I yell at my kids, I let them eat junk food (sometimes), do scary things, and watch TV. But I’m a good mom. And so are you.
When you think about what it means to be a good mom, some may picture the attachment parent who’s baby-wearing and co-sleeping and making her own organic baby food. Others may think of the informed mom who has read every book, knows every child-rearing method, and draws on those techniques to thoughtfully talk to and nurture her little one. Maybe your version is the Pinterest-happy mom who’s creating her own sensory tables and art projects.
What you probably don’t picture is the mom who did some sleep-training with her kids, who plops them in front of the TV for an hour every afternoon, and who screams “Noooooooo,” in loud terror when her 2-year-old twins take off running down the sidewalk on a busy street.
Well, that’s me, and I’m a good mom.
I love my kids every bit as much as the earthy moms and permissive moms and the ones who have their kids in art and music and language classes. I want the very best for them, whatever that means, and I do my very best to try and make that happen.
I raise my kids my own way. It’s how I was raised. And it’s based on an ancient parenting practice that’s been working since, well, forever—following my own motherly instincts. When it comes to my kids, I go with what feels right, I go with my gut. And it’s usually right, even if it’s not always warm and fuzzy.
First of all, I let my kids do scary things. I was always a brave, independent child and I’m a brave, independent adult. Bravery is one of the qualities I want most for my boys, and admire most in them. Not in some chest-beating kind of way. I believe that the braver you are, the more curious you will be, and the more you will want to learn and see and explore the world.
Don’t get me wrong—as brave as I am, I’m a full-blown ‘fraidy cat when it comes to my kids. I get mild heart attacks every single time they climb a rock wall or swing too high, but I suck it up. I try not to let them see me sweat. Because I’m a good mom.
Kids who climb and run and try death-defying stunts, however, still need boundaries, for damn sure. We say, “yes” a lot, but we say “no” a lot too. We pick our battles, but our kids don’t rule our roost. There is routine and schedule in our house. They have usual mealtimes and naptime and bedtime. They sleep in their room, although they don’t always choose to sleep in their bed. And we ask them to say “please” and “thank you,” even if they don’t really understand what that means. I believe that having some structure and boundaries makes them feel more secure. We’re not running an army base camp over here, but it’s not a free-for-all either. Home is a safe, calm place for us. Because I’m a good mom.
I’m also a mom who yells at my kids. I do. I’m not proud of it, but sometimes it feels like a necessity. When they’re dangerously close to diving headfirst off the couch or they’re about to stand up in their highchairs, I scream quickly and loudly, startling them so that they freeze in place. I’m sure some would have a more peaceful approach, but by the time I calmly explained, “Hey, buddy, we don’t stand in our chairs. Can you please sit down?” they’d have already taken their tumble onto the hardwood. I know this because they’re my kids. We’ve been there, done that already. (It’s an unfortunate side effect of having brave kids.) Sometimes the only way to get their attention—and keep them from harm—is a quick, sharp bark. Keeping them safe is a prerequisite for this job. That’s what good moms do.
No, I’m not the most Zen Mom in the world. I get scared, I get frustrated, and I cry a lot (although usually not in front of them). I need breaks to recharge so I don’t totally crumble in an exhausted heap come bedtime. I have moments I’m not proud of and days where I feel like I’m failing—failing miserably at this mom thing.
Still, every choice I make as their mom is deliberate and thoughtful. I know my kids and I know myself and I’m doing what works best for all of us. It may not be everyone’s parenting model, but it’s ours. My little boys are sweet and funny, happy and healthy, so whatever we’re doing, I think it’s working. There is a lot of hugging and kissing and tickling and laughing in our house. I know that’s got to mean something.
Think about your own kids. Are they well-loved, cared for, and happy? When you look at them, do you feel heart-swelling pride? Well, then it doesn’t matter what parenting books you’ve read or what philosophies you follow or if you breastfed for two years or regularly feed them Cheetos. It doesn’t matter if you’re a SAHM or a WOHM or KTNCFSRM (OK, I made that last one up). Guess what? You’re a good mom too.
I love my little guys with my whole heart. Nothing in this world will ever be more important to me. All I want is for them to live their very best lives, to become the best versions of themselves, and to be happy. Just happy. And I’m here to help guide them along the way. I’m their mom, and I’m a good mom.
Jennifer Benjamin is an LA-based freelance writer and editor with over thirteen years of experience writing for national magazines and websites like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, SELF, Parents Magazine, The Stir and Daily Glow. More important, she’s a Mommy to identical twin boys, as well as an avid cook, a terrible housewife, and a loungewear enthusiast. Find her on Twitter @JennyBenjamin or Facebook.