04/28/2012 02:13 EDT | Updated 06/27/2012 05:12 EDT

Dispatches From Down East: Is There a Formula for Being a Good Mom?


A while back, I had a chat with a mother friend of mine who is a bit older and much wiser than I am. She shared with me that when her kids were young, she often felt she was a bad mother. She had one daughter who she would constantly butt heads with and she continually dealt with this child's behaviour and attitude. When she went to her daughter's first grade parent-teacher interview, she told the teacher how inadequate she felt as a mother and that she felt she was failing her daughter as a mom.

The teacher said, "The fact that you are even thinking you're a bad mom means you are not one." In other words, to think about and reflect on your relationships with your children is proof that you care. You showed up and you cared enough to think about your role as mom. That is the first step toward being a great mom.

Something I have noticed as I search the Internet for blogs and websites written by other women is the dichotomy of perspectives that presently exists between many mothers who write online. There appears to be two camps out there right now that hold different philosophies on mothering based on the degree of enthusiasm by which each embrace the role of mothering.

Let me be clear that these two groups of moms differ not in how much they love their children, but rather in how much they love the role of being a mommy and all that entails. I am being very general in describing the following perspectives, so please keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rules.

In the first camp are mothers who are looking for something different and more attainable when it comes to the way they mother and raise their children. These moms are tired of the traditional mindset that moms are saints sent here on earth, their sole purpose to wipe dishes and tears as easily as they wipe dirty bottoms.

I first heard about the Momastery blog back in January, when Glennon Melton's "Don't Carpe Diem" essay went viral. Mothers everywhere went crazy over her message that we don't need to be enjoying every minute of every day... if we can get in about fifteen minutes of Kairos moments each day, we are doing well.

I read more of her writing in the days and months that followed, and I could soon see that Melton was different and out of the box in her approach to parenting. Her main message is to not take yourself so seriously or set the bar so high that your goals are unattainable. Melton has other beliefs and truths, but the one I am focused on in this essay and that I find most interesting is this: She believes that being a mother is just part of a woman's persona, not the be all and end all of a woman's life.

Mothers of this philosophical leaning need not check their goals, dreams and aspirations at the hospital door when they go to deliver. And for one to suggest that you might have days where you'd rather not be around your children -- and actually admit it out loud -- is okay. It's actually smiled upon. Most importantly, moms don't always have to like the job of being a mother. Because quite frankly, many don't.

Textbook-perfect mothers need not ascribe.

Another mommy perspective that prevails is one that holds to the more traditional view of how a mother should present herself in her mommy role, as well as how she might feel about being a mom. Although many of these mothers work both inside the home as well as out in the workforce, what seems to be the point of separation from the first camp is that these mothers have a more guarded mindset in their approach to venting about the frustrations of motherhood. They believe there is a line one can cross in voicing their frustrations about the mommy role, and these mothers are careful not to cross that line.

As well, women of this perspective can part ways with the former camp by way of their views about priorities, goals, focus and time management. There is also an unwavering belief in this camp that to negatively challenge a mother's level of enjoyment and desire for being a mommy on an ongoing basis (and we're not just talking about your average bad day!) is close to sacrilege.

Or to irreverently suggest that you might not love being a mother much of the time is to not appreciate the children you have been blessed with. Furthermore, there is a view in this camp that to confront age-old beliefs about what it really means to be a mother, and thus shake things up and challenge reputations, is risky and unwise. These women err on the side of caution.

I realize there are moms that fall in between both camps. Most moms are hard to pin down. On any given day, I vacillate all over the place. However, I know that if you are looking for literature to support either of these two philosophies of mothering, you can find them out there in the blogosphere.

Interestingly, moms from both camps that I have defined hold to some traditional views of mothering in the way that they both understand their responsibility to ultimately parent their children. How they go about that parenting is different, but the commitment behind the motives remains the same. Of course there are certainly differing convictions and standards set for what is acceptable or not between the two camps, but as it pertains to mothering, women in both camps are still striving to be good mothers and raise great kids.

What brings these two camps together is that moms from both ends of the spectrum show up on websites, in online magazines or on personal blogs so as to reflect on being a mommy. And in doing so, they show that being a mother is of great importance to them and thus worth deliberate, honest discussion.

Great moms show up in many different ways. They show up for all those things we traditionally think moms should show up for (bedtime rituals, dentist appointments, soccer games, piano recitals, school concerts, family reunions, and so on, and so on...), but great moms also show up for discussion and reflection on their identity as a mother. And some of these great moms show up for discussion online as well, whether they hold to beliefs and views from the first or the second camp of thought as previously mentioned. Or from something in between.

Good moms can be burned-out moms. Good moms can be at their wit's end. Good moms can suffer depression. Good moms can feel isolated, alone and scared. Good moms can also be women who have the vigour of the Energizer Bunny and the qualities found in a Mother's Day Hallmark card or even those characteristics of the ubiquitous Proverbs 31 woman as laid out in the Holy Bible. Good mothering does not follow a definition; it follows the heart.

All kinds of mothers who follow their hearts, as well as their convictions, are found on both the websites that challenge traditional views as well as those that do not. I believe this because I believe good moms show up. That statement alone says a lot about who you are as a mother.

Because there are more things that unite moms than those which seem to divide us.