Is striving to be the good mother really what true mothering is?

Striving to be the good mother versus understanding true mothering

Is striving to be the good mother really what true mothering is?

Years ago, as a young mother I found the expectations of myself and others seemed to be endless. I didn’t want to be seen as a failure or a bad mother, so I kept on ‘mothering’ the way I, and many other women around me, had been taught, usually from birth.

It didn’t occur to us to question the ‘good mother’ norms of self-sacrifice and over-responsibility for our families – and our families willingly lapped it all up without a second thought! We accepted and comforted ourselves with the belief that this was ’just the way it is’ when we step into the world of motherhood.

If it was a job in the workforce, our key performance indicators could include:

  • devotion to others

  • large doses of mother guilt

  • lack of self-confidence

  • exhaustion

  • no time for self-care or self-nurturing

  • well masked feelings of entrapment and resentment

Sadly, most mothers would receive an ‘outstanding achievement’ award for their performance!

We all love to feel special, valued, cherished etc. and one of the chief ways women seek and deliver this is through living up to our perceptions of what ‘mothering’ is, from taking care of others to protecting them and making life as easy and comfortable for them as possible.

We devote an enormous amount of time and energy into ‘mothering’, in all its guises, in the belief that this is our role as women. Yet the stark reality is that

Most women are completely exhausted as they struggle with juggling all the demands they have on their plate as part of keeping up the good mother image.

As mothers, we do have our fleeting moments where everything appears to be working and is seemingly rolling along comfortably, but is it really that comfortable? Let’s face it – experience tells us that even if we have a seemingly ‘good’ day, things will soon revert to the old status quo. We are then back in the land of discomfort, except now with a new layer of mother guilt and shame and a feeling of needing to try harder to fit in with all the pictures of mothering we hold.

Mothers go around in circles, silently asking themselves:

‘Is this it?’
‘Is this what life amounts to?’
‘My life is crammed full, but it still feels empty …’
‘I love my child/ren, but why isn’t motherhood more fulfilling?’
‘What’s wrong with me?’

How many of us get to this point, thinking that there is something wrong with us for feeling this way or that trying harder is the answer, before we stop blaming ourselves and instead start questioning the set-up of mothering as we know it? When we are ready to delve into this subject a little deeper, a great starting place for exploring the alternative to traditional forms of motherhood comes through recognising what it is not.

"A revelation on parenting:

It will be our wisest move when we realise that we are to raise adults in little bodies until they are adults in big bodies.

The key, therefore, is to not allow the adult in the little body to grow up to be a child in a bigger body."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume II, ed 1, p 302

Perhaps the best medicine for the exhaustion and emptiness could be to simply start with examining the old accepted thoughts, beliefs and behaviours, including mother guilt. If we stop and think about it, why do mothers jump in and do things for others instead of supporting them to do what’s required for themselves? Why do mothers assume that others are incapable and therefore it’s their job as mothers to constantly find solutions and take care of any current or potential problems on behalf of others? Where is the honouring and respect in that way of living?

Making mothering about firstly caring for and nurturing ourselves as women and allowing others to take responsibility for themselves can be uncomfortable at first. It also shows us how comfortably entrenched and controlling we have been in our roles in the first place!

It obviously takes practice to see and change old behaviours and ways of thinking, but what’s on offer is feeling honoured, vital, light and joyful from the inside out. When women can develop this way of being, it provides inspiration for women everywhere to consider letting go of the comfort of old ways of ‘doing’ mothering.

As more and more women usher in a new era of self-nurturing and self-care, their self-confidence rises and slowly but surely the societal norms that define what makes the ‘good mother’ change.

When a woman knows to the bone that if everyone, children included, is supported to take equal care and responsibility for themselves and the family they are part of, the true meaning of mothering can be lovingly experienced by all as the evolution it truly is.

Filed under

MotherhoodParentingChildrenRaising children

  • By Helen Giles, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, MMH (Family Therapy), Post Grad Cert Family Therapy & Counselling, M. EPA Recognised

    I love that life is amazing with every relationship offering constant drops of pure gold, whether that be in my work as a perinatal counsellor or through friends, family and others I meet in everyday life.

  • Photography: Dean Whitling, Brisbane based photographer and film maker of 13 years.

    Dean shoots photos and videos for corporate portraits, architecture, products, events, marketing material, advertising & website content. Dean's philosophy - create photos and videos that have magic about them.