Good Mom, Bad Mom

by Lydia Bower

you ever had someone say to you, “You're such a good mom,” and while
you smile and say, “Thanks,” inside you think, but, if she really knew
me, she wouldn't think so? If she had seen me this evening when I
petered out, or yesterday when I didn't plan dinner, or last week when
we didn't do school because everyone was sick, or the mess my house was
in this morning. If she knew I wasn't perfect, she wouldn't say that.

of course we know that nobody is perfect, but why do we so often
measure ourselves against a perfect standard? And why, so many times do
we feel like “bad moms?”

I think there are several reasons, which often begin with this line of reasoning:

* Good moms put their kids to bed at the same time every night.
* Good moms do devotions every day.
* Good moms have weekly/monthly menu plans, a regular shopping day, a stocked pantry, and family style, on-time meals.
* Good moms give their children baths every day, or at the very least every-other day.
* Good moms read out loud to their children.
* Good moms don't let their children eat sweets.
* Good moms wear their baby in a sling.

each mom's mental list is different, depending on how she was raised or
what books she has read. However the next logical step is that if she
feels she has failed in anything on her list of what “good moms” do,
than she must, of course, be a “bad mom.”

A second reason is
that she may remember times when she “had it all together.” Life was
flowing smoothly, she was sticking to her routines, the kitchen was
clean before her bedtime (which took place right at ten), she was
getting some daily exercise (as soon as she got up at six), and
homeschooling was on a steady rhythm. Then she hit a rough patch—kids
were sick, first trimester exhaustion, husband switched his work
schedule, post-partum recovery, a big move, whatever. What's the first
thing that pops into most moms' minds? What happened? What am I doing
wrong that things aren't working like they did before?

perhaps she just knows, somewhere deep inside, that she could be doing
things better. She knows that she should and could be doing better at
planning meals. She knows that she'd be so much better off if she went
to bed a little earlier. She has the best of intentions of cutting out
the sugar in the house but it keeps creeping back in.

I think
there are several antidotes to the “bad mom” syndrome. When I have
these types of thoughts, I try to remember how much I have improved
over the years. I now do more work in a day, and with much less angst,
than I did in a month when I was first married. I no longer cringe if
someone shows up at the door unannounced. I do my laundry without
thinking and I'm usually only a couple of loads behind. My toilets get
wiped down frequently, which is a big improvement on my first years of
marriage. I could easily go a month without cleaning the toilet bowl.
Housework used to be an incredibly daunting task, and I couldn't
imagine it ever being effortless, but in many ways it now is. Sure, it
will probably never be my mother's house, but it's looking pretty good
for me.

Next question. Whose standards am I trying to live up
to? It would be different if my husband demanded regular mealtimes and
a spotless house, but those are not on the top of his list. Yes, I
would like my home to function better, but it's generally a standard I
set for myself. Why am I so disappointed at failure, when it's usually
only me that is being let down?

As I drove my daughter to her
music lessons at 5:30 p.m., I thought, if I were a good mom, I would
have prepared dinner ahead of time. My husband and children are
probably digging through the fridge right now for leftovers. A good mom
would have put something in the crock-pot this morning. When I arrived
home, my son had made fettucine for the family and had made sure
everyone was served. I do wish I had planned better, but I was more
bothered than anyone else at my failure.

Another thing we must
consider is our temperament. There are many types of men and many types
of vocations. There are many types of women, but for the married woman
there is one vocation—wife and mom. How can our vastly different
personalities all do the same job? I know women who only ever wanted to
be a wife and mother. The jobs that accompany motherhood are delightful
to these ladies. I think of these women as Mrs. Steadies. (My mom is
one of these.) She loves the security of routines and the rhythm of a
repetitive life. I am probably a Mrs. Visionary. I am constantly having
to pull my head out of the clouds or away from the rabbit-trail I'm
exploring and remind myself of my responsibilities. I think the Mrs.
Visionaries are also more prone to perfectionism.

Yes, in my
heart, I know I could be doing a better job at being mom, but when I'm
honest with myself, many times I would rather attempt to play my
daughter's violin or practice my penny whistle, write big, long blogs
that people stop reading somewhere in the middle (oh, you're still
here?), dream about the book I want to write (of course, I've got the
dedication planned out), write elaborate lists and schedules that end
up being so impractical the first day I try them. . . Is this really
that wrong? Does being me, with my many imperfections and missteps put
me on the “bad mom” list? I would say, “Of course not!” to anyone else.
Is “good enough” acceptable as a mom? There are times I would say, yes.
For some moms (like me), success is measured with each faltering step
and each moment that they are able to see the holy in the mundane.

is there a way for me to acknowledge where I've been (good and bad) and
strive for regular improvement without the constant self-doubts? I
think part of the answer is to learn to walk by grace and not by the

These verses come to mind:

Gal 3:23-25 But before
faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith
which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to
bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after
faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (teacher for the
I know this is speaking of the new covenant, but I
often think of this passage in terms of my life as a wife and mom. Many
times the newly-married woman is clueless as to how to run a home,
manage her time, cook, clean, parent. The law can be helpful in the
beginning. The house-cleaning books I've read, the Flylady e-list I
joined, the strict schedules I tried to keep, were beneficial to a
certain point. I learned so many things through these wonderful
resources. They were sort of like a “tutor” or teacher for the immature
me. Because of my immaturity, I needed these helps. Have you noticed
your born-organized friends don't use these things? My mother has never
read a chapter on how to clean a toilet. I could give you the ten,
proper steps.

However, like the law, the “perfect way” can be
hard to stick to—especially as it is usually someone else's “perfect
way”—and as we mature in our role it is natural to need these aids less
and less. The longer I am married, the more I notice that I am
beginning to function better with a more open approach. I am actually
seeing what needs to be done and doing it with little thought! Amazing!
I wake up and say, what needs to be done today? And then I do it. O.k,
the living room is messy. . . C'mon kids, let's see how fast we can get
things whipped into shape! And grace doesn't stop there. It also allows
me to be imperfect, to have a “bad day” without being a “bad mom.”

I've gotten to know Molly, it has been fun to see our many
similarities. One thing we have in common is that we are both deeply
committed to loving our husband and children and raising them to serve
and honor the Lord. However, Molly also struggles in some of the same
areas that I do. Yet, I look at Molly, and I think, What a good mom! As
I thought about this, it was as if the Lord said, Yes, and you are a
good mom, too. The same way that you view Molly is the way that I view
you. I finally believed it. I am a good mom. My children are fortunate
to live in this home. God sees my heart. He doesn't expect perfection,
why should I?


is a 30 year old mother of five children (age twelve and under) and has
been married for thirteen years to her high school crush. She was once
heard saying, “I could never homeschool. I'm just not that kind of
person. I don't wear dresses every day, and I don't know how to can
food.” After her oldest child Jordan was diagnosed with leukemia at age
four, she began homeschooling and has never looked back. Lydia still
doesn't wear dresses every day, and she never cans, but teaching her
children at home has become a passion. She strives to be authentic in
her relationship with God, her husband, and her children, and doesn't
want to settle for anything less than the “real” thing. (BTW, Jordan is
doing great and Lydia WANTS to start canning.) Lydia can be found
writing at the ChoosingHome Blog.