On the eve of Mother's Day, a holiday I've long resented for being a Hallmark-strangling, guilt-inducer, I've decided to stay away from my Facebook feed all day tomorrow. Don't get me wrong- I love breakfast in bed, and getting
cards from my kids, but my own mother passed away just two months ago, and I'm not ready to see all the glowing social media posts my friends make for their mothers. Their posts will read things like, "Here's to the most wonderful mother a girl could have," and "Happy Mother's Day to the greatest mother." I would know- I posted it just last year.
I'm a good mother too. My next-door neighbor is also a good mother, as are all the moms on my street. And my friends are all good mothers.
There's nothing like having kids of your own to better understand your own mother. That time my mother got so mad at me that she shouted, calling me a "prima donna"... my guess is she was probably stressed from work, probably disappointed in herself for failing to raise me to do whatever it was I wasn't doing, and frankly, maybe I was being a little bit of a prima donna.
And that time she didn't want to play Barbies! A mother should want to play with her child!
No. Playing Barbies is boring. And honestly, playing with your kids is often boring. And if I was anything like my kids are, playing Barbies with me probably meant I told you what to do and what to say with your Ken doll the entire game. Double boring. My mother didn't show me she loved me by brushing Ken's hair (yes, my Ken had real brushable hair.) But she always showed me she loved me.
So what makes a mother "good" or "bad?"
When I hear "I'm such a bad mother," from other moms, it's always in the context of forgetting to sign up to volunteer at the Pumpkin Fair fundraiser, failing to get a gift card for their kid's teacher at Christmas, or purchasing Valentine's cards for their kid to hand out at school, instead of making them from scratch.
Joan Crawford would roll over in her grave at this definition of a "bad mother."
If you say you need a vacation from your kids, you're not a bad mother. If the way you want to spend Mother's Day is without your kids, you're not a bad mother. If your kid walks to school in the pouring rain dressed for 80 degrees and sunny, you're not (necessarily) a bad mother.
Okay, so what is a bad mother then?
Because someone must be, right? If Mommy Dearest is accurate, I'd say Joan Crawford was a bad mother. But normal people, I believe, just have "bad mother" moments. I've heard some pretty terrible stories about some of my friends' mothers, and yet they'll still post on social media something loving to their moms on Mother's Day. That's because their moms had plenty of "good mother" moments too.
So with my 12 years of experience being a mother, and 44 years experience having a mother, here's my definition of what makes, and doesn't make, a mother "good":
A good mother...
IS SOMEONE WHO...
ISN'T SOMEONE WHO...
Makes you feel safe.
Makes you cookies.
Always loves you, even when she doesn't like you.
Always has a fully stocked kitchen.
Leads you toward the pursuits that interest you.
Leads your Girl Scout troupe.
Reads to you in bed every night.
Makes you feel special.
Makes you feel like the only thing that matters in the whole world.
Is there for you when you need her.
Is always physically there with you.
Pursues her own dreams.
Pursues your dreams.
Cleans you up when you're sick in the middle of the night.
Cleans the house.
Plows the way for you.
Apologizes for her mistakes.
Never makes mistakes.
I was lucky: my mother was pretty terrific. I don't remember her ever baking cookies, she worked full time throughout my childhood, and she never taught me how to do a French braid, but she was always there for me, she loved me, she supported me, and she set a good example of what a woman can and should be.
When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, one of the first things she said to me was, "I'm sorry I won't be there for you."
That, I'm pretty sure, is what a good mother is.