What makes a good mother?

j7nit11467984225An alien from outer space who read our headlines and dipped into a lot of the literature on raising a child would be forgiven for thinking that good parenting is about fulfilling certain tasks in certain ways (be it breastfeeding, home-cooking) or mastering particular techniques. While there is nothing wrong with deciding what tasks are important and what techniques we might want to use with our children, the amount of attention placed on these things can easily lead us to forget that what is important is the underlying relationship that we have with our child. How we connect with our children, and they with us, is of prime importance, more so than any technique. We all know this, but it is good to remind ourselves of it every now and then.

At whatever age, when our children feel connected to us and supported by us it strengthens not only the bond that they have with us but their feelings about themselves too. It promotes their feelings of safety in the world and their understanding of themselves. The principals of being a good mother (or father) are all based around strengthening that all-important connection with our child. The bad news is that this means there are no set techniques that will work for everyone because all parents differ and so do their children. But the great news is that we are freed up from trying to find the ‘right’ way to raise a child and can instead focus on navigating our relationship with our children, working out, as we go along, what forges a greater closeness and understanding between us.

The relationship we have with our child is more important than any technique or task. Click To Tweet

When I talk about a relationship here, I am talking about a two-way thing. As parents we need to find ways that work for ourselves too because how we feel is an important part of the equation. For example, one mother I interviewed for my book spoke of how she was attempting to cook all her baby’s food from scratch because she wanted to be a ‘good’ mother. But for her, the upshot of this was an increasing loneliness because of the amount of time she was spending at home alone (for this and other reasons). Looked at in isolation we might say it is better for children to have home-cooked food (nutritionally speaking), which I would agree with. But when looked at in the context of this relationship, it was not good for the mother concerned and consequently not for her baby either. By reducing the cooking and taking other steps to deal with the amount of time she spent alone, this mum started to feel better and, as a knock on effect, it was better for her baby too. Mum was happier and so the relationship with her child improved.

When we take everything back to the relationship that we have with our child and include ourselves as parents in that equation, it is much easier to see that there are many ways to be a good mother/father/parent.

There is not one right way to raise a child because we all differ in what we need and feel. What is right for one family is not for another. To illustrate, I found weaning with my first son a pleasure. I don’t particularly enjoy the day-to-day cooking required for family life but I do love the creative element of preparing something new. The combination of me enjoying experimenting with various foods and my son loving all food, made it a good thing for our relationship.

I was lucky that I had a child who loved eating and for me personally there was a pleasure in it, so this aspect of what is considered ‘good’ for a child worked out for us and our relationship. However, the mother I mentioned above also made decisions based on what was best for her relationship with her child. It was a good choice and it benefited both of them.

So is there something that makes a good mother? Well if there is then it is not a technique or a particular task. It is about being present with our children, recognising and responding to their feelings, including our own, and learning as we go along.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear your point of view and am more than happy to answer any questions. I reply to all comments.

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62 thoughts on “What makes a good mother?

    1. I love it, Fiona. ‘Feel the connection’ – you have it in one, well three words. Very, very true. Thanks for your inspiring comment.

  1. Great post. I always bleat on about how guilt is a futile emotion that leads to nothing but ill feeling, hard to practice sometimes but I think we need to be aware of how guilt just leads to self – loathing. #ablogginggoodtime
    Rach recently posted…Money TalksMy Profile

    1. I see guilt as a natural emotion but one that we need to keep an eye on because it can become a real drain on us. It does have its uses, to make us realise when we have done something that is less than ideal but many of us experience it because we are not perfect or we have just made one choice over another. This is when we need to catch it and give ourselves a break. Thanks for your thought provoking comment, Rach.

  2. I love how you put in words the essence of being a mother. That it’s about being present, recognizing and responding and learning along! I couldn’t of said it better! Beautiful post. #coolmumclub

  3. I think what makes a good mother is really what you said – about being present and providing them with the happiness and memories to give them the security to flourish as they evolve into the next version of themselves. Some wonderful food for thought here and thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub x

    1. Thank you, Talya. Your support is appreciated. Being present with our children helps them understand and value themselves.

  4. I always love reading your posts Kristen as the way you write has such a calming, mindful influence on my feelings. I totally agree with you of course that it isn’t the mothering tasks that are important it is the relationship we have with our children. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime
    Catie recently posted…#a blogging good time #28My Profile

    1. Thank you, Catie. As a counsellor I am glad to hear that I have that effect. I know I do with clients but it is nice to hear that it comes through in my writing. Thank you for commenting.

  5. Fantastic article. These ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to do things can get overwhelming, it’s reassuring to be reminded we don’t have to tick some imaginary boxes to be good parents. Thank you for writing and sharing this xxx #coolmumclub

    1. You make a really good point. We have to parent our sons very differently too and actually we change as parents as we continue on our journey so no child could get the same anyway. Thanks for your thought provoking comment.

  6. I agree. So much you hear about parenting is about people feeling guilty, or rubbish at being a parent, but if people just worked things out and did things that work for them, they’d be a lot happier. #blogginggoodtime

  7. I like to think everyone is a good mother in some shape or form. Having been called a bad mum by a nearest and dearest before Ben had even been born was shocking to me.
    I personally think I’m a brilliant mum. I know I barely go out during the week with him but due to my PND I’ve become a bit of a recluse unless I have someone with me to make me feel less panicky. I’m so worried someone would try to hurt me or ben and being alone outside I freak out at the idea of him crying through fear.
    Other than that my child has an amazing appetite, loves toys and music, refuses to sit and prefers to stand and bounce and sleeps through from between 5-8pm to 8-10am (some say that’s too much sleep but I apparently slept ridiculous amounts)
    Us mums are just doing the best we can I guess! #sharewithme

    1. Hi Lianne, Having pnd adds an extra layer of difficulty to being a mother but it doesn’t meant that you can’t give your child the all important relationship they need. We all learn as we go along and actually we can’t do any more than be open to learning. I am sorry to hear that you have had criticism from people close to you but glad to hear that you know what you are doing well at. that is very important.

    1. “It has nothing to do with breastfeeding/weaning/what activities you take them to – it’s about being there for them and responding to their needs.” Yes to all of your comment. It is too easy to lose sight of in the pressure and pushing of techniques. Thanks for your kind words and commenting. It is appreciated, Katie.

  8. How very true, we get so hung up on what we think makes a good mother that sometimes we invest our energy in the wrong areas. I have always believed your time and attention is the best thing you can give your kids. xx #mg

  9. This is a great post. I have to admit, I have always seen myself as a “good” mother because I respond to my baby’s needs – be that feeding him to sleep, co-sleeping or picking him up when he cries (and not apologising for doing so!) – but there are many articles out there that would say this is all wrong! I have faith in myself to know what my baby needs, and I know that any subsequent babies we have could very well have different needs – and I will respond to those in a different way, but I know I will still be a good mum. #MarvMondays

  10. I totally agree with you that every family is different and you’ve just got to do what works for you. I think being a good mother just means following your instincts and like you said, there’s no manual. We’ve just got to do the best that we can and give it all we’ve got.

    #mg
    Janine (Unhinged Mummy) recently posted…Needing ClarificationMy Profile

    1. I have at times longed for a manual but then it would not work because there are no set answers are there. Like you said, giving it all we have got is the best we can do. Thanks for commenting, Janine.

  11. I think it def. depends on the mother. Mine spent so much time taking care of us she never had time to take care of herself and honestly I feel like if she’d spent a little more time on just being a woman maybe she’d be happier today and maybe we’d be a lil less scary crazy lol. Kudo’s to the women who can do it all, and to the mothers who do the best they can. It’s difficult as hell being a mom and I love mine for all that she’s done for me because I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for her.

    1. It really is not an easy job. It is a balancing act and there is no perfection, we just learn as we go along. I agree, our mothers help shape us (with many other influences) and whilst not being perfect they are an important part of our lives. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Kirsten

  12. I felt like I wasn’t a good mum when Aspen was born, she cried so much, wouldn’t sleep and my breast milk was so inadequate that I had to top her up with formal after every feed. I was angry that my breasts and body were failing her when I loved her beyond what I ever believed was possible.

    She is now 12 and she adores me as I do her, we are so close, and I wish I could go back and tell myself that having to offer formula for her to survive was not going to impact her bond with me or how healthy she would be. She is smart, funny and loving and our connection did that, not what I fed or didn’t feed her.

    Fab post as always xx #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…she was just so lovely standing there #mgMy Profile

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with your daughter, Mackenzie. I think all of us wish we could go back and tell ourselves not to worry about the details of it and understand the bigger picture. You did exactly what you needed to do to feed your daughter and it is so lovely to hear how you have a great connection with her. That is what children need.

  13. So very true Kirsten. I think we are all constantly learning as we go along. Everybody is different and has different needs, as long as we do our best and love and support our kiddies then we are winning 🙂

    Thanks so much for linking up to #MMBC. Hope you can make it tomorrow x

  14. This was so refreshing to read, far to often we find ourselves doubting our ability as parents but actually like you say theres no right or wrong way to be a good mother, we’re all different as are our children so they’re needs and theirs will always differ from one family to another. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x
    Hannah G, The ‘Ordinary’ Mum recently posted…Weekend Tot Style #12My Profile

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