Last week I attended a conference on Motherhood, Activism, Advocacy and Agency in Toronto, Canada. One of the recurring themes was the image of the “good mother” and the consequences when regular mothers do not live up to that model. Mothers end up being criticized by society for not living up to the mainstream ideal. They also frequently internalize critique and end up feeling guilty or depressed because they cannot be the type of mother society expects them to be.
One of the speakers, Amber Kinser (also known as Dr. Mama), talked about forgiveness. She talked about the need for us to forgive our own mothers, to forgive our children and to forgive ourselves. For example, she asked:
Can we forgive our mothers for not being omnipotent? Can we see imperfect children (including ourselves) and not blame the mother? If we could forgive our mothers for not being perfect would that make it easier to forgive ourselves? Can we forgive our children for coming into our lives at the wrong time? For being too needy? For not being needy enough? Can we forgive them for remembering things differently than we do (especially if that paints us in a bad light)? Can we forgive our children for having a better life than we did and not appreciating it? Can we forgive our children for not being all the things we wanted to be but weren’t or can we forgive them for being the things we wanted to be when we couldn’t? Can we forgive ourselves for all of our imperfections, poor choices, failures and inadequacies?
Those are all important questions and considering them carefully can bring us closer to being more accepting of our own mothering skills.
But there is one question she asked that stuck with me and that I try to remember on the days when things are going well and the days when they aren’t going as well . She asked:
Are you too invested in mothering highs (supermom moments)? Does that set you up for disappointment in other moments?
What do you think? In your quest to be the best parent that you can be while also being realistic about the fact that you are not a perfect parent, do you calmly swim with the ebb and flow and good and not so good parenting moments? Or do you seek out those supermom moments everyday and beat yourself up for being a bad mom when you cannot live up to that? If it is the latter, what do you think you can do to turn it in the former?