Why this 'good mother' list makes me scream

Don't compare yourself.
Don't compare yourself. Photo: Shutterstock

I have to admit, I don't spend a lot of time sitting around wondering whether I'm a good mum. I'm too busy parenting – and working, and socialising, and generally having a pretty full and rich life, thank you very much. I'm a single mum of three beautiful children and I reckon I'm doing a bang-up job.

When ChannelMum.com published their super helpful list of "good mother attributes" I thought I'd see how I measure up. But one glance at the list, and I realised they'd made a mistake. They mixed up the word "mother" with "martyr". Oops!

It's an easy mistake to make. The words sound so similar. But there's an important difference: martyrs seek out suffering to prove themselves and mothers don't have to. Just because I'm a mum, doesn't mean I stop being a person in my own right.

Let's take a look at that list.

1. Being there when your child needs you 
I'm around a lot for my kids, but sometimes I'm not. Sometimes they're at their dad's place. Sometimes they're at school. Sometimes I'm busy at work. And sometimes – gasp! – I'm away doing something just for me. I recently travelled to Melbourne to run the marathon. That was just for me. I loved it. My children seem unaffected.

2. Wanting your child's happiness more than your own 
Why on earth does it have to be an either-or scenario? Do I have to suffer to prove my love? Let's all try being happy, shall we?

3. Coping with all the highs and lows of parenting 
Gosh, parenting has come with some wonderful highs in my house, and we've also gone through some serious lows. I cope the best I can. Sometimes I'm strong and impressive. Sometimes I curl up in the foetal position and have a good cry. Sometimes I even ask for help because I'm not coping all that great on my own and that's its own kind of good parenting.

4. Loving your child unconditionally
Of course I love my children unconditionally, but it doesn't take away from the fact that I think sometimes they can be absolute d*cks.

5. Being emotionally available for your child
Gosh, this is a tough one. One of my children has gone through some major stuff lately and parenting in that space has been emotionally exhausting. So most of the time I am emotionally available, but sometimes I've given all I have to give that day, and I need to retreat in order to recharge – for everyone's sake, including my own.

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6. Answering all their questions dozens of times.
If I tried to answer all my children's questions, I'd be dead from exhaustion. Curiosity is a wonderful thing, but so is learning how to find your own answers – and learning from people that aren't your mother.

7. Doing the drudgery of domestic chores like washing, cooking and cleaning out of love
Hahahahahahahaha. No. You know what I think good parenting is here? Teaching children how to pull their weight around the house. Also, as a working single mum, sometimes I pay someone else to come in and clean my house – because there are a thousand other things I'd rather be doing, and being on my knees with a toilet brush in hand does nothing to prove anything except that I need more fun in my life.

8. Going without so your child has what they need 
Again, why do we need to sacrifice in order to prove ourselves as parents? Like most families, our house is run on a budget and I spend money on the priorities we have on any given week. My children all have what they need, and so do I – because I too am a worthy member of this family.

9. Giving out hugs and kisses on cue 
On cue? What are my children supposed to do, snap their fingers? There are plenty of hugs and kisses in my house, but I am not a performing seal.

10. Being willing to scare monsters under the bed 
My kids have never even thought of monsters under their beds. I'm clearly failing them as a parent. Maybe I should bring it up…

11. Being up for a belly laugh – like putting music on and dancing with kids
I love putting music on and dancing with my kids, although it's never caused me to belly laugh. I must be doing it wrong.

12. Taking the time to look after the children when they are poorly 
Well duh. Of course I look after my kids when they're sick. Except for when their dad does it – because he's also a capable parent. And sometimes if we both have work commitments, my mother might step in to help. Isn't it wonderful to have a support network who also love your children?

13. Giving your time up for snuggles on the couch and bedtime stories 
I read my kids bedtime stories every night they're here with me. And their dad does it when they're with him too. Why am I "giving my time up" to do that? It's just something I do.

14. Being home to tuck everyone into bed at night 
Most of the time I am, but sometimes I'm not. I might be at a work function, or even out with friends just having fun because my life didn't stop when I became a parent. There is always a responsible adult present.

I'll come out and say it: that list of attributes is a load of bull, designed to make mothers feel guilty about all the things they aren't doing right. So please, don't measure yourself against that list.

I was going to offer an alternate list that involved loving your kids and doing your best, but even that is loaded with judgement. Every situation is different, and every family is different. So please, don't compare your life to some arbitrary list. Do what you can do, and ask for help when you need it.

And don't read crap online that is just there to make you feel bad.