More than likely, your answer will vary depending upon the time you are asked this question. In most cases, we have a hard time answering anything above "great"or superior, simply because of all the pressure we put on ourselves as we constantly compare our parenting to everyone else's.
There is a fine line for mothers when it comes to seeking out help, advice and suggestions and then facing our own selves in the mirror thinking, Why didn't I think of that? I should have already tried that... months ago! Or maybe even, I already did that and, of course, it didn't work. Maybe it's just me?
Sadly, we are living in a competitive era of parenting, where we find rivalry in the most contradictory areas. "How many children do you have? Only two? Oh my, well I have four kids. You have no clue how busy and crazy my days are." And "Does your baby sleep through the night? I don't believe in the cry it out method since that is just plain cruel, and I am up five to six times a night with mine. I just don't know how I even do it. You're so lucky you get to sleep." We almost find ourselves in the battle of whose children can wrack up the most points to make our lives more tiring and difficult.
As we try to survive in this immodest society, it can do one of two things to us and for us. It can be a great thing if we use this to motivate us and push us towards the parent that we need and want to become. But comparing ourselves to others can also be extremely detrimental, as it can make us feel defeated and unworthy of the praise that we actually deserve.
Because the truth is, we're all great mothers.
Those of us who put our needs at a distant second -- wait, who are we kidding? A distant third, fourth and fifth at times -- at the end of the day, we really wouldn't have it any other way. If everyone else in the house is happy and has what they need, somehow, that is more than sufficient for us.
The mothers who bottlefeed their babies and the mothers who breastfeed their babies -- a pat on the back to you both. Who are we to judge what works better for each mother and her baby? Are you nourishing your baby and feeding them when they need to be given? GREAT. A checkmark for you for keeping your baby alive for another day.
To the women who go off to work each day and have to leave their children behind or drop them off for childcare: It truly may be one of the hardest things you'll ever find yourselves doing. Kudos to us. For us working moms, for so many days, I feel like we should be called superheroes. Our heads spin with the hundreds of things we must accomplish in a single day's time and at the end of it, we ask ourselves, did I really just do all of that? TODAY?
And to the stay-at-home mothers, the women who never leave their jobs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; I feel for you. For those that think that this is a "cake walk" deal and your feet are propped up, eating ice cream and watching cartoons all day while your children are always smiling and happy and being great listeners... you are sadly mistaken. To be able to sneak away to the bathroom, by yourself, without anyone pounding on the door... well, if you happen to make it alone inside, it would be nothing short of a miracle. To the stay-at-home mothers, you, too, should be referred to as a superhero.
The mothers who use cloth diapers or use disposables -- props to you both! We all combat the same battles and conquer the same messes. And after some diaper changes, I feel like we should be awarded a big, beautiful medal. But to those of us that change our baby when needed, whether it be four times an hour or several times in the wee hours of the morning, we're doing what needs to be done, no matter what our choice or preference is for covering our baby's bottom.
Do you co-sleep with your baby? Do you let them cry it out? You've read three books on it and researched well over 10 articles on the pros and cons of both. Sometimes, when every person is telling us what is best for us and our baby, we forget to trust ourselves. Every family is different. Every child is different. A mother with multiple children will quickly tell you that what worked for one or two of her children may very well not have worked at all for another. We need to trust our gut instincts more often than we do and do what works best for us and our kids. Sometimes we don't always want to listen to our gut, but it's always right. However, it's not always that easy for us to follow it.
To the mothers who get ridiculed for making time for themselves or their partner -- how selfish of them, right? Actually, wrong. I wish I were brave enough to make and take more "me" time and create more time for my husband and I -- alone. It's so easy to get caught up in the daily chaotic race of just trying to make it from one drop-off to the next pick up, dashing off to the next event while you mind is spinning over the 15 things on your list that need done once you get home -- excluding dinner, dishes, laundry, baths and tuck-ins. Almost 9.9 times out of 10, you are going to return home a better parent for it, and your children are going to see a stronger couple raising them. To those women who remember "me time" and "partner time," you are not a bad mom. You're essentially a wise mother who is trying to remember that all areas of your life, in fact, DO need attention -- good for you!
What about those of us who are able to maintain perfectly-organized, clean homes? And what about the ones who have a pile of toys in every spot of the house where they shouldn't be; not to forget the times you aren't quite sure what is stacked higher -- the pile of dishes or laundry. Do these homes have "bad" mothers running them? No, certainly not. For those who are able to maintain it all, flawlessly, and play with your children and give them the attention they need while meeting all of the day's demands -- incredible job. I, myself, only wished I fell into that category, but I do not. Although I can say this much: The days I go to bed after a day filled with chasing babies, legs aching from that many walks and wagon rides, sunburnt cheeks from playing outside that long, and babies who whisper in your ear as you tuck them in, "This was the best day ever, Mommy!" Those are the days that I feel more accomplished than any amount of housework getting completed.
The truth of the matter is, the minute we stop comparing ourselves to the rest of the world and actually give ourselves a fighting chance, we become open enough to see ourselves for who we really are as mothers. We need to evaluate ourselves fairly and weed out what's not working; give ourselves a fair amount of time to make the changes and transitions we need to; and most importantly, encourage each other and remind one another of the incredible things we are accomplishing every single day.
The next time you are asked what kind of mother you are, smile, hold your head up high, and confidently say, "I am Super Mom."
Long is a teacher, author, columnist, grad student, photographer and most importantly, wife and mother to three, soon to be four children under the age of 6.
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