How do you know if you are doing a good job as a mom? What is a "good mother?" These are questions that not only can cause me to lose at least a few nights of sleep each month, they're also the fodder of a host of magazines, websites and blogs that are targeted to those of us who answer to the name "Mom."
Is it better to stay home with your children or work outside the home? Or is a combination of the two the best for baby and mother? What if you don't have a choice -- are you and your kid doomed? Breast or bottle? Cloth diapers or disposable? Homegrown, homemade baby food or straight out of the jar? Helicopter parenting or "Free Range"? What about TV, computers and social media? Aye or nay?
And what is the ideal result of all of this debate and hard work? Is it a kid who is an honor student with their pick of top colleges to choose from? What if your kid isn't a superstar? Did you do something wrong? How can we really measure success when it comes to our kids?
After 16 years at the mom game, I've come to realize that I'm probably never going to get my gold star in parenting, nor should I be looking for one. It's not that type of a gig. But I do have times when I witness one of my kids doing something that is so extraordinary that I know in my heart I must have done something right.
Last week my first child, Tom, who is in the 10th grade, had to take his Regents Exams. In our home state of New York, a student needs to pass these tests in order to get a high school diploma. Since Tom is dyslexic, most of his school career has been spent proving that he would someday be able to accomplish this feat.
Throughout the years there were some amazing teachers who believed in him, and a few who seriously doubted his ability. From the minute we first suspected that Tom might have a learning issue, when he was just 18-months-old, my husband and I have done everything in our power to get Tom the help he needed, but we couldn't do the work for him. That he needed to do for himself. And he did.
Each test is timed and students typically get only three hours to complete them. Because of Tom's dyslexia he is allowed six hours, and he took all of the time he was allowed. He would come out of the exams exhausted but so proud of himself.
On the last day of the testing I picked him up, and he was just elated that it was over and that he did it. I told him how proud I was of him, and he turned to me and thanked me for always believing in him.
"Mom, whenever I felt as if I couldn't go on, I would just think of you telling me that I could do anything that I wanted to do and it gave me the push I needed to go on. Thank you. Thank you for always believing that I could do this."
I looked over at my son, who is now far taller than I am, and I was in awe of the young man he has become. I thought of all the mistakes I know I make on a daily basis, and I realized that in the end, what I do "wrong" isn't nearly as important as what I do right. And that is being the mother that Tom needs me to be. Not perfect. Not even close, but his mom.
This piece was previously published on Kathy's site, My dishwasher's possessed!