I’m Not a Great Mother

I am at the point in motherhood where, when people talk about being a great mother or even a good mother, I no longer feel like I qualify.  I’m bad at setting strict bedtimes or following schedules and I probably don’t Purell my hands enough. I sometimes let my older son wear a T shirt he loves and then sleep in it and then (sorry, I know this is terrible) wear it the next day.  I don’t have a calming, maternal singing voice and don’t know many lullabies so often I’ll ease my newborn son’s anxiety by whistling or humming or singing The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats.  I have no idea what the most effective way is to discipline a child and every time I do it I am positive I am doing it wrong.

So when people bring up the idea of being a good mom I admit that, by many people’s standards, I am probably not one.  Which is a little depressing to say.  I am not even sure how to become a good mom.  BUT, I tell people—if you’d like to focus on the positive for a moment– I am a great dad.


All the things a great dad would do with his son are things I do!  I put my son in a blanket and then spin the blanket around like a centrifuge because he totally loves when I do that, even though there is a chance he could get hurt.  I encourage his fascination with slugs.  I happily let him fill his pockets with rocks and bring them home, even though it means our hardwood floors are constantly being eroded by gravel.  Sometimes we sword fight each other using those long, wooden paint-stirring sticks Home Depot keeps giving us.

I don’t cook much since it seems crazy to spend so much time cooking when we could be doing other things? But I eat dinner with him all the time, even if sometimes it is only kidney beans out of a can, and I taught him the “Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit” song, which he enthusiastically sings to anyone who will listen and often to many people who won’t.  Occasionally I will lovingly get him dressed in outfits that do not match or possibly have stains on them, and the other day I bought a Sound Effects machine for him, which makes sixteen fun noises—among them a cash register going “Cha-ching,” a lady doing a horror movie scream, and a person farting.  There is a tiny part of me that feels like I should be buying him science toys or teaching him how to add or read but there is a much larger part of me that always wanted a sound effects machine for myself and is so excited that now the two of us can enjoy this together.  *FART NOISE* *WOMAN SCREAMING* *CHA-CHING!*

My favorite part of being a good dad is that I am allowed to make mistakes, which is fantastic because I make mistakes all the time.

I am not positive what it means to be a good mother.  I am always self-conscious when other people watch my mothering because mothers are expected to have some sort of instinct which I am not certain I have.  When I hold my newborn in my arms I feel less like an iconic image of a mother cradling her child and more like Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby.

I do wonder, sometimes, whether whatever worry or maternal concern he is supposed to get from me he will grow up without and it will leave him lacking somehow.  And no sooner do I worry about that than my husband arrives home, nervous about the fact that I am spinning our son around in a blanket because “am I sure that’s safe?” and asking if it’s ok that that baby is propped up on the Boppy pillow like that because “couldn’t he slide down and maybe suffocate?”  And I tell him “It’s fine—I’m being careful with both of them, you don’t need to worry about stuff like this,” but then think better of it and thank him for being cautious.  Sometimes I think of my husband as too nervous or overly concerned about everything, but in the long run, that’s what makes him a wonderful mother.

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Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed the post, my book Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming is a fantastic gift for anyone you know having a baby and can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound.  It can be also be purchased at a “bookstore,” which is a type of store where you walk into it and they sell you books.  You can also buy it for yourself if you are having a baby.  You can also buy it for yourself if you are NOT having a baby.  You’re limited only by your imagination here, people.

You can also follow me (if you are so inclined) on Facebook and, as my husband continually calls it, “Tweeter.”

And thanks again for reading.  *FART NOISE*

27 CommentsComment


    Seriously, this is our family, exactly. I refer to my husband as “the safety parent” (he does not appreciate this). He is the one who has daily reports on the new things our son can climb on, conveyed in a concerned tone, while secretly I am internally fist-pumping and thinking, “Way to go, buddy. You show that credenza who’s boss.”

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    Laura Grace Carroll

    I assure you, by the sheer amount of quality time you spend with your sons, you are a great mother!!

  3. This is hilarious! Sounds like we have pretty similar parenting styles. My daughters are wild and unpredictable so I have to roll with the flow to keep my sanity, which means we do things differently than a lot of families. But we have fun and love one another– what more could you ask for?

  4. Oh, thanks a lot for this post. Can’t think of anything else to add. This is so totally us!

  5. Honestly, I have never read such utter self centred drivel in all my life….’l’m not a good mum because I don’t know how to discipline…’ you utter wanker

  6. Yes! So much yes to this! You seriously got into my brain, stole my thoughts and typed them out! And our husbands sound very similar too!

    I try not to care what anyone thinks because my kids think I am a great mom and that is all that matters! At least my youngest does because he is always telling me I’m the best!

  7. Absolute sheer brilliance.

  8. Thanks for this. I have a four year old and a one year old. At this point, I have no idea what it means to be a “good mother.” Everyone seems to have a different idea, but mostly its supposed to be, as you wrote, something innate and constant and perfect. Nobody is that, which is liberating to realize. I think we bring who we are to parenting and, just like the rest of life, we’re going to make mistakes and be human…and that’s good, because we’re trying to model being a human being:) As I develop as a parent, I realize that there is no one way to be a good parent. And that’s more than okay.

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    This is so perfect. My husband is a fantastic mother, as well, and I’m thankful for that every day! I have an aversion to vomit that borders on phobic. I was told informed that part of being a mother was suddenly being totally cool with things like that and, well, nope. If that’s a test of good mothering, I failed, and I failed early. During the summer, my husband is the one saying “We really should get home so we can get her to bed” and I’m watching her happily watching her run around the playground informing him that there’s still another hour of daylight and she and I have nowhere to be in the morning (working in education does have some perks), so let’s let her play a little longer. Naps are often missed during the weekend because there are just more fun things to do. I let her eat mac and cheese too many days in a row and watch too much tv.

    So most days I’m pretty sure I’m a crappy mom, but I never thought of myself as a great dad! Thanks for giving me a way of re-framing my world view and giving me back some self-esteem! Rock on, awesome female dads and their wonderfully nurturing partners.

  10. i was such a freak with my first daughter; spending hours pureeing organic home made baby food & making sure everything was baby proofed…until i realized my husband was giving her unlimited popsicles, candy & letting her ride in the front seat with him for short trips. on her first birthday, i said YAY SHE SURVIVED! Still I remember feeling like a horrible mother because I gave her a packet of pop rocks at 730 in the morning because she found her way out of the carseat, while driving on the freeway to go to the sitter. the pop rocks kept her seated!
    she will be 4 in january; my 9 month old daughter is reaping the benefits of a more laid back mommy… and while my mother in law does not think it is a good idea for the 3 year old to have a big wooden sword (and know how to use it!) or to practice her roundhouse kicks/ninja moves – I know in my heart that these things may help keep her safe one day…even if it makes me a “bad mom”.
    so here is to all the bad mom’s out there – do it your way!

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