I'm not a Good Mother - just some thoughts

Discussion in 'General Parenting Archives' started by Fran, Aug 17, 2004.

  1. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    I am not a Good Mother.

    I recently had a conversation with a friend, who seemed a bit startled at her buddy (out of state) who has gotten much looser with her language and thinking. She wasn’t keeping the image of the “good mother”. This friend has gone through 2 bouts of a terminal disease with her teenage son. Right now, the teen is holding his own and surviving. I understood completely that this “good mother” threw away the role to be the parent her children needed.
    As we raise our daughters and as we ourselves grow up, we almost all want to hold the position of the good mother. Somehow, visions of constant acceptance, love and patience are daily occurrences regardless of the troubles that a “good mother” may have to live with or cover up. We are gracious under the burden of motherhood and all the normal mothering symptoms. It is a position of reverence that stands for the ultimate goodness. It is the high point of our womanhood. It is also a role. It carries its own perks and awe inspiring respect. We think that the outside persona is the meat of the role. We aspire to be the best of the best.

    In the heat of the battle of trying to raise a challenging child, you realize that the perfect choc chip cookies, ironed clothes, and perfectly balanced meals haven't insulated your family from the ugly stuff that shouldn't happen to a "good mother." Even membership in the PTA can’t protect our kids! All the good mother techniques fail to help your raging, obscene-talking, risk-taking, drug-taking, school-flunking child. You beat yourself up wondering why you aren’t being a good enough mother. You are perplexed and even desperate to find out why they are not doing the things that kids who have good mothers should be doing. It must be your fault that your daughter is out of control and disrespectful or that your son is being picked up by the police or is hanging with scary people. Being a good mother doesn’t transfer into having healthy, happy functioning adult children. Their behavior must be a reflection of your bad mothering. There is defensiveness and anger and confusion. How can this be? How had I failed at the job of being the good mother? You fight the child, you fight the behavior, and you become almost sanctimonious in your own defense. It’s not “my” fault. I was the good mother. Look at all that I have done for Sally/Johnnie. I baked cookies, for goodness sakes! It is his fault because he is incorrigible. He/she won’t listen. It’s the ex’s fault. It’s the school’s fault. It still doesn’t save your child or your family from the pain.
    You are finally on your knees trying to find a different way or route to help your child. You see the writing on the wall. You will lose your child to his disorder, to his mental illness, to his self destructive ways. It hits you then. You have turned the corner. You aren’t looking for ways to be the “good mother” anymore. You are looking for ways to help your child. You are looking for a way to give your child what he needs.
    It has turned from being about you and the job/role you are trying to fulfill to being about what your child needs. The emphasis becomes child-centered as opposed to egocentric.
    If your child is suffering from some error on your part, you step up and correct it. You have to do the right thing if you are negligent, but, you stop taking his behavior to be a reflection of your good/bad mothering and see it for what it is, a byproduct of their own thinking, their own disorder, and their own lack of self control. You don’t “own” the behavior; you just want to parent your child to be a good and decent person. You no longer care what others think of your mothering role. You are focused on saving your child.

    The role of being a good mother is just a framework. It gets us started towards the ultimate goal of being a good parent to your own children. It is where we start when we plan our parenting future. We have to progress to a deeper level. Looking at the needs of the child as having priority over me living up to a role makes all the difference in the world. This is when I really understood what being a parent meant. It is a relief to not have to live up to standards that aren’t really relevant to helping make my kids better adults. I don’t even have to join the PTA and I can still be a good parent to my children!
    Looking at what my son needed from me in terms of guidance, research, boundaries, standards, morals went a long way towards getting me out of the mindset of being the June Cleaver type good mother. He didn’t need mom to have a perfect house or homemade bread. He needed someone who could intervene to prevent him from making a bad choice or someone who could hold the line when he was pushing boundaries. He needed nurturing on his terms. He needed to know that there is someone who won’t give up, when he was ready to take the next step. He needed us to provide stability in our parenting.
    It’s a little more frightening to think outside of the box but it is more effective and allows me to respond to both of my sons’ needs. You face a bit of suspicion.
    They aren’t getting home cooked meals every night or even 4 nights a week. I am not making their extracurricular activities, my extracurricular activities. I am not living their lives for either of them but I’m here, solid as a rock when they need to be parented. My world won’t collapse on itself when my children have gone from home. I chose to not make the children the center of the house but to make the family the center of the home. I hope to see that they are living a life without dependency on me (or husband). It is always a hope that they seek counsel and wisdom from their parents but they shouldn’t need me.
    I would imagine every household has a different view on parenting. I just thought I would share my thoughts on tossing the “good mother” out so I can replace it with the ongoing improvement in my parenting for my children.
    Raising children especially challenging one requires a great deal of self sacrifice. It’s good to have a reality check to make sure why you are sacrificing and who it is serving.

    Just a thought…..
     
  2. Coookie

    Coookie Active Member

    Fran,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. As you know, that is where I was, until saving my difficult child became more important than what kind of a mother people thought I was.

    Changing has not been an easy process but when I realized that for me, his wearing his baggy, saggy pants with chains holding his wallet, his hair down to almost his shoulders and his choice of music (sometimes) was less important than our maintaining a relationship that allowed him to come to us and talk openly about the things that will really make a difference when he leaves, when realizing this and acting on it, our home life has changed considerably for the better.

    I still occasionally struggle with appearances, and isn't that really what it is? Appearances. Not nearly as often though. It is becoming less and less important what others think about my parenting skills as long as I know what my goals are for my difficult child, which are the goals that you stated. Thanks to the people here I have become a warrior mom.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It touched my heart and I will print it out. /importthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif
     
  3. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Robby, I think we all get there at different times but once we do, there is a real relief because we aren't holding on so tight to some imagined role.
    It helps to know that you aren't alone when you switch gears.
    I still struggle with my difficult child lack of ummmm standard of hygiene but it isn't out of control and he usually gets around to it at some point. :eek:
     
  4. missmel3315

    missmel3315 Active Member

    Wow Fran your post really hits home. While I am not as eloquent as you are with writing but I must say your words give me pause. With all the trials and tribulations I have been through as of the past six months with my oldest son I realized I have to relinquish some of the control and let others in as they know a bit more than I do. Letting go of control is my term of being "the good mother" I have always felt that I have to control EVERYTHING within my house and home. Be it the kids personally, to getting school supplies as husband can't do it correctly to whatever. You name it and I have to control it as if it goes wrong then I feel it is a direct reflection on me and my ability to be a "good mother". I think it is also in part due to the fact that I became a mother at such a young age and everyone said I would never be a good mother at 17. If people were to ever even hint that I was not being a good mother then watch out cuz that set me a fire.

    So with that said I commend you on your ability to so beautifully put down these thoughts to words. Your ability to be so insightful amazes me yet again.

    HUGS
     
  5. Did-I

    Did-I Worn out warrior

    Ditto what Mel said!

    Your words truly do make one step back and think. God knows I was never the June Cleaver type either. The one thing I will always regret in raising my children is not spending enough "quality time" with them. Would that have changed things, though? I'll never know. I wish I had a dime for every time I sat back and wondered where I went wrong. Eventually I learned to pull away from blaming myself.

    Am I a good mother? I guess that's always left to ones own opinion - including mine, and right now, I don't have an answer for myself. One day........

    Thanks for the enlightenment, Fran. /importthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif
     
  6. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thanks for the great words of wisdom. They really ring true.
    Sharon
     
  7. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    Thanks for sharing Fran. You always seem to speak what if heaviest on my heart.
     
  8. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    Fran, I appreciate the thoughts. I have never felt I was a bad mother; I have felt like an overwhelmed mother because the love I have for my children is simply not enough. No love in the world is strong enough to replace what many of our difficult children need. If it was our difficult children would be easy child's.

    Linda
     
  9. Fleurdaisy

    Fleurdaisy New Member

    Fran:

    Very eloquently put and thought provoking. What you described is, to me, what makes us not lesser beings, but more evolved beings. Personal growth and the ability to adapt is what makes a survivor. But not just a survivor...we grow in the process. We solve problems other people will never have to deal with. We overcome challenges that aren't even a blip on the radar screen of the average person. We live life on the edge whether we want to or not and therefore enjoy and endure the benefits and the heartbreak of being stretched beyond our limits.

    After living through the worst of my daughter's illness (worst so far anyway) and now enjoying this very extended stability, I came to realize how much I had gained from the experience. I'm a far better person for having survived it. I hope eventually all of us can see what we have accomplished and be proud of the fact that we are NOT the lesser Moms, we are not just the survivors of a difficult situation, we are the very best of the best. I always say I am not the traditional "Mom" type but the truth of it is, if I had tried to hold on to that role that I so much wanted to be, the heartbreak would have destroyed me. Being forced outside of traditional norms helped me make some much needed changes that have served me well.

    I don't miss my June Cleaver wannabe days. They were short-lived and I'm not sure where I put my pearls amyway. But I also don't want to re-visit to the school of hard knocks. If I do, at least I know what to do and the fear of it doesn't ruin my life. For one of the worlds former biggest worriers, that saying a lot.

    Thanks Fran, for all your help over the years. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

    Take care,

    Fleurdaisy
     
  10. Love my sons

    Love my sons Active Member

    Thank you Fran,
    I have many of the same feelings that Mel had in raising her children.

    I suppose it was meant to be, but the "good mother" almost killed me. There is still a part of that image that I naturally cling to...but my children know and my husband knows...LOL, and even my bible study "knows" I can't be her...I won't be her anymore. Actually told the ladies one night in tears..."I can't be the kind of christian lady that you all may be used to."
    They just smiled and said, "I hope not."

    The woman I used to be was very mean to me if you know what I mean.

    WE are not our children...and they shouldn't have to live for us (or die trying), either.

    Hugs,
    Thank you for your eloquence and thought provoking post.
    LMS
     
  11. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Whew! I was afraid that this would not be received as I meant it. I really appreciate your supportive responses,everyone.

    "What you described is, to me, what makes us not lesser beings, but more evolved beings. Personal growth and the ability to adapt is what makes a survivor. But not just a survivor...we grow in the process. We solve problems other people will never have to deal with. We overcome challenges that aren't even a blip on the radar screen of the average person. We live life on the edge whether we want to or not and therefore enjoy and endure the benefits and the heartbreak of being stretched beyond our limits."
    Fleurdaisy, you are right. This isn't a matter of being right or wrong but evolving and looking at the needs of our kids. Trying to let go of what is useless or choking us and looking at who is served by our being the good mother.

    Did I, there is no doubt that the rest of our lives we will look back and wonder what we could have done differently or better or not at all. I try to remember the good stuff. I never forget the stumbles I made.

    LMS and mel, I must admit that you were one of those who passed through my head when I was writing this. Maybe because I see you both as struggling or suffering some of what I wrote about.

    sharon and kat, I am gratified that it caused you to pause and take stock. It can only help you see yourself in a different light.

    Timer, gosh I hope you don't take "that anyone is a bad mother" from this little reflection. It isn't at all what I am saying. I guess I was just asking myself to pause and reflect the why of what we do and who does it serve. This is also my thoughts about my particular experience.
    Love will never be enough to fix my son, ever. Like Fleurdaisy, my son has had several years of stability which has allowed me a moment to breathe.

    Thank you for just reading it and keeping an open mind. No one ever told me that I didn't have to be "the good mother". It wasn't until I saw what damage I was doing by not looking at what my son needed, that I was forced to change. I hope that by sharing, I will find others who have had this same sort of revelation and will help someone who hasn't realized that this is a possibility. I think the younger your kids are the harder it is to have the time to really hammer out who you are and how you will handle the unusual.

    Frankly, I don't miss my pearls or the role. I don't have to keep up with neighbors or classmates. We are so out of the loop that what the Good mother is doing it isn't even registering. I'm sure that some of the classmates parents(easy child's) think I am not very ummmmmm approachable. I probably am not. It works for me. I know the teachers and the folks that are important
    There is a freedom to reinvent how I want to parent my sons. It has been unconventional in some ways, but we have been firm, loving and nurturing with the unconventional.

    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.
     
  12. missmel3315

    missmel3315 Active Member

    Fran I must admit that I was shocked you thought of me. With so many others on this site I am flattered. :laugh: You are right though with what you wrote. But not the part on me being upset about it. It just reinforces the things I am working on which as I said is a control thing with me. I have never quite "fit" in with the supermoms. Especially when I lived in Houston where I actually saw a mom tending to her lawn with black slacks, a white sweater and pearls! I was never one who took her kids to swim team, or was asked to join the women's club. Needless to say I was happy the day we moved. I have never been one to keep a spottless house nor been what I deem a "yuppie parent". husband is one who is tho. LOL I would hedge a bet that you and I grew up pretty much the in the same way being as we both come from the same cultural backgrounds. I grew up with a family who yelled not always out of anger but that was just the Italian way. We could fight with one another but don't let anyone mess with any of us or there would be hell to pay.LOL But I digress....Your words were so meaningful to me that it just reinforces what I have been trying to accomplish for years but even more so as of late.

    With all I am facing with my oldest son probably the biggest fear I have is the future. I have to come to grips with the fact that despite all of my efforts to help my son it is ultimately up to him. All I can do is give him the tools and pray that he gets the help that he needs so desperately. Reading many of the posts both good and bad give me the reality check I need. It shows me that there is hope but there are some kids that continue to be lost despite all efforts on our parts. It also shows me that despite what our kids do we can still love them and fight for them no matter how old they get.

    So don't worry about me being offended at all. Your ability to write what you did today was more help than you will ever know.

    Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.

    HUGS
     
  13. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Excellent insight. Hope you archive it.
     
  14. Lori4ever

    Lori4ever New Member

    Fran,
    Thank you for posting that! I have been ready to give up on dealings with young difficult child. I went through he&& with my oldest but with youngest it's already been 5 years with 4 more to go. My first court visit with him was at age 9 and that was the start of a lot of heartache. I tried so hard but there are so many judgemental people around and it's a hard enough struggle by itself! This gives me more to think about but I think it's something I needed to read! Please archive this, if possible!!
     
  15. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I guess the typical "good mother" role is one I had my own ideas about. it was never about the house, though food cooked from scratch is a large part of my life.

    I always saw my job as a mom is raising productive members of society. Not making the house clean or the kids happy. I never wanted to be their friend or even playmate, though I love playing with them. My job is to help them understand values and morals that will help them to shape their world to fit with the rest of the world.

    But, in my view I was in control. I was responsible for fixing things. I ahve come to know, and your post affirmed, that by controlling everything I was NOT teaching my children what I wanted them to know. I was teaching them that I know everything.

    I am working hard to let go and let God. And my kids. I think it is high time I gave up my image of a mother and just was me.

    Thanks for expressing this so eloquently.

    Susie

    ps. I told my husband B4 we married that I was marrying him, not a house. My title is "Domestic Goddess" but I don't ever want a squeeky clean house. NOT EVER!!! Too much work, not enough books in it! LOL!
     
  16. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    OK - this is one for me for sure Fran! How you got my wheels a'turning!!

    I had a stillborn son when I was 19. 18 months later my little difficult child was born. I PROMISED myself that I would be the 'best mom in the world' - ever. Oh yeah and a single mom as well. So, I put my everything into my child. She was such a happy baby. So smart, she loved to learn. We did ALOT of things together. I was the 'cool mom' while she was growing up. All the friends (that she kept around) wanted to be at our house and do fun things with me. We took weekend trips to amusement parks, went to tons of movies, live shows at the arena, beaches and parks, playgrounds and even picnics in the backyard. I was always willing to bring along one of her friends - it was not like she went off with them - they wanted to be with me, I was fun!

    So, looking back....... I was too cool and too fun. Sure, several kids have great memories because of me, but what did that do to my own kid? I suspect she sensed that her friends liked me more. I know she decided that going to other friends houses was better - you know different and better toys. I think it was to get away from mom. Do not get me wrong - she LOVED me bunches. Worried when she was not with me. Would call from friends houses to see what I was doing.

    When she got older she did not know how to pull away from me without hurting me. I think she resorted to just defying me thinking that was the only way she would ever got out from the bond (unhealthy love?) we had. Two years of her pushing me away - mom gets a boyfriend - guess what, difficult child wants back in with mom.

    I suspect my daughter and I were too close. We had each other. That was all we needed or wanted. I know people were envious of the times we had together. It was awesome!
    Did I love her too much - I think so. It may work out just fine and loving too much may be just what she needed. She may be able to look back one day and say that is what held her together for her teen years - who knows.

    Right now difficult child is learning to live her life without mom. That also means she is learning to live her life with her dad. Both are important things for her to experience. Do not get me wrong - I see her just about everyday!

    We both lost out on an individual identity. I was Jen's mom and she was Wendy's daughter. That was all we needed to be. Not now.

    I am a good mom, I always will be. It may not seem it to difficult child right now, but it is true.

    Thanks Fran for getting me to think this through. While at work no less!! I should not even be here!!!
     
  17. Lizanne

    Lizanne Member

    Wow, I have had great personal issues with the good mother concept. My own Mom was a 'good mother' but suffered some in the plain old mom category.

    I need to completely throw out the good mother role as I never seemed to measure up. I am about the most self critical person anyone knows, they all say. So, I just had to change the benchmark.


    Now I want to be the right mom! I may not meet someone else's standards but I am the right mom for difficult child. I am the right mom for easy child. When I am faltering at the mom gig, I don't look to the 'good mom' list for the next thing to do. I think----- the 'right' mom for difficult child would have the things he needs....and in difficult child's case it has little to do with main stream ideas.

    A neighbor has a physically disabled child. She is so the right mom for her child. I am almost afraid of all the physical assistance she has to provide for this child. I would not be the right mom.


    With the help of everyone here, I am truly becoming the 'right' mom for my family!

    Thanks Fran for giving me a chance to think about this and hear what everyone has to say. I have some decisions coming up that willneed a much stronger good mom.


    LIZ
     
  18. Genny

    Genny Worlds Best Nana

    Fran, this needs to go in the archives. So many new members struggle with being a "good parent". Us old warriors :wink: know that that term is whatever you and your children need it to be. It's one of the many things that makes our family here so wonderful...we understand things that pp's with easy child's do not about the role of a parent.

    Your post made me think of a conversation I had with husband the other day. When I reminded him that my company picnic is this Saturday he said, "would it be okay if difficult child and the baby go with us?" I said, "Of course! I already told her about it and signed up for three adults!" He was worried that I might be uncomfortable bringing them. Silly man! I told him, "This is my life. If other peole have a problem with it, that's their problem."

    I realized that I don't feel the least bit ashamed or self conscious about our 18-yo having a baby (a mixed race baby, no less - oh horrors :wink: !). In fact, I'm quite proud! And so is anyone who knows us and what we've been through as a family over the past 6 years. I'm proud beyond words that difficult child is willing to go to a public event with us, interact with us with respect and humor, and be truly thankful for the chance to get out of the house and have a free meal! To my husband and I, that proves we're good parents.

    Kudos for a well written and thought provoking post, Fran :laugh: !

    HUGS
    Genny
     
  19. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Wend, I really understand that you have been a good mom to your difficult child.
    All of us have been and continue to do the right thing.
    What I wanted to point out is that sometimes we do what we think a good mom would do because it is about us and not about what is in the best interest of the child.

    Easy ex) Signed difficult child for basketball at the Y. It's what all the mom's did. My difficult child was miserable and lost. He didn't object. He tried really hard to understand what to do. He knew it was supposed to be fun and the other kids were doing it. It wasn't until I saw his face and how hard this was that I realized I was doing what a "good Mother" should do and not what my son needed.
    The person it served was me and not him. Magnify this a 1000 times on the issues that are important and you will see how it can become a catch 22.

    When the time came to realize that everything we were doing wasn't working. We were failing, it was a panic for me. I wasn't fixing him. How could I admit to psychiatrists, locked hospital wards, psychotropic drugs, failing school(nice way of putting it)? How could the good mother consider what I was considering? It was such a battle of wills in my head that I can remember vividly talking to myself about what my job/responsibility was to my children. What I wanted the scenario to be and what the reality was going to be. What I was doing wasn't working. I had to prepare that my son may live on the streets regardless of all the interventions. This was a really big reality check for me and then husband.
    This is not part of my normal world both as a child where "secrets" were kept and strange kids were kept in the house. No one admitted to anything different about their children. Every "affected" kid was just too smart and had a nervous breakdown. :rolleyes: My adult world was full of pretty normal kids and successful adults.
    When I stepped back and realized I wasn't going to keep secrets ever and I wasn't fooling anyone about my difficult child, I just sort of threw it all away. I openly talk of my son's problems and behaviors. I openly pursued a different sort of program that had not been considered.
    I just threw away the normal outline of what mothers do with their children and asked myself what did my son need and then looked for resources to fit it.
    I still try to identify what my son needs, then look for a way to provide that for him.
    There are those who would go a different route or don't believe that what I did was necessarily the right thing. (I think it is about giving up my job as a parent) I don't really care. I would have given him to gypsies to raise if it gave him a chance at a life. My personal pain was not the issue. My failing at fixing him was my burden to bare but not the priority.
    The goal was to help my difficult child grow up to have as full a life as he should and to not make bad choices that will set him up for a downward spiral.


    Mel, I live in a pretty yuppie world at present. It is still a choice whether your exterior world affects who you are or you feel you have to live up to an expectation. Judging anyone regardless of how they appear just sets you up for stereo typing. It isn't appropriate for me to judge someone for what they don't have as it is for someone to judge me for what I do have. It's just stuff. The quality of the human inside is where our focus should be.
    The woman who tended her lawn in pearls may deal with a raging alcoholic husband. Her appearance may be the only thing she can control. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and stripping away the stuff is the only way to see the content of their souls. Right?
    No one gets through life without burdens to bear. We all have our own baggage. It's called living a life. We make mistakes and we pick ourselves up,hopefully, to learn from our mistakes.
    Mel, you will struggle with your dealings with your children. It never quite goes away. I am struggling with other issues of parenting that are not based on difficult child or his problems. It is an ongoing process of looking for what my son needs, what I need and fulfilling my responsibility to my children. (my love is not the issue here-it's how I fulfill my responsibility as my children's caretaker)
     
  20. Christine

    Christine Member

    WOW! Not sure there is much more I can really say. Copied and pasted in an email, not sure who I will send it to, but I have many Friends, moms, dads etc. that could use this talk! Thanks Fran.
     
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