‘Good’. What does that word mean? I mean specifically in the phrase, ‘good mother’ or ‘good parent’. I could look up the definition of the word ‘good’ and still have no idea what it means to be a good mother.
I would love to have some sort of system that could accurately measure and give me feedback on my success and progress as a parent. Sort of a Nielsen rating for motherhood. And why not? After all- we all need positive feedback, don’t we? I do. It is odd that in everything else, I can tell you, ‘I am competent’, or ‘I am not competent’ and give good and convincing reasons why. But here… well I FEEL like a pretty cruddy parent most times.
Here it is- Maximus’ first day of school- yesterday. I feel like I failed entirely to do whatever it is a normal mom would have done for an event of this significance. I’m pulled in many directions- attention divided by school, insurance, financial aid for college, bills, pimples… you name it. Minimus, oh baby I am so very sorry, my baby, for how much you have had to navigate this life unaided. You are such a remarkable boy, and I hope that when you are grown you don’t remember me as detached and uninterested. I’m always so distracted. I love you both so very much.
But am I a GOOD momma? Maximus had what he needed for school; a good lunch, appropriate clothes, he was clean and had a backpack and a notebook for his teacher to communicate with me. He knew it was coming. (ok- I forgot to brush his teeth) We were a few minutes late, but no one blinked an eye. Minimus and I walked in with Max, and my big boy said, ‘Momma, I don’t need a hand.’ When I held mine out to him. Oh, I did remember to take his picture!! Well, I guess we did ok after all… Poor Minimus started a new care situation- many more days than he has ever had to be cared for by someone other than me. I feel I have abandoned them, both.
They had a fantastic day.
So did I. Then the guilt hit. I enjoyed abandoning my babies. I was horrified at myself for this. Now- I KNOW I didn’t abandon them, and I know that if I had I would not have enjoyed it. But fear and guilt are irrational things. I look at my parenting as always having room for improvement, and I am always adding more tools, but I get stuck in that self-check mode. ‘Am I an ok mom?’ Then, it’s the end of a badbad day and I am crying to a friend about how differently I should have handled Max (especially) and she says, “You are GOOD MOM!!!” No, I protest. I am a barely adequate mom.
This afternoon I figured out that what bothers me about being or not being a good mom is that I can not KNOW this about myself. There is no way to step outside of myself sufficiently to see that. I hate NOT knowing. I wish, for my sake- and maybe for the boys’ too, because maybe if I knew and was confident I could relax a little- I wish parenting had approval ratings.