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Being a mother is hard and it often feels as though being a good mother is impossible. Everyone and their sister wants tell you how to do it, and many parenting philosophies try to convince you that their way is the only right way. Add to that a culture that loves to split things into black-and-white categories and you end with a whole generation of mothers worried that they are bad moms. A mistake becomes more than that, it becomes a definition of who you are as a mother.
I'm not here to tell you that there is no such thing as a bad mother, that if you gave birth you did everything right, because that simply isn't true. Sadly, there are truly bad mothers, but thankfully those women are few and far between. If you are worried about whether you're a good mom or not, if you try to get it right, you are not a bad mom.
Even if you raise your voice, spend too much time on your phone, co-sleep, cry it out, go to work—you are still a good mom. Being a good mom isn't about being perfect, it's about showing up and trying. If you go to sleep with thoughts of your children, even if it's mostly things you wished you had done differently, you are a good mom.
The simple truth is, bad moms don't worry about how they are doing—truly bad moms don't care.
Good moms read stories and kiss boo-boos and say they are sorry. Good moms do their best for their kids most of the time. Good moms make mistakes. There seem to be endless choices when it comes to how we parent, and in turn we face many judgements, none of which are as harsh as those we impose on ourselves. The simple truth is, bad moms don't worry about how they are doing—truly bad moms don't care.
Furthermore, there is no such thing as caring too much, but you do deserve to cut yourself some slack. Good moms have unhappy kids. Please don't use your child's happiness as a measure of your worth as a mother. Kids are people just like us, they have hard days and different personalities. Some are easygoing and jolly by nature and others are quite sullen and inflexible. You do not get to choose your child's temperament.
If having a happy kid was a clear indicator of good parenting, we would all just sit them in front of their favorite screen with an endless parade of treats. Good moms sometimes make their children upset. Good moms have children that tantrum and pout and misbehave. Motherhood is fraught with challenges, and it's not the absence of challenge that makes a mother great, but how she meets those challenges. Do you love your frustrated child as much as your laughing one?
There is no one perfect way to parent, but there are so many right ways. If you are trying to be a good mom, you already are one. And if you give your child unconditional love, you are a great one.