactly one year ago, and my life and the life of my family has not been the same since. I’d like to say we have all adjusted to the change, a year now, but I find I am still struggling with a lot of the changes that the past year have brought.
I grew up with a working mother, and was adamant that I would never be one. For the first 5 years of my daughter’s life, that’s what she got. But circumstances are never the same and I had to return to work, a choice that affected both of us deeply and we are still coming to terms with today.
As life changed, I grew to realise and recognize the same challenges that my own mother must have undertaken as she worked outside of the house for hours on end. I resented her for much of my childhood but I never realised the sacrifices she had to make to make sure we were happy and healthy. I recognize them now.
I grew up with 2 younger brothers and so I don’t really remember my mother ever playing with me. If I wanted to play, I played with my brothers, cousins, or friends. My mother was (and still is) obsessed with keeping a tidy house and making sure we had fresh, home-cooked meals every day despite the fact that she worked and was never home. I look back and I don’t know how she did it.
In today’s society, the definition of parenthood and motherhood hasn’t changed much but the emphasis on bonding, spending quality time, and connecting with your child has definitely increased.
The emphasis on home cooked food and a clean house haven’t really changed and the pressure is still on to be a wonder woman and do it all. Take care of the kid, nurture them and spend time with them, take care of the house, take care of yourself, look good, eat well, go on date nights with your husband, go to work, succeed in your career, have hobbies and pastimes, get 8 hours of sleep, stay hydrated, and the list goes on. It’s exhausting.
If I play exclusively with my daughter and ignore the house, am I setting a bad example of multitasking and placing a low importance on cleanliness and orderliness? The connection with her is the most important thing, but I am also cognizant of setting a good example and setting her up with life skills that she will eventually need.
But if most of my day is work and then coming home to tidy up, and doing dinner, then I am undoubtedly left with a very small sliver of time to spend with her.
I lose no matter what I do and I don’t know how to do it all or be it all.
I am also struck by the realisation of the passage of time. My daughter is now 6, much more firmly in kid territory as her toddler years are far behind her. The things I used to do for her and with her don’t have as much importance as other things now. She needs me in a different way than she did before, and every day I feel guilt pooling in the pit of my stomach at all the ways I am failing her.
I don’t know if I was a better mother when I stayed at home, with no social interaction, content to be in a bubble, or now as I spend more hours outside of the home than inside of it. I am not sure I am a good mother.
All I do is that just as your child grows, so do you as a mother. Your role and the things you can provide change as your child goes through different things. Mothers are never stagnant and are constantly growing, shifting, and learning new things.
As my baby grows, I know I will too.