Intentional parenting

“If you’re worrying about it, then that means you’re a good mum” isn’t always true

I’ve spoken a lot with other mums about mum-guilt, particularly in the early days of motherhood. It seems that there isn’t a single facet of a mother’s life that isn’t touched by it.

We worry about spending too much time on our screens while our child is awake. We worry that we’re spending too much time doing housework at the expense of playing with our child. We worry that practising self-care is a selfish act. We worry that we’re hindering our child’s social and intellectual development if we don’t have them in some kind of care by a certain age. The list is literally endless!

When a mum has voiced worry about an aspect of her behaviour, you might’ve heard someone say to her “if you’re worrying about it, then that means you’re a good mum.” Perhaps you’ve said it yourself? It’s overwhelmingly the most common response I’ve heard, received and have, at times, given. 

The response is no doubt a well-intentioned one, given in the hope of making a mum feel better. But mums, we have to get real, and accept that it’s a statement that’s not always true!

First of all, it’s a general statement that lacks specific (and important) context. It ignores the fact that it takes more than one thought to be a ‘good’ parent. Expressing worry about one thing, or even a few things, does not make you a ‘good’ parent in and of itself. The kind of parent you are is the sum of a whole range of things which includes your thoughts, but then extends to your actions and the forces driving them.

Secondly, it fails to acknowledge how crucial it is for thought to be backed up by action.  If you’re genuinely worried about a regular behavioural pattern, but do nothing to change it, then what purpose is that worry serving? If your behaviour is in fact damaging in some way, it only becomes less damaging once you act on your intention to change it. 

Thirdly, it doesn’t recognise that how we each define a ‘good’ mum is a very personal thing. The term ‘good’ is intrinsically linked with our personal values, ethics and morals (which vary widely!). Of course, there are general things we can all agree on that makes a parent a ‘good’ one, but if someone tells you that you are a ‘good’ mum, it doesn’t make it so. Only you can make such a determination in regards to your own life and family. By the same token, you’re the only one that has to deal with the consequences of your thoughts and actions 24 hours a day.

Fourthly, it doesn’t communicate to mums that different comments should carry different weights, depending on who the comment is coming from. It doesn’t really make sense to equate the opinion of a fellow mum you’ve literally just met at mother’s group with the opinion of a family member, friend or health professional who you know and trust.

There are things I’ve expressed worry about and I’ve been told that I’m a good mum just for worrying. Many times, the comment has made me feel better, but in hindsight, I can see that it’s because these worries were trivial ones that didn’t actually have an impact on the way I view myself as a mother as a whole.

There are other times where the statement hasn’t been true. Whether I’ve realised it at the time or in hindsight, there are behaviours of mine that haven’t/don’t fit within the realm of the ‘good’ mothering construct I’ve built for myself (and myself only). And you know what? I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with that because instead of letting it fuel negative and defeatist thoughts about myself, I use the experiences to fuel personal growth and an abundance mindset in my roles as a mother and wife.

Motherhood is a process. It requires us to constantly reassess our values, form our expectations and negotiate our boundaries. It forces us to see the worst parts of ourselves but also gives us the opportunity to harness our aptitude for love, success, and growth.

Worrying about things doesn’t make you good mum in the same way that not worrying about things doesn’t make you a bad one. Having other people tell you that you’re a good mum certainly doesn’t make you one (even though it’s always lovely to hear!). As a mum, you need be honest with yourself, your partner and your child about what being a ‘good’ mum looks like to you. It’s about being open to change and willing to take action when your mothering as it is doesn’t align with how you want it to be.

Enjoy the week ahead – may it bring you all things good!

Beth x

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