What Makes a Good Mom?

My daughter with light sabre.

When I opened my daughter’s door to tuck her in for bed, I caught a glimpse of a 9-year old flashing a toy light sabre at incoming storm troopers. Naturally I grabbed the other light sabre and joined her in her valiant fight. We were victorious.

I’ve written as of late about some serious topics, including my daughter’s bullying at school. We received news from the school that leaves me feeling cautiously optimistic, and I wanted to pass that optimism along to you, dear readers.

But this isn’t a post about that. It’s about my kids and me, or my daughter and me. And it’s about the kind of parent I try to be. I don’t try for “best in class” because it’s not about that. Good parenting is not about competing with other mothers or about trying to fulfill anyone else’s notion of what constitutes a good mother.

Speaking of “notions of what constitutes a good mother,” I don’t bake lemon bars, knit fancy scarves, volunteer at school, or in any way fulfill the traditional 1950’s-era definition of what makes a mother. Nothing against moms who do, but I don’t wear dainty skirts, keep a particularly neat house or even get the bills paid on time.  Christmas decorations may or may not come down after the first of January, beds may or may not be made up each day (and never with those super-neat “hospital corners”) and we may or may not arrive at soccer practice on time.


Children receive hugs, often and pretty much on demand. Homework is always checked, and reading lists are assigned. Questions, even hard, icky ones, like “what does incest mean, Mom?” get answered. Balls are thrown, sometimes over the roof and into the backyard and back again.  God is spoken of every day, with or without the exact scripture referenced, but always with reverence and love.  And miles are walked, run and swam together, side by side, hand in hand, with a finish line that stretches ever onward.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Thanksgiving morning, my daughter and I will reach an actual finish line.  We’re running a 10K Turkey Trot race together. It will be her first of no doubt many 10K races, and the fourth or fifth race we will have run together. She and I will feel the glow of achievement and a small glimpse of glory. We’ll eat our bananas and don our medals and grin at one another, speaking of the next race, the next finish line, beckoning from some distant horizon.  And together we will head, over one finish line, ever onward, always moving forward, with gratitude for this and every second, minute and finish line we pass.

Dear Readers . . . I don’t usually ask questions at the end of my posts, but I’m wondering–what do you do well as a mother or father?

49 Comments on “What Makes a Good Mom?

  1. It has been my experience that our children learn that we value them when we spend time with them and stand up for their interests and well-being. From what I read in your blog, El, you are doing just that. And I promise it will make a difference in your children’s lives as they grow older and more independent. It is the one gift we can give them, no matter what our background or socio-economic status, and it is the one thing that means the most to them. Enjoy your mother-daughter moment tomorrow (and every day!)

    • I love your description above, Dawn, on how children learn. The way I see it is that having kids is both an honor and a privilege (no matter how much they howl in the car on the way to race packet pickup, lol) that I always cherish. Thank you so much, my friend!

  2. You already know that I am the reincarnation of Donna Reed, so before I go hack up a few pie pumpkins to cook and puree for the pies and pumpkin bars, and then proceed to continue the working knitting my daughter a fancy scarf, here is what I know about being a good mother. It is about listening, and hugs, and “being there” even when you are not physically there. It is about accepting your child just as he or she is, and gently working to aid them in becoming the best person that they can be. It is about love—deep, unconditional love, and being willing to hear the icky, scary stuff and stay cool, and be honest. Sometimes I joke that my adult kids come home just to get fed well, but I know it is much more. There were years where I had virtually nothing for them at Christmas but the huge meal and they always told me that Christmas at my house, even without gifts, was so much more fun and so much more meaningful than the gift laden Christmas at their Dad’s, simply because of the love and the spirit. Now, I do not expect you and Madeline to dress up in fancy ball gowns to watch Miss America together while you eat as much junk food as you can, but that race your running is your version of Miss America. Also, I love you! Xoxoxoxo

  3. I loved the line,”good parenting is not about competing with other mothers.” As you already know I struggled with the “perfect” mom ideal for some time. But recently, I got tired of pretending. Now I don’t wait till all the floors are scrubbed to spend time with my kids. I used to knock out 101 chores before I could “relax.” And even then, I wasn’t relaxed. I realized my priorities were misaligned.
    So, to answer your question, I think I’m pretty good at listening to my kids. I try to hear their heart as best I can. Really absorb their EVERY word. Apparently, I also hug and kiss my kids too much. At least that’s what my seven year tells me.
    Wishing you and your baby girl a wonderful race tomorrow. May there be many more firsts to come! 🙂

    • And I loved reading your reply above, my friend! I get you–it’s taken me a lot of time to relax into this working mom thing, and not clean everything just so before I hang with the little ones. I’m still too uptight, but I am working on it, and it helps being happy in my career.

      I also love to hear what you’re good at as a mom. Listening to them is so important, and so are hugs and kisses!! I heart hugs and kisses, lol!!

      Thank you re tomorrow! I hope your day is wonderful!

  4. Cool, El! Making memories, you are! I’m not the perfect mom, either, but my kids know they are loved, and we say those words every single day. That is what is important! 🙂 God bless you both as you race! ♥

  5. Great post, El. Enjoy the day.

    Me, probably the best gift I’ve given my kid is the comfort of being able to tell me anything. It’s occasionally a mixed blessing, but we are pretty well able to talk about just about anything. And that’s a good thing!

  6. Well, truthfully, all I’m doing right now is fighting back tears while at my desk at work. This is such a sweet, heart-warming post put into the most concise of terms. Love. There is no cookie cutter for love. I’m much like you, El, in that I’m not into “fancy”, but I am into comfortable. I have had such a rocky road during motherhood, but in the past few years have come to terms with my singleness and have ultimately accepted it as a parent. Therefore, I hope that one of the things I’m doing well, the most important thing, is showing Maycee that life is a journey meant to be lived every moment through the good and the bad. I hope she sees strength in me and that it is transcending into her little being every single day. I hope that her love for God flourishes despiter her mom’s less-than-perfect concept and understanding of Him. I hope that even though I can’t, she knows that I would give anything to volunteer at her school and be with her from the minute the bell rings each afternoon, but that she’s carried with me every single second I’m away from her in my heart. So, I’m blabbering because I miss my little girl who is down south with grandma and then with her dad this week as it’s his turn to have her for Thanksgiving. Loving Maycee…this I know I do well. 🙂 XOXO-Kasey

    • Kasey: I’m sniffling reading this, my friend. I think we’d get along well in real life. And yep, you love Maycee with all you got, and friend, that’s more than enough! Gosh, I loved reading your comment above (but am feeling your sadness–I’d be missing her too). Big hugs from across the country! xoxo~el

  7. Goose-bumps beautiful.

    Right now I am celebrating you, your daughter, this message, and the blessing of being among those who read your brilliance, honesty, and inspiration. Thank you for this.

  8. I gave up on supermom a long time ago. But this morning I left a note for my daughter to remind her that I’m so glad God chose to give her to me. And I’m trying really hard to find just tge right Christmas present for my son (his love language is gifts so this is taken seriously)…and that means I’m already taking back something I bought..,

    Beautiful post…

  9. My 14-year-old son thinks I can right ANY wrong. I’m no hero, but my kids know I love them and have and will defend them no matter the cost. I love laughing with them and making memories — the things that really last. Blessings to you, El, you know exactly what it means to be a great mom!

  10. You know I don’t do the supermom thing, either, El. But one thing I am pretty good at is listening. And another is cooking. So when there’s something going on, I usually handle it like a good Southern Mama. I cook, we talk, we eat. 🙂

  11. El, you are giving your children the best gift ever. You are giving them you, whole and imperfect as you might believe you are, you are giving them the gift of you. They will cherish this gift their entire lives. These traditions will be gifts to cherish between you. Your stand up and fight, this too is a gift. You are amazing.

    My sons are my gift. We fought our way through a terrible time, my gift to them was always they could tell me anything without judgment. I would teach them to stand up and fight for themselves but would always have their backs. I allowed mistakes but not without consequences. I never ever broke a promise to them and never did not follow through. They knew they could trust me, this was huge for them given other adults in their life. My sons were my stepsons who remained in my custody after separation and then my divorce with the consent of their mother.

  12. Such a warm and wonderful post El. You give your children the best of yourself and that is time, attention, and love. Love isn’t always neatly folded. I think about the mother -of-the-year award that some compete for and I know I blow my chance early every January. But I think what I do best is allow my sons to be who they are. My older son graduated with a BFA in acting. His uncle asked me if I ever wished my son had gotten a real degree- one that would guarantee a job. I told him all I ever wanted was to allow my boys to be themselves, march to their own drummer, and support them in being the best they could be. My son will struggle as an actor, but he is a fine man, a compassionate human being and he will always be happy. It doesn’t get better than that.

    I think you are a wonderful mom El. Thanks for always sharing and asking us to think about our purpose.

    • Thank you so much, my friend. I chuckled about the “blow my chances every January” line, and identify with it! I love what you do best for your sons–loving them unconditionally and encouraging them to be the best men they can be. I particularly dislike the concept of finding a useful profession or getting a real degree. I went that route (legal practice) and found it really unfulfilling. And I applaud you for turning out good men! I think you’re a wonderful mom too!

  13. Lovely post, El. What do I do well as a mom? Listen. I listen to what my kids have to say. I let them know that what they think is important. Something my own mom never did for me.

  14. I think you epitomize what being a good mom is: spending time with your kids and being interested and actively involved in their loves. Making the bed is not what your child remembers in adulthood. They remember the time the ball got stuck on the roof or the time you had to search the back yard for it. 🙂 Good luck on the 10k!!

    • Thank you so much Kourtney! I giggled about the ball getting stuck on the roof because that’s happened . . . and then there was the Frisbee and the rocket . . . and many lost items in the backyard (we back up to the woods). Thank you for the morning smiles! And we had a good time on the 10K. I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday!

  15. You and I share similar mothering styles – I don’t knit but I do love a game of football with my boys out back. Or tromping around in the creek, only to get as dirty or dirtier than them. I spend a lot of time reading them stories and just talking. Definitely talking. You’re raising a strong women, El. Hope you and your daughter had a good run!

    • Love your style, Stephanie! I wish you lived closer–I don’t have many friends who live near me, much less outdoorsy ones! I love how you “just talk” to them–and if your kids are at all like mine, a lot of listening (sigh–to my older kids in particular). I hope your weekend is going well! And thank you! We had a great run!

  16. Well, I’m gonna be an optomist and try to leave a comment – lovely post and so glad to see you focusing on loving your daughter. As a product of bullying, I can attest to that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That being said, when my oldest daughter signed up for a class this year at the local high school and found herself the target of bullying… from THE TEACHER… well, she dropped the class and learned a valuable lesson. Some fights you can’t win. Chose your battles and such.
    Well, as this may or may not post, I just thought I’d pass along an award – a small gesture of how important you are in the blogging community. If you want to see it, you can go to: http://wp.me/p2GfO1-5H.
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, El.

    • Morning Susan! First of all, thank you so, so much for the blogging award!! I’m honored! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

      Gah! I’m so sorry that your daughter was bullied by a teacher. That happened to me a few times and there is simply no winning when that happens. A complete retreat, and sometimes a loud one, is required. Yup to choosing your battles! And I’m sorry that you were also bullied. It leaves us both stronger and in some respects more vulnerable if that makes sense . . .

  17. I was a 60’s mom to 70’s born girls- very strict with exceptionally high standards-did a good bit of tough love- read every book I could. And now that they re in their forties and I am 64 we have worked through a lot. The best news is that in spite of my parenting they are exceptional women! They love me greatly and like me a lot- what a compliment. Parent on El!

  18. ***. And together we will head, over one finish line, ever onward, always moving forward, with gratitude for this and every second, minute and finish line we pass.***

    Lovely Post.

    FabULOUS blog. Xx

  19. Love this post for so many reasons. When I first became a mother I was terrified I was doing everything wrong. I, like you, don’t exactly fit the 1950’s picture of domesticity mold. Today my son is three and I’m doing everything wrong, but I try. I try really, really hard to give him what he needs and wants. I’d have to say I’m really good at the trying part. And I think that counts for something!

  20. I try to be as “human” as possible, letting them know I’m not some superpower, but a person with hopes and dreams, pain, happiness, and sorrow just as they do.