While I recognize that this question has been addressed in thousands of articles over decades of studies, I recently found myself coaching a mother who was worried about how the demands of her work affected her children’s well-being. Despite all that she had read on this subject and all the “best practices” she followed, she still wondered aloud, “Am I a good mother?”, looking to me for advice on how she could best answer that question.
I shared with her that I had asked myself that question thousands of times throughout my career, especially when I was away from my kids due to travel or late meetings. I also questioned myself when one of my kids had problems at school, convinced if I had been home more then my child would not have been struggling. During those times of inner conflict, I just didn’t know the answer.
What I do know now is that I have three incredible children, two sons, now 23 and 21, and a daughter, now 18. We are very close and have a bond that I cherish. We got here by sticking together through many challenges, intense arguments, lots of tears, incredible adventures (thanks to their dad), fun and laughter, and an enormous amount of unconditional love. But through it all, I did wonder if I was a good mother. So when my colleague asked me how she should judge the quality of her motherhood, I did not point to data, analysis or childhood studies, but rather shared the wisdom that I had developed, and that I am still developing, over 23 years of motherhood.
The only person’s opinion that counts on this matter is your own. There is no scholar, expert or published study that can definitively determine if you are a good mother. Your colleagues, friends, husband and kids cannot make you believe you are a good mother. They can certainly try to make you believe that you are not, but you own your beliefs, no one else does, so it still comes down to what you think. Here are five questions that mothers can ask themselves to focus their thinking:
- Are my actions rooted in love for my children?
- Am I doing the best I can as a mother given my circumstances?
- Am I often selfless when it comes to my children?
- As I think of the times when my children really needed me, was I there for them?
- What are the most important values and “life capabilities” that I want to teach my children, and do I feel they are learning them?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then hopefully you will believe that you are indeed, a good mother. Rather than look at studies and others’ opinions, look to yourself and examine your own actions and thoughts. A compelling quote that I (try to) live by is from James Allen’s As a Women Thinketh:
“As she thinks, so she is. As she continues to think, so she remains.”
In other words, if you think you are a good mother, then you are. The answer lies within you.