It is what we say to each other, and the argument that we often use when trying to reassure ourselves and others that we are not judging other moms. But, no judgement here, I don’t think we are.
The same way that not all athletes try their hardest, and that not all employees work at 100 percent, all moms* are not doing the best they can. By the way, this is not in reference to the so-called mommy wars. I think that whether you stay home or you work outside of the home, you can be a great mom and do the best you can. This is something different.
Mothers, if you can call them that, who hurt or rehome their children (read more about this here) are not doing the best they can. But we don’t have to go to the extreme to find examples of mothers not doing their best, and I am sure you’ve seen plenty of those.
Telling everyone that they are just doing their best regardless of the truth is the equivalent to the trophy for everyone who participated, except that parenting is not a game we play for fun. Parenting is the most important thing we do for our children and for society, telling people they can be careless but it’s OK, is not good for anyone involved.
It is not necessary to have an educational activity planned for every minute of the day that your child is awake and we don’t need to be goddesses of Pinterest, chefs, nutritionists and look good while doing it; but we do have a responsibility to care for our children, care for them well and give them the best chance at life.
This means feeding them good food, reading to them and not have them watching TV for hours; also keeping them clean and safe and being present in their lives. Seems basic, but I’ve seen plenty of examples of mom’s being careless with things they should not be.
To be fair, I have caught myself on more than one occasion looking at my phone too much when my son is around and there are days when he is awake but the sun has not yet risen and I have sat in the couch with him while he watched cartoons. But despite the almost constant questioning, doubt and worry, I am proud of how I am taking care of my son.
How am I at peace? Because we cannot be all things all the time, I have chosen a number of things that are very important to me and I believe are important for him as well. I make sure these never slip away.
- Nutritious meals: even when I don’t have time and I am exhausted, I make him something that is healthy. Whole grain pasta and broccoli with olive oil and parmesan cheese is an easy and quick meal he loves.
- Reading & talking: Studies show that reading and talking to our children significantly improves their literacy skills, just ask any kindergarten teacher! Even though I am not naturally chatty, I make a point of talking to my son through the day and reading to him every day and not just before bed time.
- Sleep schedule: As soon as he was born I tried to set a night-time routine. The strict schedule didn’t start until he was 9 months and I wish I had started earlier. Not only is bedtime and nap time a breeze on most days, but he knows when he needs a nap. Being well rested allows him to grow and learn.
- Protector: This is kind of an all-encompassing kind of thing, but a friend told me once that we are the only protection our children have; It flipped a switch in me. This means that even if it hurts someone else’s feelings, I need to protect him from things I don’t find safe or appropriate for him; such as strangers touching him or even a toy I don’t like for him.
I find other things important, of course, including keeping him clean and helping him socialize with other children, but I don’t lose sleep if I miss a bath one day, or if we have not been to story time in weeks.
There are also things that I am constantly working on. I read about parenting, healthy living and early education, and I am trying to be more forward and social so that he learns to be that way too. I am also working on having a stronger voice to protect him- even though I do raise my voice on occasion, I struggle to make a stronger statement when I see things I don’t want for him.
I am constantly trying, not to be perfect, but to really do the best I can at the things I consider most important, and giving my son a good chance to grow up happy and healthy.
I wish we would all stop making blanket statements about all moms doing their best, not to shame each other, but to make a point of how important good parenting really is.
What are the things you find most important for your children? How do you make them happen?
*talking just about moms because this blog is for women.