At my daughter’s last Academic Fair, I noticed the differences in all of the class projects. In my daughter’s class for example, they had to do a country and then bring a food or make flags for 24 people. Some people went all out. They had elaborate dishes from their country. My daughter? Well, we cut up some tortilla and slapped it on a plate for her chosen country. I was thinking, “Do they know how busy I’ve been?”
It was a little embarrassing to see how we didn’t quite measure up.
So did that make me a good mom for not stressing about the project, or a bad mom for doing so little?
I observed the same thing as I went from classroom to classroom. Some of the children had so obviously attempted their projects all on their own. They were simple. Small. Not quite beautiful. Others had so obviously gotten help from their parents. Or perhaps it ended up being the parents project in the child’s name. They were well-crafted. Beautiful. Elaborate.
What makes a good mom? A good parent? What are the qualifying factors? Are we a good parent to let our child struggle on their own and look less-than great in front of their peers? Or are we a good parent for diving in and making something that is outright stunning and good for their image? Good for OUR image?
I think that was the main thing for me. Slapping some tortilla on a plate didn’t bother my daughter in the least. She roamed the room and happily snacked on everyone’s treats; never giving her plate a second thought. I, on the other hand, was eyeing everything and comparing it to what I had and had not done for my child.
I HAD been super busy that week. I was very tired. I prioritized. And at the time, I just didn’t feel that investing more time into an elaborate food dish was beneficial to our family in that time frame and in that moment.
It was a good decision.
Still, I felt a little sheepish.
In the long run, I don’t think we can evaluate good or bad parenting on how well a mom does certain things. Just because a mom lets her child run and play in the mud doesn’t make her a bad parent. She possibly is a good parent for not worrying about a mess or intense clean-up time. A good mom may not be the one who makes sure her child only eats organic and all-natural food. For she may neglect to teach her child how to enjoy ALL foods and relax and have fun sometimes. But it doesn’t make her a bad mom, either.
We judge each other – and ourselves – much too often and far too easily. We judge based on our perceptions of an event and on an image we see reflected when the real judge is often our children.
Do our children feel stressed? Criticized? Like they can never quite measure up? Are they embarrassed? Hurting?
Do they feel joy and laughter? Do they love freely and give generously? Are they compassionate and forgiving?
I know there will be many more times in life where I will feel like “bad mom.” There will be times where I will feel like I sacrificed sufficiently and dub myself “good mom.” But it doesn’t really matter how I view myself. What matters is how my children view me.
Nobody gets it perfect all of the time. Especially not me. We’re learning as we go – my kids and I. When all is said and done, I just hope they tell me, “You were a GREAT mom.” That we can laugh at our missteps along the way.
And when I bring up the plate of tortillas at the academic fair? I’m hoping my daughter won’t even remember a thing about it, but will instead remember that I was there.