Love Trumps Judgment: A Mom’s Journey
As you embark on the incredible journey of motherhood, I want you to know that you are not alone. Over the past 30 years as a marriage and family therapist, I’ve had the privilege of listening to countless moms share their fears, worries, and truths about parenting. I’ve witnessed the weight on their shoulders, the questioning looks on their faces, and the tears that flow when they finally speak their deepest fears. It’s a sacred space where moms can be vulnerable and real.
In our society, the “good mom, bad mom” phenomenon is pervasive, creating an unattainable standard of perfection. Every day, you find yourself asking, “Am I a good mom or a bad mom?” The criteria for this judgment often revolve around your teen’s behavior, academic success, adherence to rules, and overall conformity to societal expectations. This daily grading system has created a binary view of motherhood, where you either excel or fall short.
The mom report card is a flawed perspective, rooted in the illusion that perfection is possible. It implies that you can control and engineer the perfect teen, navigate the challenges of adolescence flawlessly, and create an ideal family life. However, we both know this is far from the truth. We live in an imperfect world, facing unprecedented challenges, especially in the tumultuous era of parenting teens.
It’s time to tear up the mom report card and shift your perspective from a daily grading scale to viewing your life as a story. Your journey as a mom is an epic tale with many chapters – each presenting its unique challenges, joys, and opportunities for growth. Just like the heroes in stories, you live in an ordinary world, cross thresholds, face tests, and ordeals, and ultimately discover rewards and treasures.
One significant challenge in this journey is the societal pressure to believe that your mothering story concludes when your child graduates and moves out. The truth is, your role evolves, and there are many more chapters ahead. The high school years may bring a mix of joy and angst, laughter and frustration, but they are not the end of your story. Even when your teen leaves for college or a new adventure, your mothering journey continues.
As your teen navigates adulthood, you shift from the role of monitor to consultant. The challenges may include setbacks, struggles with mental health, and the steep learning curve of self-management. It’s tempting to ask, “Am I a good mom or a bad mom?” when you witness your child stumbling toward adulthood. Remember, these challenges are part of the journey, and they don’t define your worth as a mom.
In the second draft of your mothering story, you discover the treasure and reward hidden behind the difficulties. You realize that you’ve gained more than you’ve lost. The fiery furnace of parenting has shaped your character–making you more patient, stronger, and more compassionate. You’ve done the impossible, and you are richer for it.
Moreover, your story doesn’t end when your child becomes independent. There are chapters where you reconnect with yourself, pursue your dreams, and discover new passions. Motherhood is only one part of your identity, and there is more to explore beyond it.
I understand the struggles, the heartaches, and the moments of self-doubt. But I encourage you to embrace the entire narrative of your mothering journey. Name the pain, disappointments, and regrets; own them as part of your first draft. This self-compassion opens the door to forgiveness – for yourself and your child.
Your story is sacred, messy, and imperfect, much like mine with my 91-year-old mother who is in the last chapter of her life. Cherish every moment, even the difficult ones, for they contribute to the richness of your tale.
So, dear mom, tear up the mom’s report card. Choose to parent with the relationship in mind. You are on an epic journey – full of challenges, triumphs, and, most importantly, love. Your story has many chapters, and each one is an opportunity for growth, connection, and discovering the treasures hidden within.