An 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.
So what is next?
If you liked this article then you may also like:
- The Art Of Motherhood
- Why So Much Guilt – Guilt And Motherhood Part 1
- Dealing With Guilt – Guilt And Motherhood Part 2
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