A couple of years ago, this question would have been answered with a resounding YES! Like many moms, I gave up hundreds of things I loved to stay home with my children ensuring they would never be one of ‘those’ kids that spent as much time in daycare as I did at work. I wiped their butts, their tears and made sure they had ‘3 hots’ plus healthy snacks every day in the hopes of growing their bodies strong. Television time was monitored and bed times were routine and punctuated with literacy and kisses. Even before they started school of their own, they had daily projects, crafts, and learning activities at the kitchen table orchestrated by my very own loving voice and intuition. Am I a good mother? Heck yeah!
School started and they moved away from the nest I had built. Yet, lunches were packed with nutrition and comfort in mind, hoping that midday through their day they would remember and appreciate all the love they had waiting for them at home. I would cruise to school, an hour before release ensuring I was at the front of the line in my white and shining mini-van, giving them bragging rights of being the first kids picked up after a long day of academics. And gosh, what else did I have to do if it wasn’t tending to the kids. And in that van, every day came a loving, ‘How was your day,’ followed by some apple juice and graham crackers in an attempt to ease the hunger pains I most certainly thought they must be were feeling. Arriving home to snacks and a neat and tidy house, with all the laundry done and dinner in the crock-pot it was time to focus on homework and relaxation, talking about things and reconnecting. Day by day, the routine was the same and in my eyes, the measure of being a good other was the happiness on their faces and the love in their hearts.
I cannot say for sure when all of that changed exactly. Mornings seem to blur into afternoons and instead of looking forward to picking up these same kids from school I averted my attention to the peaceful beach scenes in my mind, bracing for the arguments and fights that would definitely ensue once all of the kids were together. The gentle closing of sliding doors was replaced with angry slams and the shuffle of expensive book bags being slung across the soda stained carpet of the van. Spiteful exchanges about whose turn it is to sit up front replaced exciting renditions of playground antics. Immediate stress replaced the calm and anxious feeling of having my kids home from school.
Am I a good mother? Judging from my reactions to the hiatus that seems to have taken over my world, no. I rise to anger too quickly, tired of trying to be nice and thoughtful in order to invoke responsibility in my children. My own cruel hand of judgment that imposes punishments where relaxing talk times used to be has formed its own form of justice. My ears, once eager to hear the sweet voices of my daughters have turned mostly deaf. Some days, I wonder if I am missing something I should be listening to or if I should allow the sisters to battle things out on their own. After all, all those precedent years of talking about feelings, respect and family were obviously ignored. And as my own patience grows thinner and thinner, I find myself inwardly resentful that I gave so much up to take care of my kids. Do I love them? Undoubtedly. Do I like them? Sometimes no. Am I good mother? My resounding yes is now replaced with doubts that a good mother would actually be able to say there are times she doesn’t like her own children.
Then there are days when raising kids is rewarding and I am super proud of their accomplishments. I see them bringing home straight A’s, studying and taking care of the things they should. I get compliments from teachers and other adults who know them about how well behaved they are away from home. I hear them talk and reason with remembrances of conversations about happiness, equality, and love that I had with them years ago at the kitchen table that is now barren as the kids retreat to their rooms rather than hang around and talk while I cook. Other days, I can walk into their room and see them playing peacefully together or I see the older ones being kind to the younger ones and I beam with pride and admiration for who these kids are. In those moments, I resort back to thinking I am a good mother again.
Yet at any time of day, I know things can change. I know that one of them will hate me for a decision I made. I know that I can become easily angered and frustrated with their ungratefulness and selfishness. I know that a simple car ride home from school can end up raising my blood pressure and causing at least one of my children to be grounded for a week. I also know that letting my guard down is a dangerous thing and that I have to always be ready to react and stand in control when things get crazy. I know that they won’t listen unless I nag them to do their chores or homework. I know that they will try and break every rule I have set up if I turn my back. I also know that there will be moments in every day when I don’t enjoy spending time with my kids the way that I used to. It was so much easier when all it took was loving my kids and playing with them endlessly. And it is these days, I wonder Am I a good mother?
After all, if I were a good mother wouldn’t that be reflected in my children all the time? Wouldn’t they be like puppets, I the puppeteer happily conducting a perfect performance of life?
In the humble opinion of one I say this. It starts out easily so parents can develop that undying love that is necessary to forgive them when they do or say all the awful things later in life. Everything is cute, filled with hugs, tender moments, and kisses at first to ensure that parents don’t eat their young like some other mammals do. And then when it gets tough, it is harder to judge whether or not you are a good parent. When the kids do bad things or make life impossible, it is easy to blame yourself or wonder where you have gone wrong. Yet, ultimately, parenting and being a good mother isn’t about waiting for the outcome to rear its head before you can decide for sure. That would be like saying that every team that lost a super bowl didn’t have a good coach. The real measure of answering the ‘Am I a good mother,’ question is doing the best you can while you are in the game and calling the plays like you see them in the moment. Right or wrong, won or lost being a good mother means not quitting and enduring the losing season with enough love left to reap the benefits of family down the long road of life.