One thing we can count on is, most of us are our own toughest critics so the grade we give ourselves may not always be particularly “generous.” Whether we score high or low grades as The Good Mother certainly depends on life stages and caveats. It is based on the rule of “it depends.” It depends on how the kids develop, stuff we can control and can’t control; it depends on life’s curve balls. It depends on our own definitions of whether our kids have grown up “successfully.” Are they thoughtful, egotistical, selfish, do they have skills, are they kind, balanced and motivated? Are they passionate about something/anything? It’s certainly a subjective discussion.
One of my closest friends had a top-level high-powered job from day one of her kids’ births through their college years. She often wondered if she was being a Good Mom because of the time demands of her job. She had a tough time showing up at school stuff and wasn’t around after school. Today with both kids in their 20’s, she is relaxed and happy with her relationship with her kids and they love hanging out with her too– both kids have very independent lives. She feels like she must have done something right although it didn’t always feel like she was being The Good Mother.
Another friend of mine stopped working within the first year of her child being born and has not gone back to work. She says she loved the early years and totally enjoyed being present for school projects, play dates and sports games. She defined herself as The Good Mother in those formative years. As the kids went off to college, she started to feel some regrets. She was experiencing the big void – and so were her kids. The kids were always calling and having a hard time adjusting to being away. Perhaps if she had given them more space – maybe if she’d had a part-time job – in this later stage she didn’t feel much like The Good Mother.
No question that being The Good Mother of kids in their 20’s is different than the early years – much like the difference between high school and college. In order to determine The Good Mother GPA, we need to break down the timeline of mothering into three stages.
I. Early Stage Mothering: Newborn to Kindergarten.
A+. I loved these early years. I loved being a Mom to a newborn up until they went off to their first day of school.
B+. I felt pulled in too many directions, it was hard for me to focus on being a Mom. I had work, sleep issues and I wasn’t totally on my game.
C. I couldn’t wait for them to start school.
II. Middle Stage Mothering: Until They Leave the Nest (up until age 18):
A+. I was a great Mom up through high school. I got involved just enough and enjoyed this entire time period.
B+. I was anxious for my kids and concerned about how they would do – it was a challenging time and I could have done some stuff better.
C. I’ve had it. This was the most stressful time ever and I believe once they leave it will be better for us all.
III. Later Stage Mothering: College through their Early Careers (22 through marriage):
A+. I love having an adult relationship with my kids. I feel connected and we both appreciate what we have to offer one another.
B+. I am constantly worried about my child and feel that I am not able to help them weather the ups and downs of jobs, relationships and disappointments. I am not sure I’m doing such a great job.
C. I am secretly hoping I won’t have to field any more calls and that they will just figure it out – or get married so I don’t have to be on the front line anymore.
IV. Latest Stage: (I can’t comment on this so will have to leave this out of the equation).
V. Curve Balls and Caveats. Everyone’s got them at every stage. If you’ve had a big curve ball, i.e. divorce, yours or your child’s health issues, loss, financial and/or work crises etc. – The question is how do you grade yourself as a Mother during that crisis.
A+. I was the best mom I could be, given the circumstances.
B+ I could have done better.
C. I would like a redo.
Well, how did you do? What grade do you give yourself this Mother’s Day? Would you dare discuss your GPA with your kids? It certainly could be a lively dinner table topic.
No matter how tough you are on yourself, chances are at some point along the mothering spectrum you have in fact gotten an A+ as The Good Mother.
Happy Mother’s Day — enjoy it as it is your day to be kind to yourself. Walk tall knowing you have done your best when you could. From one mom to another, wishing you a Happy Mothers Day.