Motherhood

Why You’re Already a Perfect Mother

What Makes You a Great Parent?

I’ve noticed something about mothers…

I’m surrounded by wonderful moms all the time — who laugh with their children, who dress them warmly, who love them to the moon and back — yet these same moms, after their children are tucked in bed, often beat themselves up. Do I work too much? Do I get too frustrated? Am I always on my phone? Should I cook more green leafy vegetables?

When my head hits the pillow at the end of the day, I sometimes worry about these things, too. It’s hard not to, when you’re trying so hard and love your children so much. But lately I’ve tried to ask myself a different question: “Do my children feel loved?”

The answer is always yes. And that’s what matters, right? After all, who cares if we had frozen pizza for dinner? They freaking loved it. Does it matter that I missed bedtime? I’ll do it the other 6,569 nights of their childhood. Is it bad that Alex and I let them watch TV shows every morning while we snooze for an extra half hour? I did that growing up and turned out basically fine.

What I hope my boys will remember instead is how my eyes light up whenever they walk into the room, how I listen intently to their hopes and fears, how I love them so deeply for exactly who they are.

Plus, although it’s easy to feel pressure to be some sort of perfect parent, that doesn’t even exist. “I perform this scoring exercise on myself constantly; I suspect many of us mothers do,” writes Rowan Davies in The Guardian. “Are you a good mother? If you measure yourself against the fantasies projected all around you, almost certainly not. But back in the real world, you almost certainly are: you’re a good mother because you love your children, because you do what you can to keep them safe, and because when they take all the skin off their knees it’s you they come looking for.”

Of all the parents I know, every single one — without exception — is fantastic in his or her own way/style/personality. There are so many great ways to raise a child. Everyone’s doing the best they can.

I’m also still laughing about writer Raquel D’Apice’s take:

When people bring up the idea of being a good mom I admit that, by many people’s standards, I am probably not one… BUT, I tell people — if you’d like to focus on the positive for a moment — I am a great dad. All the things a great dad would do with his son are things I do! I put my son in a blanket and then spin the blanket around like a centrifuge because he totally loves when I do that, even though there is a chance he could get hurt. I encourage his fascination with slugs… I don’t cook much since it seems crazy to spend so much time cooking when we could be doing other things? But I eat dinner with him all the time, even if sometimes it is only kidney beans out of a can, and I taught him the ‘Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit’ song, which he enthusiastically sings to anyone who will listen… My favorite part of being a good dad is that I am allowed to make mistakes, which is fantastic because I make mistakes all the time.

What are a few things that make you a wonderful parent? I’d love to hear. :)

P.S. What makes your child laugh, and do your eyes light up when you see your child?

(Painting by Xi Pan.)

  1. I have been being a stay at home mom for about 3 years now and for all this time a tried very hard on being a perfect mother, a mother that spends most of her time with her children. On this journey, I “forgot” to be a wife, sister, friend and even stopped doing things I used to love such as dancing. Now, I am in the reverse process of finding time to all my relationships and still feel like I am a good mom. Almost everyday, I ask myself what is the right amount of time to spend with them. Recently, I created a blog about motherhood (where do you find time to write? I looking for it ) and I am still learning how to use a blog. I love your and I wished mine looked just like yours.

  2. Monica says...

    I came from an abusive childhood and now I’m raising my two autists alone. I lie awake at night wondering if I’m doing everything as I should be but to be fair, I don’t have a much frame of reference. I spend a lot of time making myself anxious about all the details. Even my children’s psychologist said I’m overcompensating for the care I wasn’t given. I tell myself that I’m trying….maybe I’m not the best, but I’m better than what I had. I think that’s okay.

    • Sounds like you’re doing a great job.

    • Monica says...

      Awww thank you so much. That means a lot. :)

  3. Thank you for writing this and posting this. I think every mother needs to be reminded of this – mom guilt is the worst! Love this!

  4. Ugh, will I ever really believe this? There are moments when I’m being a monster and both my kids are in stitches, that I think, “This is me being a good mother, I must remember that I am.” And then I’m at myself for feeding them frozen corn instead of a green three nights in a row.

  5. Melisa says...

    I love this, Joanna. Thank you. And I LOVE the reader comment you highlighted. OMG. It made me smile and tear up all at once!

  6. Laura says...

    Thank you, Joanna, for posting this.
    As a working mom of small children, it meant a great deal to read it. You may never fully know, and I can only write, “thank you,” but trust it meant more than my words express.

  7. Lauren O says...

    This is a wonderful post, and so many wonderful comments and perspectives. Thank you to everyone for being so open and honest, I find the dialogue on this blog so enriching. As someone who was raised by a mother who was abusive and cruel, in a house full of chaos and unmet needs, I am a good mother because I was terrified to become one, but conquered that fear. I have no idea if any of the hundreds of decisions I make on a daily basis related to my one year old daughter are the right ones. But I know with an unwavering confidence that I will always make her feel both safe and free. And that is the only thing that really matters to me.

    • Paula Brennan says...

      You’re doing wonderfully, I’m sure! What a wonderful mother you must be just for knowing what you do not want to be. Xoxoxoxo to you and your daughter!

  8. this is wonderful, thanks for sharing! we all do ask the same questions and bit ourselves when we think we’re just ‘not good enough mother’. I think that asking that question alone : – am I a good mum?- means you probably are. because you think about it and care enough to search the answer.
    thanks for bringing teary smile on my face after opening your newsletter :) happy weekend! a

  9. ellie says...

    I want to say a hearty thanks…boy did I need this article! I missed it on the original day but came across it this evening as I nursed my wounded pride and skinny ego after a rough few weeks have left me feeling ‘un’….unsatisfactory, unworthy, undone. Cheers to all the extraordinary moms. Some days just showing up earns you an “A”.

  10. pvroom says...

    I’m a mother in Australia with a child with special needs. We have had a very difficult journey but 90% of the time I don’t worry about not being good enough, I worry about how others perceive my mistakes, not whether I’m making them. I know I’m doing my absolute best, and that is all my son could ask for. Dads don’t have these conversations, I love that bit about being a great dad, maybe we should all aspire to be like great dads, take the pressure off a bit? This pressure to be the perfect woman is due to our patriarchal society, it isn’t real, it is a social construct. Be who you want to be, love your children and the people you choose to be in your life and be kind to others. That’s it!

  11. GFY says...

    “I am a great dad…” lol GENIUS

  12. Beth says...

    “What I hope my boys will remember instead is how my eyes light up whenever they walk into the room, how I listen intently to their hopes and fears, how I love them so deeply for exactly who they are.”

    Life events have made my life incredibly stressful lately, and I worry about how good of a mother I am in the midst of it all. But this line above really hits home for me, and for me, this is what I do hope my son remembers. It brings tears to my eyes! Thanks so much for sharing.

  13. I somehow missed this post a few days ago but came across it today…

    As an only child, my parents were devoted to making me feel loved and although not perfect, they loved me as best they could and I could never in a million years come close to expressing how grateful I am for all of it. And as a result, my mom, to this day is my very best friend in life. I don’t know anyone with a heart more pure or a more selfless soul. She dedicated her entire life to raising me and even though she had/has a work life, she always made it clear that I was her priority in life.

    Five years ago, I married and am now a mother of a 10 month old boy and can only now start to truly appreciate all that she did for me. And although mom-guilt is a very real thing (will I ever measure up to my own mother? will I leave scars and impressions on my baby in the same way that my parents left them on me? will he be a good person?), daughter-guilt is also a very real thing. I recently found out through a cousin (years later) that she mentioned that when I first got married, she missed spending time with me after getting home from work, on weekends, during any free moment around the house together… and that breaks my heart. We’re lucky enough to live close to each other and she loves being able to take on some of the grandmother babysitting duties (we split baby time between family members during the work week), and while I do try to make time to spend with her, I know that with the birth of my son, it’s only become that much more difficult to spend time together, just mother and daughter. That being said, we’ve bonded together much closer with my new motherhood, but it still leaves me to wonder how I’ll feel about all of this worrying and mom-guilt when this little boy of mine isn’t so little anymore and begins to lead his own life….

    • pvroom says...

      You are lucky to have a wonderful mother. Try not to worry about what you cannot control. HUGS

    • Talor says...

      When I was reading this I felt like it was me who wrote it. Like you were literally thinking my thoughts. I’m not an only child but I have been married for 5 years and have a 1 1/2 year old and I have always been very close to my mother but even more so since I had my son. Now I feel like I am just beginning to understand my mother (and my father) and the sacrifices they made for me and my sister. I try to make it up to her now by spending time with her whenever I can (I work full time) and really taking the time to ask her how she’s feeling in depth. I’m so happy that she is able to have a hand in raising my son (she has him 3 days a week and my mother in law has him 2 days). She’s taught my son some of his funniest catchphrases (his new one is “Okey dokey!” which he says 100 times in a row mainly because he sees how much it cracks me up). I feel like having a close relationship with my mom has given me perspective on how I am as a mother. She keeps me from worrying too much about my perceived failings and because I know I can depend on her to keep me focused. Its been such a blessing. I’m happy you have that blessing too!

  14. What a wonderful question to ask. I love this and am writing it down as a reminder to myself. I think mostly my girls do feel loved for all of the reasons you mentioned. But as you said, I do far too often beat myself about being “good” enough by some lofty standard that I’ve set. I appreciate your words. Thanks!

  15. Adrienne says...

    I haven’t even finished reading all of the comments yet, but I’m bookmarking this and just want to say it’s my favorite Cup of Jo post of all time.

    • Suzanne says...

      It’s mine, too :).

  16. Anna says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you for your honesty.

  17. Julia says...

    I’m wondering: Do the mothers among you also have problems of relaxing and merely enjoying your kids instead of constantly being focused on being a parent and tracking their behavior, their appearance, their school performances etc. etc. I’m asking because I am generally a fun person but with my kids I feel the responsibility to keep them safe and the need to educate them all the time. “Please wash your hands, you should hold your knife like this…Don’t say words like…” Please tell me if you are able to let go and “just be” with your kids once in a while!

    • Susan says...

      I’ve recently heard a quote from the author, Rob Bell. He said, “Your job is to enjoy your children.” It was in the context of the pressure we put on ourselves to raise/parent our children. I’ve been reminding myself of his words lately to stay in the joyful moment with my son, rather than trying to impart some lesson.

  18. Ramona says...

    Makes me feel better after a terrible morning during which I could apparently do nothing right for my toddler…picked the wrong pants, put the milk in a cup (wrong cup, then it turned out that all cups were wrong), didn’t understand some mysterious but urgent complaint concerning her hair being/not being in a ponytail, made her the eggs that she requested but then apparently began to hate with a fiery passion. My husband wants to try for another and I’ve told him that I’m all in if I can get to be the dad this time!

  19. Kathleen says...

    Thanks for this post!

  20. Mother is both a noun and a verb, and we mothers and our mothers and their mothers, do the best with what we’re given. So, there’s really no right or wrong way, sometimes just being there is enough.

  21. Emma says...

    I am a first time mother of a 10 month old who cries every time I leave the house (or room). Which makes me cry every single morning on my way to work. I am confident I am leaving him in phenomenal hands, as my mother in law is absolutely great. My husband isn’t affected at all whatsoever, he skips to work. I wish I could be the best dad instead of the worst mom. It’s a bad stereotype but that poem made me laugh.

  22. Abbe says...

    Great post! I have a 6yo daughter and 9-month-old b/g twins. It’s hard to meet everyone’s needs simultaneously, but I do my best and try not to overanalyze it. Sometimes I feel like I’m a so-so parent during endless “negotiations” with my 6yo, but seconds later she’ll often turn around and catch me off-guard by saying something like “I knew you were going to be an amazing mom.” CHILLS.

    • this is such a crazy thing to say! like… she knew you before she was even born!

  23. Jen D says...

    So true. I think it’s important not to compare our parenting styles and more importantly, to never apologize for our parenting style. We all have experiences that have shaped who we are and how we parent. I will never apologize for my messy house either…

    • Julia says...

      I know there are a lot of people who are horrified by the idea that someone could drop by their messy house. But I believe that it is much better to have understanding friends than to present a clean home to people who you think would not think good of you if they saw the truth (that you obviously spend more time with your kids than with your cleaning equipment).

  24. Kathleen Hall says...

    Thank you for this! I get so caught up in the pressures of my family eating real food, having amazing adventures, bedtime,brushing teeth, reading, writing, exercising…you get it. I have a 6 yr old daughter. I worry all the time about things that my parents never did. I’m trying to relax a bit and let my girl be who she is meant to be and just let our adventures happen organically. Btw…love your blog.

  25. Sara says...

    Shared it with all moms I know, this article is enlightening! Thank you for this.

  26. Annika says...

    Thanks for the reminder! My own mom has always said she feel so bad for moms today because of the pressure we put on ourselves. Recently I taught my daughter the “Comet, it makes your mouth turn green” song, so I guess I’m not doing too bad!

  27. A few years ago, my grandfather was in a nursing home and the whole family went to visit him. My boys at the time were 1 and 2, I remember running up and down the halls with the baby on my back chasing the 2-year-old and my mom was watching, after we were done playing and were back in the dining room she looked at me and said, “You are such a fun mom” at the time I didn’t think much of it but now two years later I think what a compliment! I am a fun mom! I hope my boys know they are loved and we always had fun together!

  28. P says...

    Hi Joanna, great question for new step-parents. I am struggling with this at the moment as I didn’t have children of my own (though I very much wanted to) and my partner has two, aged 8 and 10. His wife passed away a few years ago, so he has been parenting solo. I find myself doing, saying and feeling mom-like things even though I’m not their mom, I know their mom is irreplaceable and I’ll never be called ‘mom’. I’m trying not worry about being a good/perfect parent too much, but to be an adult who they know they can trust, who will always do my best and who loves them. This article and the comments has helped, so thank you. I would love to see more about different types of mothers and families at Cup of Jo because you always do such a wonderful, gentle job with how you present things.

    • Emma says...

      My dad was a deadbeat loser and I was primarily raised by my mom and her wife. I have grown such a special bond with my step-mom, who over the past 20 years, has been there for me through all of it. I am confident that you will forge those bonds too and they will grow so deep that the kids would obviously consider you their “mom”.

    • P says...

      That’s so kind of you to say, Emma. Thank you. Hearing about other, loving types of mother-daughter relationships warms my heart.

    • I have so many friends who had amazing “bonus parents” and now they themselves are wonderful step-parents to children. Not taking the place, but becoming something of their own. You sound like a wonderful person for navigating the needs of these two children and being sensitive to their incredible loss. Sending a gif to your family!

    • Oops! Not a gif (autocorrect!) but a hug!

  29. Kelsey says...

    Thank you for this heartwarming post, Joanna. And I feel so grateful to the commenters before me, who shared with such openness and grace their thoughts about motherhood.

    My baby is three and a half months old today and I believe we’ve just entered into teething territory… Everything above her belly button is drenched! Last night she screamed like she was in devastating pain, on and off for a few hours, until my husband and I were finally able to help her fall asleep. I try to remember I’m a good enough mother, but it’s at moments like last night when I think it’s a failing of mine that causes her such suffering. (Like, if I had helped her fall back asleep after she woke up too soon from her last nap, this wouldn’t be happening. Or, it’s because I wanted to take a walk earlier and she couldn’t nap deeply with the loud, urban sounds banging on around her. She’s over-tired and it’s all my fault, etc.)

    Even as I think these things, I know I’m being hard on myself. I wish that were enough to prevent me from feeling self-doubt, though! Being new to motherhood, I’m still getting used to the idea that my child crying is not an indication that I am failing her. The voice that can be especially loud says, it’s the choices you’re making that make her this way. (Which is awful! Condemning me and my daughter at once.)

    There’s a commenter in here that mentioned having a strained relationship with her mother. I am struggling with this, too. It helps knowing that the cruel voice in my head is something I developed to try to live up to my mother’s standards, to protect myself from the shame of disappointing her.

    To answer the question you asked, so far what makes me a good mama is how much I love to watch my baby become alive to the world. It’s like watching grass grow, and I mean that in the very best way. Watching her, day after day, develop from flailing fists to making fists to pinching fingers to holding onto things… When we’re together, she has my full attention! That’s the good stuff.

  30. I’ve only been doing the “mom thing” for 2 months now, but this quote is one I found during pregnancy and plan on putting it somewhere I will see frequently-

    “Our children are our garden. They absorb our stress, just as they absorb our peace. They absorb our negativity just as they absorb our joy. And we have the power to control what they absorb, but first, we must tend to ourselves.”

    – rachel macy stafford

  31. Amy says...

    The quote by Raquel is both hilarious and sad. My husband is pretty involved and a great parent to our three kids, but in society’s eyes he’s always “winning” simply because he does things with them. In society’s eyes, I as a stay-at-home mom have impossibly high standards to maintain to be considered “winning”, and even if I could achieve them there would be many camps who would say I’m still doing it wrong. I’m glad that the trend is changing and the bar for dads is rising, but I think the bar for moms is rising right along with it instead of staying the same or even lowering a little (gasp!).

    My mantras:
    comparison is the thief of joy
    there is no way to be a perfect mom, but many ways to be a good one (jill churchill)
    good for her, not for me (amy poehler)

  32. OMG! I loved your post. always there is moment when we feel insecureand do not know if we are doing right, but the truth is that there`s no “rigth” way to be a mom. Each one of us are perfect moms for our child, as long as we give them the love and attention they diserve. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  33. Heather C says...

    I am a good mother because I loved my child enough to get out of an emotionally abusive marriage. It has been a really hard few months. But, I knew that I had to break up our family or bear the guilt of knowing that my daughter might grow up and pick a husband that treated her the way that her father treated me. It is difficult to balance the knowledge that I did the right thing with the heartbreak that comes to me when she says to me teary – eyed, “I miss Daddy” or “why doesn’t Daddy live with us anymore”?

    I grew up in an abusive (emotionally and physically) home myself, with a mother who never left. Interestingly, my mother is being very critical of me in how I am conducting myself after leaving (you shouldn’t let him back in the house, why are you letting him mow your grass, you are letting him take advantage of you, etc.), when the truth is, she never even had the courage to leave in the first place, and thus, to protect her children. I am struggling now with coming to grips with that. How could a mother stay and let her child be abused?

    I am a good mother because I love my daughter, and try to teach her how to be a good person, with good manners, without resorting to physical violence. It makes me wince when I hear people say things to the effect of, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Or talk about their childhood and say that sometimes, spankings were warranted, or that a good healthy dose of your kids being afraid of you is a good thing. Discipline is very hard for me, and I suppose certain family members make me think that I spoil my little girl because in their eyes, she isn’t disciplined enough. Which makes me sad, because I have all the love in the world to give (and I do), but I never want to step over the line with my little girl…not even close to it. So, I suppose I try to stay WELL on the other side of that line.

    • Holly says...

      You are amazing to me. You are breaking a pattern of a family system and that is the hardest thing to do as a person and a mom. Cup-of-Jo-hugs to you and that sweet daughter with an incredible mom.

    • Lauren O says...

      This resonated with me so much. Bravo to you.

  34. Maggie says...

    As someone who isn’t a parent but has cared for many kids, I always say parenting is by far the hardest job you will ever have and it is the easiest job to critique and criticizes. To feel safe, loved and have stability are the most important things, besides that…bring on the frozen pizza and extra dessert!

  35. Christine Kron says...

    Man, I’m going to bookmark this post.
    Not only do my husband and I have a near six and near three-year-old, but I work 40 hours a week outside the home and my youngest has Down syndrome; so the “Am I Doing Enough?” is doubled with therapies, appointments and making sure she has the same opportunities her typical peers receive. It’s exhausting emotionally and mentally!
    But I agree – if I can slow down and be in the moment with them, I hope they know at the very core, they are loved.
    Thanks Joanna!
    March on, everyone!

    • Brittany says...

      Power on, Mama. And keep loving your kiddos in a way that only you can. Your exhaustion is the mark of a mother who is doing all she can to provide the very best for her children.

  36. SW says...

    I love this post, although my heart does hurt over the question of, “do they feel loved?” I have three children, and my oldest is a wonderful, observant, curious, zest-for-life child whom I love with my whole being. He also has severe ADHD and anxiety and is extremely challenging, with everything from daily routines to transitions to school to heartbreakingly difficult interactions with his siblings. My other children are “neuro-typical,” and I know they feel loved…I’m not perfect, but I’m a loving mother. With my oldest, I am up at night worrying about how he will get through life, worrying that–despite all of the interventions and help we have sought out, despite everything we do to celebrate who he is–that he only hears the corrections/redirections, the limit-setting, the occasional me-flying-off-the-handle when I have been pushed beyond what I can cope with. I just wanted to comment in case there is anyone else out there who knows that they are a “good mother” who loves her children, but whose child has serious difficulties that bring heartbreak to daily life. I would not ever wish away this experience; loving him has been the most beautiful and painful experience of my life. My hope is that someday he will be able to think, “things weren’t easy, but my mom loved me.”

    • Ivonne says...

      I know exactly how you feel.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i hear you. xoxo

    • Laura C. says...

      Dear SW, my eldest daughter is six years old and we are on our path of diagnosis with ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome. I have to deal with my own anxiety and frustration and it is very difficult for me to carry on. My husband is “the good cop” and I can see my child wanting him much more thsn me, she always shouts at me when I want her to have a shower or just go out.
      I don’t feel I am a good mom, and I don’t know why, I’ll have to be more confident and havemore self-esteem, I guess.
      Lots of love, you’re doing it very well.

    • Sasha says...

      “Bring heartbreak to daily life.” Yes. And we love them the very best we know how.

    • This made me tear up when I need to be getting ready for work. If a stranger on the internet can see how much love and acceptance you have for your child, I have little doubt your child knows. Xo

  37. One thing I realized the other day: I’ve always been an understated person, but I will put on a full Broadway spectacular to make my 16 month old twins laugh. I tap into my inner stage comedian that I never knew was there, prancing theatrically around their high chairs, singing in silly voices, conducting enthusiastic peekaboo displays from behind the kitchen peninsula, tap dancing like my life depends on it, performing impromptu puppet shows with whatever stuffed animal I can find.

    When I think about my antics I feel proud because I have reached a motherhood mode where their smiles and laughter are more important than any vestige of cool factor that I have left. It feels freeing.

    • Kelsey says...

      I. Feel. The. Exact. Same. Way. I, too, am so surprised by the things I do (and so naturally!)nto make my 6 month old twins laugh! Maybe its a twin mom thing ;)

    • Brittany says...

      Yes! I’m a twin mom, too, to 13 month old b/g twins, and I couldn’t agree more with these sentiments. I almost have these out-of-body experiences in which I find myself doing these outlandishly crazy antics in front of a crowd of strangers just to make my twins smile, and I totally lose sight of everyone around me. It’s the most freeing feeling in the world. All thoughts of “what will people think of me” truly fall away and you’re left with these two babies looking up at you, waiting expectantly for your next crazy move. Tunnel vision. I NEVER in a million years would’ve pictured myself doing the things I find myself doing these days. I never thought to be proud of that, but after reading your comment, I do feel that way. Thank you!

  38. Frankie says...

    This summer has brought me a few weekends away from my daughter and I really needed to hear this. Thanks for this post.

    And yes, what a gorgeous painting.

  39. Ellen W. says...

    I love what you wrote about deeply loving your children. My sisters and I were raised by parents with demanding, rewarding careers who had full lives outside being parents and they loved.us.so.deeply. As I’ve become a mom I’ve been party to lots of conversations about the right amount of time with kids so they feel loved, and I don’t know what that is or if I agree with the concept at all. What I do know is when I look back at my childhood I remember hectic mornings, pizza nights every Friday, babysitters who were like family, and such deep love from my parents my sisters and I never felt anything but sure of our home and our family and ourselves. Isn’t that everything, really?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, ellen, i want to cry! so amazing and wonderful and reassuring.

    • Sasha says...

      Than you Ellen, so many mothers need to hear this.

    • Melisa says...

      Gulp! Thank you. So, so much:)

    • Yes! it is everything! I figure my son will grow up knowing his normal and nothing else. <3 also, I speak with my mother and their friends and they didn't seem to judge each other or overthink themselves as our generations which seems refreshing.

  40. Starlene says...

    I raised my two kids with no financial support from their dad. He was/is a loveable loser. He’d show up when he wanted and was always super fun but that’s about it. I worked three jobs and my kids were in daycare way too long during the days. They never got to participate in little league or girl scouts because practices and meetings were off site and I couldn’t get there before 5:30 to take them. I would cry at night feeling like I was cheating them out of all the things their peers were able to do. However, if you ask them now (my son is 27 and my daughter 29 and they just so happen to be roommates) they would tell you that they had the greatest childhood. Our weekends were full of adventures at the beach and camping. We explored our neighborhood and knew everyone on the block. My love was enough for them. All you kick ass moms out there worrying that you aren’t doing enough, don’t. You’re doing great.

    • Anna says...

      Thank you so much for this.

  41. Michelle says...

    Easy to fall into mummy guilt but remember people only see glimpses into other people’s lives, what may be perfect one minute could be a melt down the next. So long as the kids are happy, healthy and polite (most of the time) you are doing a wonderful job. Acknowledgment of love from your kids comes at the most unexpected times, and for me because it isn’t forced has been the most treasured.
    Forget the books and other people’s advice say thank you when it is given and then do what works and feels right for your family.

    • Sasha says...

      “So long as the kids are happy, healthy, polite you are doing a wonderful job.”
      If your kids are those things, yay and awesome, and I agree, you are doing a wonderful job. (Also, you are really really lucky). But if your kids aren’t one of those, or even ANY of those, I’m just going to go out on a limb here and shout from the mountaintop, you are still doing a wonderful job. It’s possible to do your very best, and have none of the above. For sure.

  42. Connie says...

    “Do my children feel loved?”

    That question haunts me a bit, if I can be honest. Because my situation is the flip of your topic here. I really do feel like I do all the “right” things of mothering. But you see, I am the foster-parent-soon-to-be-adoptive parent of a pair of children who have a history of trauma. My kids suffered at the hands of adults before they came to my husband and I, and so they do not process love properly (yet). They self-sabotage, they put up massive emotional walls, they dysregulate and stiffen at affection. Because no one showed them how to be loved. So for us, that question is our ultimate benchmark, but one that is far more foggy. Do my kids FEEL loved? Are we breaking through? Will they ever let themselves be vulnerable and soft and receptive to the kind of gentle, careful compassion my husband and I are working with our family therapist to teach them to trust and feel safe in? Time will tell, I suppose.

    • Good luck Connie. I’m sure they will feel your love, it’s clearly so sincere. X

    • Lori says...

      Good luck, Connie, and congratulations on the adoption. My family has adopted foster children with mixed results; that is, one of my siblings has pretty severe Reactive Attachment Disorder. Our RAD-specific therapist has been a godsend. It’s an ever-present issue, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my family structure.

  43. Louisa says...

    The other day when my four year old was sulking over this or that I said, “It sure is terrible that no one loves you…” He responded, angrily, “No, YOU love me more than anything!” Then he turned his back on me, and even gave a little stomp!

    Carry on little guy, you’ve learned the only lesson you ever need to know.

  44. Louise says...

    This may be the single best thing I have read on parenting. As a single mother by choice I often wonder if I’m doing right by my son. This article was just what I needed to remind myself that I am.

  45. I felt very loved, and adored my mom like another limb. I am now realizing as an adult that our family dynamics were not healthy or normal, but it’s so hard to create boundaries and plan to be a different parent, especially when I spent my whole childhood thinking she was magic.

    My mom remains very manipulative and conditional in her affections, pits us against our dad (who she remains married to and is just a sweet bumbling guy who has no idea of the venom being whispered) or against each other, and had a complete codependency on me, a child. I know she did the best she could. It’s a comfort to see all the little worries these mamas have (because I swear ladies, you’re killing it!). My big worry is balancing my (still) utter devotion to my mother and my desire to protect my future children from her capricious moods. I’m very close to my in laws, but I feel very alone with this. Very few others realize how my mom is in private and I don’t want to be the one to make them think badly of her.

    • Sarah says...

      I hope it’s not out of line to suggest but if you find books to be helpful, read Codependent No More by Melanie Beatty. This is a book that has been mentioned to me several times by friends who have struggled to set boundaries with their parents. For them, it bled into lots of their relationships without knowing it. Perhaps it will have insight for you as you figure out your boundaries as both a daughter and a mother. Thanks for sharing your story.

  46. Anita says...

    Recently read a good parenting book, Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids. Inspired by this passage: “Parent with confidence, not self-recrimination and doubt. Have faith that you can handle whatever comes up and trust that things will work out.”

  47. Sara says...

    Recently my 3 year old daughter had a whopper of a tantrum in the supermarket. I had to leave all of the groceries in the aisle, pick her up and basically flee the store. I was nearly in tears myself when I realised that a kind woman followed me out, walked me to the car, and just simply said “we all understand honey”. I’ll never forget that woman.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, sara. i’m tearing up. that’s amazing.

    • Karen says...

      When our first daughter was but 5 days old, we were at the grocery store, meandering around in a daze, our baby crying. A lady came up to us and quietly said “Don’t you worry, you’ll get the hang of it”. It was so good to hear.

      Whenever I’m out and about by myself (which isn’t often! my girls are 4 and 5) and I see another mom interacting positively with her child(ren), I let her know what a good job she’s doing. I think as moms out in public, we always feel we’re being watched (i.e., judged) and listened to, and we should seize the opportunity to verbally share the good stuff.

    • I’m tearing up and all verklempt too. Yes! We all understand and have been there. What an angel

  48. Helena says...

    Thank you Joanna! Your voice is always the sweetest and so reassuring. My baby is now 10 1/2 months and I feel guilty I am working a big part of the day while he is home with his dad. When I come home I play with him and take him to the park. I’m just thrilled when he throws his little arms around me and hugs me in bed when he goes to sleep. I’m trying my best and I really hope that it is enough for him :)

  49. Meg says...

    Last night I overheard my four-year-old telling her horde of stuffed animals, “I’m going to ignore you now so you can find out what is in your own little heads.” I laughed at this obviously learned behaviour and briefly asked myself, should I feel bad about this? My conclusion was: nope. I’m an introvert and spending my days with small people who interrupt every private internal moment I have can be really taxing, but I think I have done a good job of teaching them that everyone, including mom, has a separate life going on inside that is special and fascinating and worth exploration and development. I strive to give them the conceptual tools they need to be curious and interested in themselves and in other people, to pay close attention to and wonder at the universe, to ask good questions and find the answers, to enjoy the thrill and discomfort of a question that can’t be answered, to be content with their own company and to entertain and occupy themselves in a world that makes us feel like quiet moments alone are strange or wasted. I explained once to my girl that ideas are a kind of mental furniture, a way to populate and organize your mind and make life rich and beautiful. Recently when I asked what she was up to she replied, “Just movin’ stuff around in my head.” My kids believe, because they know I believe, that their minds are cool places to hang out. I’m not much fun at parties but I can give them that.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is really fascinating and wonderful, meg. love this.

    • Agnes says...

      Just. Perfect.

    • Sarah says...

      Oh, wow. What a beautiful way to approach life. You sound like a person who has some wisdom to share about contentment and personal fulfillment. Your kids are lucky you are sharing that with them, and thank you for sharing with us!

    • This is so wonderful to read about! I’m trying to instil the idea of ‘quiet time’ with my almost three-year-old (although it’s trying) for what feels like mostly selfish reasons (I need a break). But you just reminded me how important it is for children to develop a sense of being at ease in their own heads, and with themselves. Thank you!

    • Abbe says...

      I can totally relate! Good for you for honoring being an introvert with kids and helping them understand and appreciate.

    • Stefanie says...

      I love this!

  50. Jeanelle says...

    From a very new mom who spends too much time wallowing in self-doubt, thank you for this post. I was just texting with a girlfriend how it is so easy to compare yourself with other moms on social media.

    We are all just trying to do the very best for our families but are perhaps too busy looking out instead of in!

  51. Hey Joanna, I’m so grateful for this well timed post. As a not-yet mother, hearing that it’s going to be ok is such a big deal for me. It can be so frightening sometimes to hear the way some people describe motherhood. But I am such a fan of the way you give and prioritise loving grace for yourself and your readers (future-me included!). Thank you, for continually reminding us of or value and of the things that are truly important. Just a reminder, you’re a great mum too! Sending much love from this someday-mother. Xx

  52. Celia says...

    No kids here, but I do have similar misgivings over my relationships with my nieces and nephews and this was a good reminder.

  53. Abby says...

    I feel pretty confident that I’m a great mom now that my kids are a little bit older than babies (6 and 2.5), but part of that is that a few years ago, I lucked into joining a group of mom-friends who are so so so dear to me.

    Our general rule of thumb is, “say to yourself what you would say to any one of us,” and every time I’ve heard one of my dear friends who is a WONDERFUL parent beat herself up about some parenting choice, I think about how strongly I feel that she’s an incredible mom who’s just doing her best. And then I try my best to feel that about myself too, and… it totally works.

    I’m a firm believer that it’s much easier to be a great parent when you have dear friends who understand and can commiserate. I mean, we’re all in this thing together!

  54. Oh, I really needed to hear this. I’ve been having such a tough day.

  55. laura J says...

    Great post, and I was just trying to articulate these thoughts to a pregnant friend as she carefully and anxiously tries to work out how she will manage to “do it all “. The sad truth is that your realize too late (when your babies are older) that all of the measured adherence to attachment parenting guidelines and other strict doctrines of co sleeping or screen times or vegetable intake really become the thieves of joy.
    I realize now with the bigger kids in my life that I love ❤️ …you can’t tell who was breastfed or not, who slept alone or with parents, who cried it out or was carried everywhere, who ate too much candy or was read to at night. But you can tell the kids and parents who look like they belong together in their own little families through thick and thin. When things get rough, and they often do, I ask myself would we all pick each other and this crazy family again and again? Most days absolutely.

  56. Morgan says...

    This painting is breathtaking. It reminds me of Klimt’s The Kiss but in this one mama rules the embrace. Swoon.

  57. Elise says...

    I LOVE this. This is the only space on the internet that makes me excited to have children – thank you for showing the delightful sides of parenting and of children and for honest posts that celebrate motherhood. I’m 30 and my husband and I (married 7.5 years) have been going back and forth on if we should have kids or not. I think we’ll do it, and reading posts (and comments) like this help! Thank you.

    • Alexandra says...

      :) Have kids. Life is short.

  58. MandyH says...

    Not sure how you knew that this was needed today. I was just sitting here after my husband took my son to his swimming class, beating myself up about my four year olds up and down potty accidents, what it means and how I got upset over one today when I should have been calm.

    I like that I feel comfortable answering any question of his (and there have been some surprising ones) and I know he feels my love in how my eyes light up when he comes into a room.

    • sarah morabito says...

      I semi-joked with my husband this weekend that the coroner’s report would read “Mother’s head exploded after cleaning up 215th potty accident”. Something about cleaning urine off the floor puts me on the verge…day by day by day :)

  59. Dana says...

    Thank you for this! I love everything you wrote and love the comments, too. I am the mother of 2 teenage boys and one soon-to-be teenage girl. Years ago when my kids were little and I just longed for a nap, I remember my cousin (whose children were then becoming teenagers) saying to me, “just wait, it gets so much more complicated when your love isn’t the only thing they need to be happy.” Now that all of our lives are so much more complicated, and their behavior can feel like a personal rejection on any given day, and I can’t ease their struggles with a snuggle, it is SO easy to feel like a not-good-enough mother. I am loving being reminded right now that your words of wisdom nevertheless hold true — I love each of them every day for who they are; I make sure they are safe and well fed and listened to; and that my eyes still light up when they come home each day — and surely that must be enough. Thank you.

    • Sarah says...

      Beautifully put. Thanks for sharing.

  60. Matty says...

    The morning cartoons – guilt, eat my heart out!

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the peace to acknowledge that 5am is an ungodly hour to be rudely awoken by a 2 year old yelling about poop and monkeys and fish and trains! He is safe, clear from any harm, nuzzled in our bed with an iPad, so what’s the big deal if it allows us to start the day on our own waking terms ;)

    • Caitlin Lee says...

      iPads are a god send for those 5 am wake ups. Anything before 6:30 am is just torture.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, 5am is officially STILL THE NIGHTTIME.

      and when we got back from italy, the boys woke up at 2:15am the first day and we were like, go watch any movies you can find — not tv shows, but long epic movies — for as long as you possibly can! :)

  61. Caroline says...

    My cousin who I think if very wise, and a mum of 3, is always telling me that since she became a mum, you can’t judge other mums. Whenever I doubt myself as a mother, she reminds me of this statement of truth. I myself have two children.

  62. C says...

    My 5 month old son is sick with his first cold and also dealing with a nasty diaper rash. I have been feeling so helpless and useless because I don’t know how to fix it for him. But he tucks his face into the crook of my neck every time I hold him and he smiles so wide and beautiful when I come into the room. He loves me so much and I truly believe that he can already tell that he is my whole world.

    • Marie says...

      If it can be of any help, for bad diaper rash, here is what my pharmacist recommended and it works wonder!!! A little bit of antifungal cream (like canesten), a little bit of low dose cortisone cream, covered with a super thick layer of ihle cream (a super concentrated zinc cream). For my 2 little ones, after 1 or 2 days of this, the skin was completely fine. Also, leaving his little bum to breathe with no diaper on helps a lot to reduce the humidity in the area. Take care!

  63. Jen says...

    Joanna! Thank you for this wonderful post. It’s funny, I read your blog and Glamour column in my college years, and even emailed you once asking for advice regarding dating. You were lovely enough to ease the anxieties of a young twenty year old :) Now I’m a mother with a four month old, so this is timely for me :)

    This post really touched me because, after my daughter was born, I was hit with a case of the baby blues. My post-partum depression affected my stress levels and milk supply, and I ended up needing to majorly supplement with formula, which riddled me with guilt (and still does sometimes). I’ll go on internet binges reading how I’ve basically failed my baby for not sticking to breast milk :/ But when these feelings take over, I think about all the wonderful things I share with my daughter: we cuddle every night before her bedtime, read silly books together, play little games, and stare at the magnets on the fridge (her fave pastime). Athe end of the day, I know that I’ve filled my daughter’s day with lots of love, and she has a happier mom who tries her best :) (And formula feeding doesn’t change that!)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, you sound like an amazing mother, who utterly adores her daughter. she is so lucky to have you.

    • Gigi says...

      It happened to me too, my stress and anxiety levels flew so high in the first few months after I gave birth to my daughter, and it drastically lowered my milk supply, I was feeling so sad and guilty my milk supply was much lower than before and I had to complement with formula too. Dealing with post-partum depression and the messiness of hormones was not easy, looking back….and I wish I had not been so harsh to myself. Our babies love us!

    • Gigi says...

      and our love is sufficient for them!

    • Mette says...

      I second that! You sound like an absolutely wonderful mother! As a fellow mum who has experienced PPD (and is better now), I’ve learned that the absolute best thing you can do for your baby is to feel good and be happy yourself. Breastmilk, formula, who cares. What’s most important is feeling good and loving your baby!

    • jem says...

      After hearing my MIL wax on for the 100th time about how crucial it is to breastfeed (and how her husband, who was adopted, has allergies because he wasn’t[?!!!]), I finally quietly said, “I wasn’t breastfed, and I don’t have allergies.” (OK, to be honest, I almost also added that apparently all my college scholarships, which her son didn’t receive, were the result of my being raised on formula, but I stopped myself!) Ladies who chose not to breastfeed, or who tried to but couldn’t keep it up, or who couldn’t at all, or whatever it is that you did–what matters is you fed and nourished and loved your children. Your children are going to grow up to be AMAZING people because you yourself are an amazing woman. Not because of where you got the liquid you fed them the first year. Hugs.

    • Sarah says...

      I have breastfed for going on four years now (two kids), and let me tell you from a 1000 hours of experience — it makes *no fucking difference*. Feeding is feeding, and the work I do to build bonds with my kids would be the exact same with a bottle. Sometimes women I know will refer to formula with almost an apology in their voice (knowing what a big breastfeeder I am), and I hate that they feel judged or guilty. They shouldn’t. They are wonderful moms and so are you.

    • Jeannie says...

      As a non-mother BUT!! someone who was almost exclusively fed formula (’cause my mouth was so teeny weeny it wouldn’t latch onto my mom), let me tell you that I turned out to be a fine, well-adjusted adult who has lots of love simply because my parents loved me a lot (even if they worked multiple jobs at once, etc). You’re doing great!!!! This post resonates with me as a child of parents who, above all else, loved me and my siblings a lot even though we didn’t have much in the material sense.

    • Meg says...

      Nursing guilt! What is it about fresh motherhood that makes us answer our baby’s very solvable hunger with our own insatiable hunger to sacrifice everything we are for her? I also fell off that cliff of postpartum sorrow and fear and anxiety, struggling to nurse exclusively and do everything myself without doing anything for myself. I made up my mind, after my first child, to tether myself the next time with a bit of selfishness – so that on days when I was close to jumping off that cliff-ledge again into the abyss of self-sacrifice where everything is never enough, I would be held back by the decision to do a little less than everything. With my son, when faced with a parenting choice, I would quietly and insistently pick the choice that would be a little gentler, a little easier on me. And I can remember his babyhood now with such pleasure, when looking back on his older sister’s infancy still overwhelms me with feelings of inadequacy. Be easy on yourselves, mamas!

      New moms reading this: the next time you find yourself awake and alone in the swirling hormonal dark with tears rolling down your face and blood on your nipples, trying and failing to nurse a baby who you would do anything for, look down at that child and imagine her 20, 30 years down the line doing the same thing. Picture your perfect baby alone in the dark overwhelmed with new-mama pain and frustration. What would you do for her then, if you could? It’s so simple. You would say, Oh honey. You would draw a warm bath and fill it with oil and rose petals and you would light candles and put on music and you would take your daughter by the hand and lead her to the water and put her battered body in it. You would wipe the tears from her cheeks and the hair from her forehead and you would kiss her and say, You have set yourself on a hard a beautiful path. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. I am so proud of you and you are doing beautifully. Rest here for bit and be easy on yourself, baby. Be easy.

      And then you would take her new infant into another room and make that baby a bottle and wipe the tears from her face and the hair from her eyes and settle into a comfy chair and ease her hunger too, with a simple thing she needs to be well and rested, an easy thing.

      Now if you imagine doing this for your daughter someday – finding the gentlest, kindest way to meet the all-consuming needs of new life – please, consider doing it for yourself. Have mercy on your own mama, and be easy with yourself. Be easy. You are doing beautifully.

  64. Jenn says...

    I needed this today. Thank you.

  65. April says...

    Thank you for sharing this. Us moms, I don’t think we can hear this enough.

  66. Aly says...

    I always beat myself up for not having enough energy for both of my kids. I work from home with my 8 month-old baby, and my almost 4 year-old son is out at camp all day. I know he’s having fun with his friends, but it feels like he gets so little of me at the end of the day when I’m already worn out from work and his baby sister. When my husband can’t be home for bedtime I try to get the baby to bed promptly at 6pm in order to have a little one-on-one time with my son: to have dinner together, to give him a bath, and to read him stories. By the weekend, I’m toast. My husband works on Saturdays and this past Saturday, when the baby was napping, I literally fell asleep in my son’s bed while my son played with legos on the floor next to me. When my husband came home, my son told him it was the best part of his day. It was a nice reminder that as much as I might feel like the most worn-out, wrinkled, un-fun version of myself, he really just wants me to be beside him.

  67. ceciel says...

    Hey all. I’m a good parent because I kick ass at painting little toenails, I willingly fall for my kids’ pranks (Pokémon cards on the ceiling fan that the 8 year old and 5 year old “tricked” me into turning on), I read books over and over to my three (even goofy “TV” books–like Paw Patrol Saves The ___), I tell them when I need a breather and acknowledge/accept when they need breaks too. Ps. This may be my all-time favorite post. Short and sweet with amazing comments—and Joanna, your many responses to your readers show your deep compassion. I’m walking away from this post ready to show empathy for all the mamas I see around town. We’re all doing our best.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “I kick ass at painting little toenails” = hahaha love that.

      and thank you for such a sweet note xoxoxoxo

  68. Stacy says...

    Thank you so much for this. I am currently 7 months pregnant with a 3 year old and due to my current physical limitations I constantly feel like I’m failing him in some dramatic way. But I make him banana bread (it’s from a box), read him his favorite magazines and we always look at the clouds together after soccer practice. These are the things that are easy to forget.

  69. Maree says...

    I’m a first time mom with a 13 month old and it’s been a rough few weeks (does it ever get easier?!)… I feel like I needed to see this today. Thank you for reminding me that I am enough.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, it gets so much easier!!!!!! hang in there, maree!

      sometimes i see parents with young babies on the street and i literally want to walk up to them and say, “hi! so nice to meet you! it gets so much easier!” i just think people should know :)

      it really does. you sound like you’re doing a great job. i’m sure your baby ADORES you and is happy as a clam. sending a hug through the internet.

  70. Emma says...

    Thank you so much for posting this. It brought tears to my eyes. I’m mum to a gorgeous two year old girl and I’m too hard on myself about the things I don’t get right. Thanks for the virtual hug.

  71. What a lovely and kind post to share. Why are we so hard on ourselves? My husband asked me this the other day why don’t you ever feel like you’re stacking up? You’re so much more than you give yourself credit for. And I started to cry (side note- I hate crying in front of people). But the truth is I think we just don’t give ourselves enough credit and it’s so nice to hear it. Thank you for this.

  72. Kristin says...

    One of your reader comments got me through the first two months of my daughter’s life, “Bless you, new moms. If you’re trying, you’re doing a great job.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that quote goes through my head every few months, still. those were such wise wise words.

    • Same same same ❤️

    • Kate says...

      This quote is perfect

  73. Priscila says...

    Thanks for the reminder, Joanna. I’m a solo parent to a 13-month, and I have no family in the country or friends around that will watch him. I’m constantly beating myself up over the little things, but then I’m so excited when I drop him off at daycare and go to work, because it’s the only time I have to myself. Then I feel even guiltier. I think that the fact that I am on duty 24/7 helps me desperately want to get away sometimes, but it’s hard not to feel bad because he has only me to care for him. I think that great moms are great moms because there is often a great dad in the picture (but I may be biased on that one), and families that will take some of the “pressure” off every now and then.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      priscila, sending you a huge hug, first of all, and also how incredible that as a single parent to a young baby, you’re even managing to even put one foot in front of the other. you are my hero. i imagine you must sometimes feel exhausted to the bone and just need a break for five minutes! of course you feel excited when you can go to work (don’t we all? i feel that way on monday mornings:) since you can predict what will happen next and you can eat lunch quietly and even PEE BY YOURSELF which feels like going on a spa day sometimes. sending you the biggest hug. you’re doing an amazing job just getting through each day, and your son is so lucky to have a mother who does so much and makes sure he is safe, fed and warm. sometimes i wish there were a town square for all these cup of jo readers so we could just sit on benches together and talk or not talk and watch the pigeons fly by. :)

    • Lisa says...

      I was raised by a single mom who did everything she could for me and my sister. She wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for us and we have a great relationship still. I never even missed having a dad.

      I think some moms actually aren’t great moms BECAUSE dads are around! I know I feel like a really bad parent when my husband and I fight in front of our son (we obviously try to avoid it but: being married is really hard. At least for us). And there are many moms out there who are frustrated every day because the dads don’t put in enough effort and they are practically raising their kids alone.

      I don’t know, I guess I’m just hitting such a rough spot in my marriage that your comment actually made me jealous!

    • Trisha says...

      I just want to come and hold your sweet baby while you take a nap! It does get easier, and then hard, then easy. But you are a superwoman for doing this alone. You’re awesome!

    • Priscila says...

      Joanna, you’re so sweet. Thank you for your comment. It brought tears to my eyes. I guess at the end of the day, we are all just looking to be heard and validated (especially moms!!!). You made my day.

      Lisa, that’s a fresh perspective. I’m not experienced in marriage, but I heard before that sometimes, depending on situation, it’s easier to do it alone. Thank you for reminding me of that, and I hope the rough patch ends – raising a child is a big enough task to have to deal with other problems.

      Trisha, thank you! These days it’s more chasing him – he doesn’t want to be held anymore! And thanks for the reminder that it does get easier! (it really did from the first few months)

  74. Kate says...

    I read or was told or heard this motto when I was pregnant, it is my go to.

    “If you worry about being a bad mum, you aren’t, because bad mums don’t worry if they are bad.”

    I love it because by default, because you care/worry, you are already a good mum.

    I also have taken on another one which is great for the middle of a sleep regression, toddler tantrum etc. “the good times don’t last, but the bad times won’t either” so I remember it and ride it out until the sun shines again.

    And finally the saying you posted here a while ago, that others have mentioned, “good for her, not for me” they truly are words to live by in the competitive world of being a mum.

    • I love this!! Will have to put this in the memory bank for when it’s my turn to become a Mum and also to relay to my mum friends.

  75. jeannie says...

    This post may be one of my favorite posts ever! I often think of the mistakes I made as a mother and my congenital inadequacies. But, yes, I love my children beyond belief and would do anything to keep them safe. I often actually practice in my mind covering the bodies of my grandchildren with my own if some terrible situation were to arise. (We live in crazy times!) I adore that painting by Xi Pan and laughed out loud at Raquel d’Apice’s take.

  76. Leah says...

    I am a new mom and more often than not have no idea what I am doing. However, As I developed some rhythms and routines in the past 10 weeks, I have been suddenly aware of the songs I sing and the unconscious movements I make to sooth my girl. They are the songs my mother sang to me, the sayings her mother said to her, and the movements they both made. The way they nurtured and soothed was unconsciously transmitted through the generations, and the songs they sang in moments that I am sure were difficult and trying have been passed down and will be again.

    Nighty night, see you in the morning
    Nighty night, when the day is dawning…

  77. Cait says...

    Joanna,
    Thank you for creating this community where so many people can be vulnerable and compassionate and encouraging to each other. It has been so helpful to me on my journey as a person and a mom.

  78. Rachel says...

    This has been the question I have asked myself since the day my daughter was born. But some days are harder, like today (when you have convinced yourself you’re a terrible mom because your 15 month old will only fall asleep in a carrier on walks, or in the car, or as late as a teenager) and I forget and I start running that scoring exercise in my head. So thank you for this today, of all days, I needed it.

    • Michelle says...

      Ahhh what a lucky child to be able to be close to his mum and sleep in the carrier. I think that’s wonderful ?

    • My daughter only fell asleep in a carrier while I literally DANCED her to sleep for a few months. It’s funny when I think about it now. She’s almost two, but it felt totally weird, but also totally normal at the time.

  79. Jo says...

    I’m a wonderful mom because
    1. I let him skip dinner sometimes if he is loaded on snacks
    2. Share snippets from my (imaginary) office pet, a red bird, who can’t come home but wants to know what he is up to
    3. Recite dinosaurs facts that thrill him to no end
    4. Always open for cuddles

    I’m also the mom who insists on piano practice, who wakes up late everyday and rushes him out the door in the morning, argues with dad on whose turn it is to pick up the milk.. but hey, mom is human too!!

  80. Amanda says...

    Thank you for posting! I’m back to work after a year-long maternity leave and my daughter is in daycare for the first time. I know me working is SO SO good for the both of us, even though there’s been lots of tears and I miss her terribly. The best I can do is to light up when I pick her up in the early evening and cover her with smooches, letting her know that this is my favourite part of my day.

  81. Jessica says...

    Bravo Jo! It’s true, it can feel that there is so much to being a mother and that it is so complicated, consuming, confusing, and involves so much compromising. And yet, you’re right, what it comes down to is loving the bejeezus out of them in the best way we know how. And for those who have commented who say they aren’t sure they know how to love or that they never learned how from their parents, the mere fact that you have the awareness to ask that question means you are.

    An anecdote that keeps this in mind for me is that growing up, my absolute favorite dinner was “plate of little things” My single mom would slice cheese, apples, crackers, hot dogs, dry cereal, whatever and we would eat it in front of the TV. I told her that recently and she gasped, “What? those were the nights I failed. I didn’t cook a thing and was too tired to talk to you guys. That’s ridiculous” Goes to show, it may be JUST when we fail that our kids feel most happy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      LOVE that, jessica. brings tears to my eyes. xoxoxo

    • Beth says...

      I love this so much. I’m so glad you were able to tell your Mom this too!

    • Anna says...

      Oh, I really love this too! How wonderful. :-)

    • Darcy says...

      LOVE THIS!!! I now feel better about our Cereal for dinner nights! Thank you for sharing this comment!

  82. Gitty says...

    This post made me choke up a little. I like to think that what I do for my 18 month old son, I do with love. I change his diapers with love and I give him baths with love and I get him dressed with love and I make his whole grain with natural chunky peanut butter sandwiches for lunch with love. I kiss him up and genuinely enjoy caring for his yummy, chubby seeing. Even when I am tired and stressed and have no energy I try to be calm and patient with him and meet his needs. I like to think that these are things that a child needs his mother for.

  83. L says...

    I’m not a mom yet, but this website has made me feel so much more comfortable about becoming a parent in the future. My parents are amazing parents, but they had a very specific and somewhat strict way of parenting (think “natural” birth, breastfeeding for a very long time, all organic, vegetarian, no TV in the house, no microwave, no toy weapons/water guns, no daycare, etc) that I don’t think is for me. Seeing different ways of parenting here has made me feel like I can be a parent and be a good parent in my own way.

    • L says...

      The other part of being a not-perfect parent that I think is really important is that it teaches your kids that it’s okay to not be perfect. I think that if I had seen my parents mess up or take a break, I would have been more willing to take risks or take breaks when I needed them. Pizza at the end of a long day may not be best for your physical health but it can be good for your mental health, and that’s a good lesson to teach along with the lesson that leafy greens are good for your body.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, i love that point, L! thank you so much for your kind words and insight.

  84. Amy says...

    I’ve never read something like this without feeling like it was the perfect time to hear it :)
    The first thing that comes to mind is how I can get into a laughing fit with my 5 and 7 yr olds about the silliest things. We are very ok with laughing over a funny moment at dinner, or when one of them lets out a huge fart unexpectedly.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, hahahaha, amy, that is so funny. i love that image :)

  85. Lindsay says...

    Oh the irony of reading this post while sitting on the steps, stewing in frustration as my kids chase each other, hit each other and say awful things to each other, like…”you’re stupid!” “I’m going to KILL you!”

    Sigh.

    I suppose I’d say I’m glad I’m a mom who tells them “I love you all the time.” I want them to know it’s ok to make mistakes but to do better next time. That I don’t value good grades as much as i value kindness or creativity or thoughtfulness.

    I hope they remember that I want to make everything nice for them, that I care if they feel happy or sad or bored. Maybe I smother them with attention and then feel aggravated when they demand it at an inconvenient time. I’m not perfect but wouldn’t that be a bore if I were?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound wonderful, lindsay! omg my kids say that stuff all the time! toby was so driven crazy by anton the other day, that he actually texted my friend to see if he could be in their family instead. hahaha, she was like, um, i’d have to talk to your mom…. :)

  86. ECH says...

    Thanks for this insight, Joanna. It actually brought tears to my eyes. Being a mom is SO hard; way harder than I ever expected ;) I stay at home with my three-year-old and my six-year-old, and I just constantly feel like I should be trying harder and doing a better job. I totally feel like I’m losing my mind sometimes. You’re right, though; at the end of the day, I know my children feel loved. I really need to let go of the idea of perfection. This is a great reminder :) Thanks again! XO

  87. I try to teach my children that if they ‘fear less then they’ll live more.’ It’s very important to me that they learn to deal with their own fears (should they have any) without having to deal with mine on top. One of those fears of mine is being the ‘imperfect mom’. But at the end of the day, no one is perfect and that’s alright, because love will smooth out all the imperfections. Their hugs and kisses they give me help me remember that parenting is about loving everything unconditionally. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  88. Paige says...

    “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” -jill Churchill

    Incredibly comforting sentiment for me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! thank you, paige.

  89. Kim says...

    I’m a good mom because I’m real with my children. I grew up in a household where appearances were what mattered most. My kids have seen the real me….good and bad. They’ve seen me fall and then get back up. They’ve witnessed that when life gets tough, families pull together and keep going… that unconditional love is sometimes hard….that real isn’t always neat and pretty but it is true.

    • Anna says...

      I completely agree. Wonderful words. :-)

  90. Holly says...

    Man I hate mom guilt! It makes me feel bad and insecure and then I see other moms doing great and feel mad at them somehow. Its awful! But I love all this!

    I often think I’m being naive about my 2 year olds less desirable behaviors. We disciple him but it’s hard to know how to really get through to a toddler. I just can always see his side of the situation and his frustration or anger and then people judge you for being too easy on them. But you know what I’m a good mom because he will always have me on his team. I will always ( or at least always try) to see things from his perspective. It is such a relief to be understood even when you know you aren’t making the right choices and I always want him to feel understood by me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound so wonderful, holly.

  91. Trisha says...

    Nailed it Joanna. Thank you
    Indeed, we all are just doing the best we can!

  92. Kate says...

    I love this; thank you for writing it.

    At the end of each day, my 4 year old and I tell each other our favorite part of the day. Hearing her best memory of the day makes me realize that even if I thought it was a bad day, there were some bright spots for her and that’s what she’ll (hopefully) remember as she goes to sleep. I always make sure my favorite part of the day includes her, because I want her to know that she is always the best part to any day for me.

    • Karla says...

      You sound like a great mom. What an awesome way to show her how much she’s loved everyday. I LOVE it! Hope you don’t mind if I “borrow” your idea. :) My little girl is almost 13 months, and I’ll definitely be implementing this in our daily routine when she’s older.

  93. sandra says...

    My babies are 25/27. A little secret…. “the mom guilt” never quite goes away. Recently I was able to spend a little time with my daughter (25) just she and I for 3 whole days. We laughted, watched a few movies and giggled some more. I will never forget as we were driving in the car – giggling about something. She turned and said ” Gosh, Mom I forgot how funny you are and how you make me so happy” . A little Mom win. Gotta be doing something right…..And today my son (27) just called to talk – for no particular reason. A little Mom win! So when the “Mom guilt” begins to creep in —- I just try to remember all the little wins!

    • Cristina says...

      I wish I will be able to do half of that!!! well done!!! You made me smile :)

  94. Colleen says...

    Thank you.

  95. Thank you so much. I needed this today and here you were!

    • Heather says...

      I needed this today, too. So did so many other commenters. I am just thinking of all of the millions of moms out there right this second who won’t read this blog, and are feeling so along, and need to read this, or hear this, from someone. Sending them some love.

  96. Heather says...

    Recently my 4 year old son was trying to write a note to our neighbors to tell them the electricity was out on our block. He laboriously drew each letter while we spelled E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C-I-T-Y out loud to him over and over again. He kept, in his 4yo opinion, “messing up,” and would rip up his paper and start over. He was getting frantic and tearful, and my husband’s and my assurances that actually he was doing really great just made him angry, because clearly we just didn’t understand. I still am not sure whether I did the right thing. My husband left the room, saying that continuing to spell it to him over and over again was encouraging the perfectionism. I sat there and spelled it to him as many times as he asked, and made comments about all the good practicing he was doing, and that most people don’t learn how to write the word “electricity” until they are much, much, much older and that it’s really hard and ALREADY he’s done such an amazing job for a 4 yo. And then eventually he just let me hug him.

    It made me wonder whether he was born a perfectionist, or if this is something he’s learned from me, as I am almost never satisfied with my performance in any aspect of my life (especially as a mom!!). I don’t know how he would see that – I try to keep that part of myself hidden from my children – but then again, kids pick up on the smallest things, don’t they? It’s made me all the more conscientious of trying to be as forgiving and supportive of myself as I am of my children.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a sweetheart! spelling electricity is stressful!!!!

      i hear you about hoping that you don’t pass the hard parts of yourself onto your children. one therapist once told me something great. she said that when your child has something you also struggle with, you’re the best parent for them because you GET IT. you really understand them and you know how to help them. i really loved that.

    • Heather says...

      Joanna that is wonderful advice. I love it. Thank you for thoughtfully responding to my comment and to so many other comments. I don’t know where you find the emotional energy to support and nurture your own family, your friends IRL, AND hundreds of total strangers, too, but your cyber-friendship is a gift to so many of us.

    • Oneida Christensen says...

      i totally relate to this. my now 6 year old begged us to play the violin. she started just after she turned 5. she is such a perfectionist and very focused. she gets frustrated when she practices because she can’t get it perfect (even if it’s so new the teacher literally taught it to her THAT day) and dissolves into tears sometimes. i can’t say i always have the greatest attitude and sometimes worry about what it’s doing to her, but she wants to do it so i want to let her. one day, when it was happening, i was praying, please God show me what to say. and it was the best. i told my daughter, “are you frustrated because you can’t do it?” she nodded tearfully. i said, “do you know why?” she shook her head “no.” “it’s because you are learning something new. if it was easy and you could do it, then you wouldn’t be learning! so it’s okay to mess up. that means you are learning. it’s okay that it’s hard, you’ve never done it before!” then we talked about how she would one day be able to play a song and one day be able to do this or that on the violin. and then we laughed about how silly it would be if she could only ever play one note on the violin. that really cheered her up.

      afterwards, i realized what a lesson it was to adults too. sometimes when things are hard or i am messing up, i think there is something wrong with ME, when really, i am just learning. if i’m not doing it perfect and it’s a little (or a lot) hard, it just means i’m growing. we are all still learning. even as a mom, i’m learning and growing up as a mom alongside my children. it’s a good reminder to me, even now!

    • Aly says...

      Heather – my son sounds very similar to yours. Nearly 4 years old and an early reader/writer with a strong dose of the frustration with “messing up” – he also tears up or scribbles frantically on paper if it isn’t perfect, etc. You sound so calm and patient and wonderful. I’m going to try to channel your energy!
      Joanna – that advice is brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  97. Mac says...

    My goal with my children is to love them so well that they recognize and accept love and generously give love to others. That makes for a lot fewer boxes to mentally tick every day and I figure if I can do that one big thing well the small things should turn out just fine, too.

    • Suzanne says...

      Oh, I love this. Thank you, Mac. “To love them so well that they recognize and accept love and generously give love” — what could be more important than that??

  98. Em says...

    I love this post and needed to read it today, thank you! Sleep regression with twins is no joke!

    • Heather says...

      Twin mom high five.

    • Dajana says...

      I’m with you Em! Having twins is no joke. My husband & I just hired a sleep consultant. We’re all in desperate need of some sleep. The only ‘person’ sleeping in our house right now is our dog Lucy.

    • Jen says...

      Hang in there, twin mamas! Mine are 5, heading to kindergarten in the fall, and things feel good. That sleepless time, though. So, so hard.

  99. TJ says...

    My mom died about a year and a half ago and she was a great mom. We didn’t always get along and she kind of drove me batty, but here’s the thing: she noticed me. My dad is a great dad, and we get along, but when I was growing up, he was often paying absorbed in his own life. My mom, who also worked full-time, spent time with me, she remembered the people I was friends with in school, or that weird skirt we bought in 1985. She was my collective memory. When I lost her, I lost that.
    You don’t always have to be perfect, but if you pay attention to your kids, you give them an emotional safety net like no other, and they will feel that.

    • Emily says...

      This is so beautiful and makes me very weepy. I’m so sorry you lost your mom. xo

    • Alexandra says...

      I totally agree with this. I have very strange (almost non existent) relationship with my dad. Although he has always lived very near geographically, he has never been interested in me. He wouldn’t listen to me, wouldn’ ask about my life, or even give a call, he didn’t visit after my daughter was born….and it’ s been SO hard for me to cope with, and still is although I’m almost 32 by now. I just miss his presence. Therefore, whenever I hear someone having doubts about their parenting skills, or feeling parenting guilt, I just tell them: as long as you CARE about your kids, and are present in their life, you are a good parent!

    • My mom “notices” me too. So nice to have one person on the planet who pays attention to me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      TJ, that is so lovely. “she noticed me… she was my collective memory.”

      i’m so sorry for your loss, and thinking of you today.

    • Anna says...

      This literally brought tears to my eyes. So sorry you lost your Mum. Beautiful words.

    • Nilam says...

      A collective memory. What a beautiful ode to your mother. I cut and paste your comment and sent it to a few friends — we all have young children. This was a great reminder to stop and notice.

  100. Cara says...

    Recently, at the end of a fun-yet-exhausting weekend, my three-year-old son asked (relatively sweetly) for a bowl of cereal with milk. After telling him that was ok, I realized that the milk had turned. I offered him a few alternative snack options but my son insisted (not sweetly AT ALL), on cereal. “Fine,” I said, and then I watched in horror as he ate an entire giant bowl of cereal with sour, chunky milk. He made a terrible face the entire time, but he did it — I guess to spite his mom.

    I later told a friend “I’m maybe a terrible mother!” who reassured me that maybe this was actually a good learning experience for a three-year-old. 1) Mom’s looking out for you, dude! 2) Three’s as good a time as any for a kid to begin making decisions contrary to his parents’ wishes; 3) Pride has a taste, and it’s not good.

    • Abbie says...

      Pride has a taste! LOVE that!

    • Em says...

      Oh my goodness, this made me laugh! ❤️

    • Meg says...

      YES PRIDE HAS A TASTE AND IT AIN’T GOOD.

  101. Liv says...

    I don’t know about ‘wonderful’ but something I always appreciated about my Dad and something I do with my own children is apologize when I’m wrong- I feel like it allows them to see that grown-ups aren’t always right and gives them some sense of themselves in a big world- that even though they’re small they deserve acknowledgment and respect.

  102. Ruth says...

    This is great. Love is definitely the greatest gift we can give our children. Thanks for reminding me that we’re all doing the best we can. :-)

  103. Meg says...

    My grandmother once tenderly reached up for my face and pulled me down so we were eye to eye. She said to me, “You’re one of mine. For that reason alone I’ll love you forever.” I’ll never ever forget that moment. Her words were a gift that have brought me abiding peace – knowing that, to her, I have inherent worth that can be neither earned or taken away. I think I’m a good mom because I love like she did and my children know it.

    Thank you for your thoughtful questions that jog such sweet memories.

    • jen says...

      Oh this is lovely

    • MJ says...

      tears in my eyes! i was very close to my grandmother and can imagine her saying something as yours did. i knew i belonged to her and i knew i was loved! when i question if i’m being a good mom, i often think of her (she was not perfect) but i remember all the good and feel love!

  104. Shannon says...

    Needed this. We had a rough morning & the stress is still keeping me down. But my 4 year old is resilient & positive & full of fun. What makes me a great parent is when I encourage is imagination during playtime. And right now he is eating ice cream while his lunch cooks. So what, right. Sometimes I must be okay with the small things like eating ice cream before lunch.

  105. Kerry says...

    I think it’s important for my two boys to see me having fun and happy. After divorce and a consequent year of the blues, I want them to see life in bright reds and sparkly yellows again. And it’s working! We are happy and the three of us know we are loved.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound so lovely, kerry. what a hard year that sounds like; and that’s impressive that you could even put one foot in front of the other, let alone parent two children, through all that change and sadness. sending you a big hug, and keep doing what you’re doing, mama! :)

  106. when I take time to myself for a few days and regroup – that’s what makes me a solid parent. Wonderful is a big word :)

  107. Yes! This reminds me of that chapter in “All Joy and No Fun” when the dad says, “I am the standard.” I see this in my husband. He’s not just the “fun dad” as one commenter pointed out is a cultural stereotype. He does the hard stuff and the nurturing stuff, too. But the main difference between us is his lack of guilt and second-guessing himself!

    Also, I love how you boil it down to whether your children feel loved. Once I was lamenting to my spiritual director my guilt over choosing to be a working mom and missing out on the day to day with my toddler daughter. My mom stayed at home until I was in elementary school, so I don’t have a model for what it looks like to be a working mom. But my spiritual director said, “Yes, your mom was there with you day in and day out when you were little, but how present was she?” The answer: not very. That helped me realize I was making the best choice for my daughter and myself. Working outside the home allows me to be incredibly present when I am with my daughter, and to communicate to her in a dozen ways that I completely delight in her, which is a sense I was missing as a child.

  108. jill c. says...

    I say i’m sorry to my kids when i know i’m wrong – when maybe i’ve “reacted” instead of “acted” in a not so positive way (such as losing my patience and yelling b/c well, i just couldn’t handle whatever it was in that moment). My mom apologized to us when we were younger and i remember it being such a big deal to me – to realize that she too made mistakes but that she could recognize those mistakes and ask us to forgive her actions. In doing this with my kids they have learned to forgive me and forgive themselves too in their not so great moments of behaving.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this, jill!! my mom apologized sometimes to us when we were little, and i remember one time so distinctly — it meant so much to me and made me like she respected me so much. I do it with my kids now, too, when i’ve been grumpy or snappy. love this.

    • brianna says...

      I love this. It shows you see your kids as people.

  109. Jessie says...

    This is a beautiful sentiment. And I think it extends beyond motherhood. It’s easy to beat ourselves up as partners and friends (who are these couples who can do know wrong? how are these friends always doing these thoughtful things?). But it just comes down to this sentiment:
    –does my partner feel loved and supported?
    –do my friends feel loved and supported?

    This post encouraged me to reach out to a friend I haven’t seen in a while to remind her how much I love her. Thanks for the inspiration — today and always, in life and in love!

  110. Natasha says...

    My mom was a doctor and was always there for her patients 24/7. Some nights she couldn’t come home, and she always had her beeper on vacations and weekends. She missed conferences and activities.

    But despite all that, I never ever felt that she wasn’t there. I look back and I always feel that she was a constant presence. I don’t think of the nights she wasn’t there, I think of the late nights we spent watching Golden Girls and Designing Women and her telling me how much women rule and to always own being one.

    She passed away almost 3 years ago now. And as I start thinking about starting my own family, I hope I can be present while setting a strong example of independence.

    I think that if your kids, at the end of the day, know you’re there when they call or knock on the door or scream your name or email you.. that’s being a good mom. You don’t have to be there geographically for them to feel your love.

    • Rupal says...

      Thank you for this! As a doctor mom of two who also works weekends and is on call at night I always worry my kids will grow up feeling like I wasn’t there for them. I really try to be present in the time we are together. Reading this gives me hope :)

  111. Emily says...

    I, also, have never listed the reasons I am a good mom. Here goes…I’m a good mom because in the course of mothering, I have learned and now practice that feelings aren’t facts, that because my child is responding to a situation or feeling or moment in a way that I wouldn’t, doesn’t make how he feels and responds invalid. I am a good mom because through mothering, I have learned how to be beside a human while he struggles and not correct him or push him off of his negative feeling because it makes me uncomfortable. I am a good mom because my son can express his emotions, move through them with more maturity than I even possess, and arrive at the other side having learned something. And he can do this because I learned how to let him feel and I stopped telling him HOW to feel. And I make kickass pancakes!

    • Nadine says...

      love this! pancakes included..

  112. Es says...

    I love how you calculated the All the Other Days!

  113. Sarah says...

    I just said to someone the other day half-jokingly that I felt like Cup of Jo (or maybe you, Jo, herself? :)) reads my mind all the time and posts what exactly what I need in that moment. So relevant. So, thanks!

    As to what makes me a good mom: I am very present when I’m with her (this is something I have to think consciously about as that darn phone is such an addictive adult-pacifier), I adore her beyond words and make sure she knows that all the time, and I make her laugh so hard many days. That’s good enough for me. :)

    • Katie says...

      Addictive adult pacifier – exactly!! Brilliant.

  114. Kathleen says...

    Joanna – thank you for another beautiful post on motherhood. Something I have struggled with (and have found that many, MANY women also struggle with) is the fact that I feel like I never had a real mother, despite having one and being fed and clothed. I cringe at Mother’s Day posts on Facebook, while having insane envy…I look at Instagram posts of my friends and their mothers and start crying…I hate seeing a text from my mother because it means I have to respond to her – or do I have to? Where are the needed boundaries?
    This might be something for you to explore on this site – in this wonderful community of women, there has to be many of us who have gone through the same thing. I am trying to have a baby now and I’m terrified that I will do it all wrong. But if I just love them – and if my eyes light up when they walk in the room – I know I’ll be 95% there. Thanks.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a thoughtful, honest, insightful comment, kathleen. thank you so much. some of my friends feel the same as you, for sure. i’d love to write more about this. thank you!

    • Emily says...

      Hi, Kathleen-I have a complicated relationship with my mother and through mothering (and a really great therapist), I was able to heal many of the painful parts of my childhood that I didn’t think I would be able to overcome. My therapist told me that both mothering and marriage give you the opportunity to “repair or repeat” and ever since she shared that with me, I have found such comfort in the ways I can repair. In many ways, mothering my son has helped me heal the little girl version of myself. I never even considered this as a bonus that would come to me through mothering. It’s been a life changer for me. xo

    • L says...

      Kathleen–I know how you feel! I have parents who provided for me physically (roof over my head, food on the table, paid for my undergrad education), but never mentally and emotionally. I feel profound loneliness when I think about my relationship with my parents–something that they don’t see because they aren’t capable of self-reflection. It breaks my heart.

      So–I second this request about boundaries with mothers/parents. But I would also love to see a post about developing intergenerational friendships to help fill that mother void a little.

    • Celeste says...

      Oh, man. My eyes are filled with tears reading these comments because I am there! My relationship with my mother is complicated—really good sometimes and a source of frustration, pain, and stress at other times. I so badly want to have a close relationship with her like my friend who goes mountain biking and golfing with her mom every week, but that’s just not in the cards for me. I have to just soak up those good moments and accept that later, I will be blamed, pushed away, and warped into something I’m not.

      I’ve already seen amazing things in my marriage that my parents don’t have in theirs, and I’m convinced that a similar pattern will emerge once I become a mother.

      Love to all those daughters who have complicated relationships with their mothers! <3

    • I feel you, Kathleen! I always thought my mom was awesome, but once I became a mother I realized that even though she was a total hero compared to my deadbeat dad, she was really just in survival mode for most of my childhood, and not emotionally present for my sisters and me. My sisters and I have been coming to terms with this in a new way now that we are all in the early years of motherhood, realizing that we aren’t quite sure what it looks like to be a healthy mom. We all do the best we can, but there is something to figuring out how to live with the tension of honoring our moms’ best and acknowledging the lack we felt/feel.

    • Laura says...

      Kathleen you said it. You should’ve seen the tears streaming down my face when I read this comment thread a couple hours ago. While I guess my mom technically “loves” me I don’t think she really loves “me” if that makes sense. I also experience the insane envy whenever I see those types of mother/daughter posts. And then I feel guilty for not being a good daughter.

    • Simone says...

      Kathleen, Emily, L, Celeste, Joy, Laura, sending hugs your way.

      I, too, have a difficult relationship with my mom who was a single parent. She has difficult relationships with her parents and siblings which in turn makes all my relationships with them difficult also. On the one hand I feel so much resentment, on the other, so much guilt. I have thought so often that it would be better for me to cut off contact, but I cannot bring myself to do it, because I know I am all she cares about in life. Typing this out now, it really is too much to carry with me. I think this may finally be the point where I tackle therapy for this again.

      Joanna, please do consider a post about this. It is so alienating to have such familial struggles when the rest of the world (though of course I know this is not true) seems to have one healthy, happy family that lifts each other up when my own experience is draining all the energy from me.

    • Lindsay says...

      I relate to this too! My mother is an alcoholic and I have been estranged from her off-and-on since high school. It is hard to witness the love and support that others receive from their parents and to wish that I had that connection with my mom. I would also love to read about other’s experience with this subject.

      I have a 2 year old and I am surprisingly not too hard on myself on the motherhood front although of course I’ve also experienced my fair share of mom-guilt. My feeling is that the most important thing is to provide love, safety and consistency and as long as I’m doing that then I’m doing just fine.

      Much love to all of those who feel motherless!

    • Katie says...

      This really rings true for me – esp Laura’s comment about a mother who “loves” you but doesn’t love “you.” I would love to see more on this topic, Joanna. I am pregnant now for the first time and am so terrified to repeat the pattern with my own child – my mother had a poor relationship with her mother, who had a poor relationship with hers. I also feel like this is something I can’t talk about much- I wasn’t abused or neglected in ways that are (relatively) easy for people to understand, and I find even close friends look uncomfortable when I mention my negative relationship with my parents. So it is good to hear from people here who have similar experiences.

    • Mel says...

      Kathleen, thank you for posting this! And the other strong, lovely women who shared their experiences as well. I too struggle with a complicated relationship with my mother. And becoming a mom myself has brought so much of it to the fore. There are just so many emotions the envy, guilt, and now questioning my own parenting instincts.

      It sounds strange but comments from women I’ve never met and Jo, your post, have been a great comfort. Thank you!

    • Samantha says...

      Kathleen–I too have a difficult mother and experienced so much anxiety while trying to get pregnant and during my pregnancy. I desperately wanted (and still want!) my relationship with my daughter to be different than my relationship with my mother. In the Cup of Jo post about favorite parenting books a commenter recommended Mothering Without a Map, which is about having an absent/distant/difficult/troubled mother and not repeating that dynamic in your own life. I read it while pregnant and it was profoundly helpful and illuminating. Just a great book on mothering in general. I keep it on my bedside table. xo

    • Kathleen, thank you for opening up. I’m in a similar situation, and getting married next month, and I made the choice to have just my dad walk me down the aisle, ostensibly for tradition, but really because of the way my mom is with us.

      L, I seek intergenerational friendships with older women for sure! I know two moms who are very special in my lie and they definitely beat themselves up a lot, but I wish they knew how much their warmth and energy soothe my soul even as an adult. Their kids are so lucky, and so loved.

      And my beloved Nana, who is 87 now, will always be the most important lady in my life. I call her every Thursday for the past 8 years, and the woman is a saint.

      Katie and Emily and Joy and Lindsay, Simone and Laura and Celeste and Mel, sending big hugs your way. You’re sure not alone in this.

    • Cate says...

      I’m totally there with you! There has always been so much tension between my mom and me (from very early on) and now that I’m a mother I feel like I’m constantly analyzing myself with that in mind. Am I somehow repeating that type of relationship with my own children when I lose my patience and snap at them? Or am I in good shape to avoid it because I am so conscious of it and (hopefully) taking steps to forge a different path? I never know! And it really worries me.

      Although my childhood was so often hurtful, in my most reflective moments I think of it as a gift to me and my children that will encourage me to do things differently for them. I hope I’m showing them more unconditional love than I got, that I’m valuing them as humans in a way that I didn’t (and still don’t) feel from my mom. Overall, I feel I’m doing my best, remaining reflective along the way, which I think is an improvement on what I experienced.

    • Anne says...

      Adding on to the difficult relationship with my mother category.

      I love my mother, and she’s an overall good person who tried her best. I just don’t think she knows that we’re two separate people with separate lives sometimes. Like, I’ve questioned whether or not she would have just been happier getting a puppy that she could train to do what she wants and never have a different opinion. I kind of feel like she loves me TOO MUCH…it’s suffocating.

      I’m now in “advanced maternal age” myself and am at the point where I need to decide on having children or not. I feel like I come from a loooong line of women that maybe just shouldn’t have been mothers to begin with, and now for the first time in history, I actually have the opportunity to decide if I want to be a mother….and I’m not sure I do.

    • Simone says...

      I keep coming back to check if there are more responses on this thread. I am sorry that there are, because it means that there are more of us that are left hurt and confused by our relationships with our mothers. On the other hand, this is helping so much. I don’t feel so alone anymore. Thank you all for sharing your stories <3

      Anne, your story specifically is so eerily familiar. Literally everything you wrote rings true for me also. I have been relatively sure of my "no kids" stance for many years, but I am starting to doubt if it is a knee-jerk reaction to my maternal relationship. I do not have much longer before mother nature will decide for me and I am beginning to panic. I find myself envying the parents who were sure or at least sure enough of their decision and just went for it. Sending hugs, Anne.

    • Anon says...

      I spent my childhood feeling detached from my parents, intensely embarrassed by them and reluctant to expose friends/boyfriends to them. I always assumed this was more my problem than theirs and that once I was older I would move beyond my awkward teenage embarrassment and appreciate them. Then I got to university and made friends with people who adored their parents and had positive relationships, while I still felt the same detachment. It was a really lonely, upsetting realisation. And it definitely makes people feel awkward when you talk about not having a great relationship with your parents!

      Now that I have a daughter myself I am acutely aware of all the things that were challenging about my childhood and the way I was raised, and desperate not to repeat the cycle.

      My siblings and I are sure that my Dad has narcissistic personality disorder (this almost always goes diagnosed because a narcissist would never admit fault or seek help!) and I would love a post on dealing with this type of thing. My relationship with my mum was no Facebook fairy tale (very far from it), but not as awful as that with my Dad. Mum died suddenly last year, when I was six months pregnant and the grief has felt so multifaceted and hard. I’m not just mourning my mum, who I loved deeply and was a good mum in so many ways, or the fact that she never got to meet her first grandchild or be there for me in that first hard, hard year of motherhood, but I’m also mourning the fact that I never addressed harder aspects of our relationship while she was alive. And now I’m also left dealing with my Dad who pours the burden of his grief onto my sister and I, despite never having shown much of an active interest in us while my mum was alive. It’s all so hard and it’s so reassuring to read these other comments about tough parental relationships, so thank you all. xx

    • Anne says...

      Here I thought, surely, there’s no more comments on here.

      Simone, thank you so much for the hugs! Like you said, it’s sad, yet comforting, that so many of us can relate. All the best to you. :)

      I’ve always been a firm “no kids” person too, but man….that biological clock is a real thing! Who knew?! I’ve been stressed about it for months, but after I’d written this on Tuesday evening, I had such a calm feeling about it on my way to sleep. Whatever we choose to do will be fine. :)

    • Maureen says...

      Kate, your comment “I wasn’t abused or neglected in ways that are (relatively) easy for people to understand” really rings true with me. My mother didn’t openly abuse me – I was always fed, clothed and looked after, but the emotional abuse and controlling behaviour that was spread over the nineteen years I lived at home is really difficult to explain. It doesn’t help that society fetishises mothers; Mother’s Day and attitudes like “no one loves you like your mother,” “you only have one mother” don’t help. I’ve been told “but she’s your mum,” as if this alone means I shouldn’t limit contact with a person that only has a detrimental affect on my happiness and self esteem.

      My partner and I are thinking of trying for kids in a few years and while I know I won’t be a perfect mother by any stretch of the imagination, I KNOW I wont be the kind my mother was. The reason I know this is because I have been in a healthy, happy relationship with my partner for fourteen years which is nothing like the extremely destructive, unhappy relationship my parents had. This is proof for me that unhealthy patterns don’t have to be repeated. I think people who came from difficult families relationships can come with the self awareness to recognise destructive behaviour and the incentive not to repeat it.

    • Tricia says...

      I hear people say that they didn’t understand how much their parents loved them or why they did the things they did until after they themselves became parents. After having my daughter, the behavior of my parents towards me is more confusing than ever. It’s really hard to raise a child when you know your mom is out there but has no helpful advice to give. It’s just all spite and bile and too much to take. I let them have a relationship with my daughter but I feel like I have to be constantly on guard for the moment when (and trust me, they will) they will say hurtful things about my sweet girl without even realizing. They seem confused about how it is that she is so happy where I was not. I have to bite my tongue and not remind them of things like when my mother said she’d wished I had never been born or both my mom and dad vassilating between screaming at me all the time or ignoring me completely.

      I don’t think I will miss them after they are gone which is terrible. I feel as if I have spent a lifetime already mourning for parents I don’t have. They’re just so self absorbed it is truly breathtaking to behold.

      To everyone on this thread, you are doing a fantastic job. Hugs all around. I am sad to see that there are so many others that have suffered in this way but I am glad to know I am not alone.

    • My mother was adopted and i am sure her resentment towards her birth parents played a big part in our flawed relationship. I have lost count of the number of hurtful things she has said to me but I remember being in a bus with her and my dad when I was a teenager and they told me I would never get married because I was so dark. My dad abused me in the name of discipline and although my mother never hit me, i find it a lot more difficult to forgive her for not being a good mother to me.

      I waited for a long time for her to apologise for the way she treated me but have come to realise that that is never going to happen because I honestly don’t think she feels like she has done anything wrong. So, I am in the (very long and hard) process of learning to forgive and move on. Let it be. Let it be. I have two girls of my own now (a 6 year old and a 6 month old) and saw motherhood as a chance for me to start afresh and parent the way I wish I was parented. They are the light of my life and the immensity of my love for them makes me want to weep sometimes.

  115. JO says...

    I have a three year old daughter and almost one year old son. In the past 24 hours, amidst a whirlwind day trip to the beach, I’ve doubted my parenting when my son woke up with a head still full of sand, and I dropped my daughter off for a visit with grandparents only to realize too late that she wasn’t wearing any underwear… under her dress. But last night on the way back from the beach, she said to me, “Mommy, look at that beautiful pink sky.” And I said to my husband, “She just stopped to admire the sunset. So I guess we’re doing at least something right.”

  116. Charlotte K says...

    D.Winnicott, a noted psychoanalyst, believed that it was important that children experienced the “good-enough” parent and that a perfect parent would not help the child prepare for an imperfect world. It’s important that not every want or condition be met as that’s unrealistic. I’ve always thought this was a very healthy concept in child-rearing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_enough_parent

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that concept, charlotte!

      separately but related: once i felt really bad for snapping at one of my children, and my aunt said, “well, they should learn that everyone has their limits.” i thought that was a great advice, too, ha!

  117. Mollie says...

    I’ve never even asked myself why I’m a wonderful parent, thank you for posing the question to me! I’m a wonderful parent because I allow space for the feelings of both my child and myself — such I allow my child room to feel sad without trying to immediately cheer her up, which is something valuable my mother gave me: the room to feel what we feel, acknowledge it, and move forward; this has allowed me to acknowledge I don’t have to love being a mom to love my child.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      mollie, you sound really wonderful.

  118. Kelly says...

    This was so needed today. As a new mom of premature twin girls I am struggling with breastfeeding, pumping, taking care of two babies and keeping my sanity. A few weeks ago my mother in law said the most poignant thing to me about being a mom, “welcome to feeling guilty about everything for the rest of your life.” Guess we just need to cut ourselves a break.

    • Emily says...

      Oh, Kelly! I guarantee you, you are doing a wonderful job. Sending love and support to wherever you are. Mothering tiny twins is a whole different ballgame. xoxo

    • Rebecca says...

      I was in your exact shoes four years ago. You can do it Mama, and you’ll be so, so proud of how far you come as time goes on! Sending love, rest, and a big hug to a fellow preemie twin girl Mom :)

    • Claire says...

      I’ve got twin girls that just turned 1 this past Friday, it is SO hard those first few months. My girls did well with breast feeding in the NICU but it didn’t go so well once we got home. I pumped for TEN MONTHS. It’s HARD. But it gets better! Everything gets better in incriments. If they don’t sleep at the same time, I like to tell myself one just wants more time with me, if pumping and BFing is hard, formula is totally ok! You need to be coherent at some point too.

      Good Luck! You got this!

  119. Nathalie says...

    Something that helps me as mother is recognizing my limitations and outsourcing the problem areas. I hate biking, so my husband takes the kids on bike trips without me. I’m not super outdoorsy so I sent my kids to a forest kindergarten. And if I’m feeling frustrated/down and start being too hard on my kids, then it’s time for someone else to step in. Either a favourite babysitter comes, or the kids go to visit their paternal grandparents or my mom (who lives far away) will read a book on the phone or Skype for an hour while I get myself sorted. They feel loved by many and I have no guilt about outsourcing, it takes a village!

  120. Amanda says...

    Where is that picture from? I’ve got to find it…reminds me of my little girl. Love this post!

  121. Such a great question. Do my children feel loved? Yes, my heart Joanna. A much better and realistic way to handle mom guilt. And that quote is hilarious! Beans, beans the magical fruit. Haha!

  122. Julia says...

    This is exactly what I needed today. Thank you!

  123. Inge says...

    “I am a great dad…” You posted this in some other post a while ago, I read it and bookmarked it back then. It is so true! Pressure and standards are so high for women, but not for men. We should not make them higher for men, but lower them for women. And that’s a thing only we ourselves can do, because we are our own worst critics…

  124. Heather says...

    Ok, I am 100% in agreement with the idea that a lot of mothers could stand to stop beating themselves against some false idea of motherly perfection. But I gotta take issue with that quote, I think it embodies an outdated and yet still pathetically prevalent dynamic between straight parents: dad is FUN, mom takes care of the rest – the details, the discipline, the worrying. I am surrounded by friends who strive to live in egalitarian relationships and yet so many of my mother friends are parenting with male partners who think being a dad starts and ends with making kids laugh. Yes – having fun makes kids feel loved. They also feel loved when they are healthy (eat your veggies!), rested (dudes, go to bed!), and have parents who work with them to provide consistent, loving structures (yo, this is a no-pinching house, please don’t hurt your sister when you’re angry!). Obviously it’s not an either or situation, but it just drives me nuts to see this dynamic so alive and well in 2017!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, yes, heather — but i think raquel’s quote is trying to fight against that exact stereotype! she was saying that she’s a great “dad,” in the way that society has long defined dads (annoyingly), and her husband is a great “mom,” as society has long defined it (annoyingly). and that’s a wonderful family! you can have any role that works for you.

  125. Jody says...

    I mean, not to brag but I can transform into a pretty solid ninja turtle character at the drop of my 3.5 year old’s hat ;)

  126. Claire says...

    So much of this goes back to that Tina Fey & Amy Poheler quote, right? “Good for them, not for me.” I’ve worked with kids in some capacity since I was 11. I like kids, I LOVE my kids and it honestly does not occur to me to compare myself to other moms.

    I had the extraordinary privilege of being a nanny for almost five years and even though those kids didn’t spend all day with their parents, those kids were LOVED. The house was messy and nobody freaked out, we did a million activities, and most importantly, nothing little was ever life or death. It just doesn’t matter if the youngest wants to wear his shirt backwards when we go to the park, the world does not end if we’re 10 minutes late for tennis and that attitude was a gift. I had the ability to watch other parents from an outsiders perspective and they’d get SO caught up in little things and then the parents of the kids I took care of came in and all they cared about was being as involved as they could be and as participatory while still providing for their family.

    So now that I have a 4 year old and two little one-year-olds, I look at those kids (They’re 12 and 16 now!) and I think “YOU TWO ARE FANTASTIC!” and I got to be a part of that. It’s hard to be worried when I see that.

    • Elle says...

      Love this! I want to be more like those parents. It’s important to remember what really is important.

    • Inge says...

      “Good for them, not for me”. Since reading that quote on this site, it’s in my head forever. It helps me to take pressure of things sometimes, especially in motherhood.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how wonderful, claire! LOVE this.

    • MelTown says...

      This is so true! I started babysitting at 13 and was a nanny in college and learning from those families was such a privilege. I worked for strict Type A parents, and laid back artist parents and everything in between and while I definitely have my opinions on their parenting styles, and have cobbled them together to inform my own parenting, it also really taught me that there are many right ways to raise a child as long as they are loved and cared for. I still feel guilty a lot of the time, but those experiences really helped me to be gentler with myself.

  127. Trisha says...

    ok all the tears today. I came in to work teary from my period and teary from weaning. I am in the throes of full hormonal hell right now. I needed this. my guy sometimes doesn’t understand “mom guilt”. I wish I could even explain it. but mostly I wish I was kinder to myself over it. reading things like this and knowing you are not alone helps. I grab a beer in the evening, get in my underwear and get down in the floor with my almost 2 year old and play dinosaurs, blocks, picnic and paint until she doesn’t want to anymore. I take really splashy messy baths with her while she laughs and laughs that I pour water everywhere. I go to bed with her every night and right before she falls asleep I start nibbling her ears and making her laugh because I don’t want her to fall asleep yet. she seems really happy to me and I hope I have something to do with that!
    thanks for this! you’re the best :-)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, trisha, you sound SO wonderful and sparkly and loving! your daughter is a lucky girl. also, hormones from weaning are no joke — hang in there, mama!!!!! xoxoxoxo

    • Heather says...

      Big hug, Trisha! I know how tough that can be! Your descriptions of your time with your daughter are so sweet. You sound like a wonderful loving mom.

    • Trisha says...

      omg thank you guys so much. I have loved reading everyone’s comments and wish I could give a high five and hug to all the moms!

  128. Ursula says...

    Thanks for this — I think all of us need this reminder from time to time.

    The best advice I ever got as a new mother was “If everyone is breathing at the end of the day, you have done your job. And you get to try again tomorrow.” At the time I thought it was really strange advice, not terribly inspiring — I wanted to swing for the fence on this motherhood thing! Every day! But it has stayed with me and over time it has become my favorite thing to tell new parents. Some days you will only meet basic requirements. And that’s ok. But there’s always tomorrow, with a clean slate ahead of you.

  129. T says...

    My mom was diligent about green leafy vegetables, never let us watch tv, and was home pretty much every night for bedtime, but you know what? She never, ever gave me the sense that she saw me and loved me for who I am. Instead she brought all her rigidity and rules and standards and projected her own anxiety about not being good enough onto my sister and me. I always felt like I was a failure or a work in progress in my mother’s eyes, and to this day, I’d never call her up to share a problem or a worry or even an accomplishment, because her judgment feels so hard to bear.
    When I skin my knee (then, literally, now, metaphorically), it is always my dad to whom I go because regardless of how many late nights he worked or anything else he “messed up” as a parent, he always made me feel that I was loved, just as I am.
    None of that other stuff – what you feed your kid, how diligently you bring them to the dentist – matters a whit in comparison with making them feel like they are okay, and seen, and loved. If you are doing that, you are already an incredible parent.

    • Nina says...

      Thank you for this. I really needed it today.

    • Heather says...

      Do you have kids, T?

      I’m asking because I feel like one of the kindest things I can do for myself as a parent is forgive my own parents for not being perfect. When I think about the choices my parents made, or insecurities they brought into our family, that hurt my feelings, or that may have impacted me negatively, I start to really worry about how all of MY weaknesses, insecurities, and mistakes might hurt my children. I’m not talking about a parent being cruel or abusive – just people being typically flawed, making mistakes, even making truly bad decisions that they later regret. Being angry at my parents for how they messed me up starts to aggrandize all of my parenting decisions, and makes me start to feel sorry for my children for being burdened by having a mom that isn’t a good cook/is really introverted/is an awkward dancer/overthinks everything/gets depressed/sometimes screams about putting shoes on/etc.. In reality, my parents were not perfect people, but they loved me and did their best. And I am not a perfect person, but I love my kids and I’m doing my best. And a great gift I can give to my children is to show them that it’s OK to be imperfect.

    • Kristen says...

      T, you just described my mom and dad. Good to know I’m not alone with this experience. And I agree 100% with you, let your kids know you see them for who they are, the magic of who they are separate from yourself.

    • Katrin says...

      Yes, this. What you describe is a hundred percent true for me and my mom, and you are so right. I try so much to do this differently, and better, with my own kids now, and I hope I succeed. Seeing and loving one’s children as they are is the most important thing we owe our kids, and what our kids need the most. Thanks für your article, Joanna, and I love all of the comments!

    • Anna says...

      T – I had the exact same thing with my Dad, Even near the end, when he had a terminal illness (he passed away six months ago) he didn’t change. I always felt like he did everything by the book and didn’t want/know how to take the time to love me, see me, understand me or even spend time with me. It was all about ticking off boxes in a list. But none of that “perfection” means a thing if as a child you don’t feel safe and supported. It taught me a lot about how I wanted to do things differently with my own child.

  130. Alex says...

    Mom guilt is real! no doubt. But I think we’re good parents because people tell us often that our almost 2 year old is very nice to be around, which I think is as good a compliment as you can get for a toddler.
    I also think I’m a good mother because I take time for myself every week. I exercise and go out with friends and my husband without the kid. I really think being independently happy and healthy is one of the best things I can do for my kid. (Props to my husband for being a super supportive spouse and also the babysitting co-op we are in because free babysitting is crucial!)

    • “I also think I’m a good mother because I take time for myself every week. I exercise and go out with friends and my husband without the kid. I really think being independently happy and healthy is one of the best things I can do for my kid.”

      So much yes!

  131. Elspeth says...

    Joanna, I can tell you’re a great mother because your boys always look so happy (and genuinely so, not just in a posing for a picture kind of way). Keep up the good work, lovely! x

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you’re so sweet, elspeth. that means a lot to me :)

    • Joanna says...

      Backing this up! My girlfriend lives in your neighborhood and knows I’m a fan. She’s told me she’s seen you out a few times with your boys and noticed you because the first thing she noticed was “Wow, that woman seems to be genuinely enjoying being with her children!” I thought that was so sweet :)

  132. mollcoll says...

    Taking time for 1-on-1 “fun stuff” with my 3 children has been helpful. The day to day between work, school and activities – basic juggling – can be stressful. But when you pick someone up from school and head out for a surprise walk in the woods or to sit down (just the 2 of us) for an ice cream and just be together – that is something my kids will remember.

  133. Monica says...

    That’s such a great question Joanna!

    When the mom guilt so easily overshadows the mom goodness, I have to say that what makes me a wonderful parent is having a wonderful husband who shares the heaviness and the lightness with me no questions asked: if I’m feeling heavy, he’ll be light and if he’s feeling heavy, I’ll be light.

    I now know enough to say that with parenting come heavy and light days and tackling it with a strong sidekick makes everything so much easier.

    And when we’re both feeling light? Well, it’s pure magic for everyone.

    • Trisha says...

      ahh that’s so sweet! I love the way you put that Monica :) def feel that with my guy…. I need to tell him!

    • Whitney says...

      This is beautiful. My sentiments exactly.

  134. Rebecca says...

    As a children’s librarian by trade (but currently a stay at home mom), I hope that sharing my love of books and reading makes me a good mom. My little guy is almost 20 months and loves “boots.” He’s not much of a cuddler, but will sit on my lap for 15-20 minutes at a time to read his favorites about trucks.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes books!!!! he’s so lucky, rebecca!

    • karen says...

      Former children’s librarian here too, Rebecca! My guy was so not a cuddler when he was smaller and I was so sad. I would watch all the other little peeps snuggling in at Storytime. But he got more cuddly as he got older and the first time he told me that he loved me, was one of the best moments of my life.

  135. Heidi Hooten says...

    As far as I’ve always been concerned, my two daughters are THE most interesting people on the planet. Even at their current ages – 18 and 22 – my focus still turns to them like a plant follows the sun when they walk into a room. I seriously doubt it will ever be any different.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “my focus still turns to them like a plant follows the sun when they walk into a room” = my heart bursts!

    • Yvonne says...

      Heidi, mine are 29 and 26 and I can’t get enough of them! I love spending time with them.

    • Dee says...

      *SOBS* listening to six month old daughter breathing through the baby monitor…

  136. Suzette says...

    This is just beautiful! And yes, we are all good mothers, raising happy well-adjusted kids with all of life’s continuously changing times these days. My sisters and I grew up watching Herman The Monters aka ‘The Munsters’ and always had such an out of this world laugh ongoing while our parents slept in on the weekends that they had nothing to feel guilty about, ever. We ate chocolate ice cream and warm raisin bread for breakfast as we were not allowed to plug anything in, and it was just fabulous(!) We still have those days as grown ups and they are some of our best days. Rock on you Moms out there! We are all doing it.

  137. Rosemary says...

    Firstly, I simply love the painting you’ve posted – it’s so lovely and heart-warming. I think I was a really good mom to my young kids. I spent a lot of time nurturing their creativity and their silly sides. I introduced them to many wonderful things that life has to offer, and genuinely loved being with them. I found it natural and quite simply the best time of my life. They truly brought out the best in me, and I in them. Now that they are 19 and 28, I find I struggle to figure out my role as their mother. I so want to be an important part of their lives, but don’t know where I fit in anymore. This is something I never anticipated – that I am not the star player anymore, that I must jockey for their time, that I must often weigh my words and tread carefully lest I offend or come across as pushy or interfering. Being a mom to older children is hard!

    • Becca says...

      I bet it is. My mom struggled to adapt as we got older and now our relationship isn’t as close as I wish it was. I am sad about that AND I have a gnawing fear that this will happen to me as my girls get older so I feel guilt on both sides!

  138. Sarah says...

    My friend is training to be a psychoanalyst and she reminds me that statistically parents make a “mistake” approximately every seven seconds but evidence suggests that it makes absolutely no difference – all that matters is that kids have at least one stable, loving, attached relationship and they will be a-ok.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i love this, sarah!

  139. Lisa says...

    This is making me tear up (PREGNANCY HORMONES) as I’m constantly questioning whether or not I’m a good enough mother. I work full time, which is a source of guilt for me because my own mother is very firmly in the “a mother’s place is in the home” camp. She keeps asking for the second kid if I’m going back to work afterwards. Well yes – I quite enjoy having a roof over my head. It’s been particularly hard recently as my oldest (who is basically still a baby) is going through a super clingy phase and has gone from happily being dropped off at nursery, to clinging onto my clothes and crying when I drop him off. One day I just broke down in tears in the bathrooms of his nursery as I felt so horrible about it. I know (because I check) that the second I leave he’s fine, but still …
    I realised when I was 8 weeks pregnant with him that I’ll always worry. I worry about whether or not he’s eating healthily enough, is wearing warm enough clothes / isn’t overheated, is stimulated enough, isn’t stimulated too much, am I too lenient or am I too strict. The one thing I feel ok on is that he gets enough cuddles – whenever he wants, I drop whatever I’m doing to give him a hug, for as long as he wants.

  140. Alexandra says...

    Oh, timely post. I think about this way too often. Yesterday, I met a friend (who does not have kids) and told her that I feel like a failure: even though I am German, my children are not perfectly bilingual. Sometimes they eat refried beans and rice tacos three times a week for dinner because I am tired of the bitching and moaning about the (if I may say decent) food I cook. I don’t push them hard enough to play their violin, so the 9 year old still mostly fiddles Twinkle Twinkle a lot …. but: I take them to magical places under the redwoods on Sundays, I bake with and for them, we have amazing birthday sleepovers. I tought my son how to make his bed, so at school camp, he was the only one who knew how to put sheets on properly. My kids are properly fed, dressed and most of all loved. So, not really a reason to worry. But I think we just like to beat ourselves up. I certainly do. Dad does not have these concerns though. He is a good dad, and he knows it.

    • Gitty says...

      The last line made me laugh out loud!

    • Mette says...

      That last line is so spot on!!

    • Lisa says...

      Yup. I look at my husband and I have to say – I don’t think paternal guilt is even a thing (at least not for him)

  141. Caitlin says...

    Thanks for this. Have been struggling lately with mom guilt and feeling good enough. Even though we all know this, having it written down, said out loud as it were, is so helpful!

  142. Noelle says...

    Oh my goodness… that passage by Raquel D’Apice is SO GOOD!

  143. Hannah says...

    I think about this a lot. I know I have a lot to learn in many areas of parenting, particularly in regards to patience and not yelling so much. But I am really excellent at:
    – Read aloud voices and knowing which books to get at the library
    – Packing picnic dinners for our evening trips to the pool
    – Building forts and not caring if my living room is a pile of pillows and blankets for a week
    It’s funny, I wish this list were longer–and I know in my heart it probably is–but we’re so hard on ourselves as mothers that it’s difficult to make a list like this. I’m going to keep working on it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “Read aloud voices and knowing which books to get at the library” = love these! love your whole list. you sound really fun and lovely. xoxo

  144. Elise Lundeen says...

    Thanks for your post! Especially the quote from Raquel, I wish I had heard that as a young mother! I would have been a better mother if I had been a good dad! Kids love a mom that plays with them. Smiles.

  145. michelle says...

    I play this (most un-fun) game every night as I lie in bed. Sometimes the mistakes I’ve made during the day bring me to tears (raising my voice in a tense moment/picking sides in a sibling squabble because it’s easier than listening to both sides/allowing my adult agenda to distract me from spending quality time with my kids). And, I have definitely worried about leafy green vegetables!

    Going forward, I’m going to ask myself the same question. If I think all 3 kids felt loved as they drifted off to sleep, I’ll tell myself I’ve done my job and go to sleep, already! Thanks for this, Joanna.

  146. Angie says...

    Where is that beautiful painting from? Love it……

    • Eliza says...

      Angie, the painter is linked at the bottom of the post! :-)

  147. It’s true there’s an endless list of things we moms can feel guilty about at any given moment. But when I think about it, I know the one and only thing my daughter REALLY wants, and that’s a good long cuddle without feeling rushed. For me to lie next to her and let her examine my face, to squish my squishy belly, to let her thoughts about the day float to the surface in their own time. I was raised in the 70’s – an era of parenting that is inconceivable now. But I had that closeness with my mom, and I’ve carried it with me my whole life.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awwwwww, love this so, so much.

  148. Thanks for this – for reminding us all what it means to be a great mother. It is way too easy, especially in the US, to think that being a good mother means doing X, Y, or Z, and forgetting that it means what you say here – to love them, and to do your best to keep them safe. I know my heart leaps a little bit every time I see them after a separation, even just when they’ve spent the day at preschool. Like you, I hope they will always feel and remember that.
    Being a mother in Sweden is much easier than in the US – I sense much more here that we’re all doing our best, that we’re all in this together, and we all agree it’s hard but wonderful. It’s much less competitive than in the US, and there’s much more room to just be a regular mom, not a perfect mom.

    Thanks for reminding us what’s important.
    (www.mydearsabrina.com)