Who else has felt like this? I’m over here, trying to be a good mama. But my children just keep getting in the way!
“I’d be a better mother if it weren’t for my children!”
Every single time I try to be a good parent, I end up frustrated and disappointed. There are all these plans and ideas, all these goals and visions. I have such beautiful hopes for our family. And then disaster strikes.
You know what I’m learning? There is a simple secret to this whole mommy thing. Here it is:
Stop trying to be a good mom.
The pressure is real. I think it’s especially for those of us with broken childhoods. We want to do things better. We need to do things better. To rewrite the story through our own parenting.
But the second I say “I’m going to be a good mother” all the focus is put on me. I’m immediately in a place of self absorption.
It becomes about my ideas of what a good mother looks like. My internal dialog rehearses what amazing parenting feats I’ll accomplish, and how amazing it will feel. I build up this internal story about me, the good mother. I find my identity in this! Ultimately my children end up becoming mere props to support this “good mother” story I tell myself.
But there’s a problem. My children aren’t inanimate props. They are living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings, just like me. When I try to be a good parent, I’m trying to fulfill my own needs, the need to see myself in this specific role. Unfortunately their needs often conflict with this!
And then comes the anger.
“I go out of my way to do something nice for her, and this is how she treats me in return!”
I’m complaining to my husband. I had just taken the kids for ice cream, a very unusual treat. I had imagined gratitude and adorable, gooey happy smiles while I watched lovingly. I imagined the good mom feelings flooding my heart. I imagined being the hero.
Instead, the 4-year-old is throwing a massive temper tantrum, because she wants the flavor her sister chose.
And I’m angry.
But really, why am I angry? Is it really about ice cream? Ingratitude? Discontentment?
I’m angry because she’s not playing her part! I had assigned her a role in my mind. A support role. A role that would help the star, ME, to shine. I’m angry because the story I told myself isn’t playing out. I’m angry because that reward I was looking forward to, the sweet happy family moment, full of self satisfaction at being a good parent, it’s not happening.
And it’s all her fault. She took it away from me.
Except it never existed in the first place! It was a fictional story. So really, I’m mad at her because she’s her own person, with her own needs, not a fantasy in my head.
It’s not about me
To really be a good mother, I need to take myself out of it.
I need to get out of my own head. Stop trying to write the story. Stop trying to write myself as the heroine. To really be a good mom, I need to stop trying to be at all, and instead try to do. Moment by moment.
Instead of trying to be a gentle, nurturing mother, just try to nurture my children where they are in every moment.
Instead of asking “How can I be a good mother?” ask “What do my children need from me?”
Instead of playing to the story in my head, follow my children’s cues and play the supporting role to their inner story.
What my children really need from me, is for me to lay down my pride. To set aside my expectations. To simply respond to them, in the here and now. And I can’t do that if I’m busy trying to be a good mother.