When I was training to become a therapist, I knew that I did not want to work with children. I had a heart for the elderly and hurting adults, but I was afraid to work with children because I knew they would break my heart; I knew I would shed tears and perhaps not be effective. However, during my early clinical years, I started working with several younger children which led me to work with all children from four years old to seventeen. I found myself starting to call them, ‘my kids’ instead of ‘my clients’. I developed a sense of profound protection and responsibility when working with a child. I tell all of my kids that I work for them, that I was hired to help them and to protect them; but beyond that, I care about them. All of my kids know that.
What I did not anticipate was how much I was going to care about and want to protect ‘my moms’. I found myself understanding that mothers face daily fears and pressures from others. I have worked with mothers in pain, in fear, and in loss regarding their children. Quickly I realized that I wanted to protect my moms as much as I wanted to protect my kids.
The truth is that all of my mothers, at some point, have feared that they are a ‘bad’ mother. I have watched countless women silently question if they are in fact a ‘good’ mother; wondering if they did the right thing, if they messed up their child, or if they have cause irreversible harm. The judging and shaming of mothers is overwhelming; the house was not clean, the food was not fancy, the vacations and gifts not extravagant enough….the neighbor or church member gave a look, the father blamed, the grandparents questioned, and the children acted out. All of these reasons and more are ways that my moms feel and fear that they are not good enough, that they didn’t make the cut, and ultimately fearing that they have failed their child.
When I see this in my moms, I ask them two things:
- Do you love your child?
- Do you strive to keep your child safe?
Thankfully, most all of my mothers answer yes, allowing me the honor of telling them, “If you love your child and you work to keep your child safe, you are a GOOD mother”.
Now, I am not saying you always ‘like’ your child, honestly there are times your children drive me nuts too! And one sentence from a therapist may not change the way a mother views herself, but with reassurance and support, I have witnessed the fears dissipate and the weight come off of their shoulders. You are not a bad mother if your house is a wreck, dinner was pizza, or your vacation was movie night instead of Disney Land. You are not a bad mother if the woman in the pew across from you rolls her eyes, your partner blames you for a child’s mistake, or if the relatives ‘think you should parent this way’.
Yes, we can always improve and yes we maybe should not have done or said certain things, yes we can reach out to a professional for help and guidance, yes we can take classes and improve ourselves. But at the end of the day you are a good mother if you love your child and do what you can to keep them safe. If you do these two things, congratulations, case closed, end of discussion, you are a GOOD mother.