Now that Downton Abbey is back on, I am in television dreamland. And on Sunday, the Dowager Countess had some fabulous one-liners and insights to impart upon the world in the season four premiere. In one scene, Lady Mary confessed that she feared she wouldn’t be a good mother because her softer side had died with her late husband. The Countess responded sincerely, “My dear, there’s more than one type of good mother.”
Those words continue to resonate with me, because I know a lot of good moms, and many of them aren’t like me. But I like to think I’m a good mom as well. It becomes increasingly clear that there’s no one right way to do this parenting thing.
We all have in our minds some ideal, “perfect parent” and what that person does. Maybe she reads more with her kids, or cooks better, or keeps a cleaner home. Or perhaps she signs up her children for every activity, or has more money, or is craftier and not afraid to get Play-Doh on the furniture. It could be that she never complains, or has a sweeter disposition, or that she works out, or is sexier and gets out of her loungewear on a day-to-day basis. Just typing out the ideas above makes me realize I could be doing more in all these areas (especially with getting out of my PJs). But then I am instantly faced with the notion that I’m not doing a good enough job because of things that generally won’t matter one bit when my children are grown. I am only one person, and the demands of being a wife and a mother (and for some, a provider as well) leave little time for every estimable pursuit that could allure me. Parenting on a day-to-day basis is sometimes like trench warfare and sometimes more beautiful than anything ever. We have to prioritize and do the best we can with the things we can predict, and more often than not, the ones we can’t.
Every new year, many of us make resolutions to change for the better. Perhaps something in my list above about the “perfect parent” is close to one of your resolutions. I have to say that this year, I did not make any. I find that I never keep them. I’m not saying we should not strive to improve or allow God to work in our lives to make us better. What I’m saying is we should make sure that what we are striving for is both desirable and attainable. Can you measure when you’ve “gotten there?” And is where you’re trying to go where you should be? Is it even possible when realistically considering the constraints of your life?
Doing my best for my unique children and family makes me a good mother. And it makes you a good parent if those are your goals. During our visit back home over Christmas, I went to dinner with two very old and dear friends. One of them said that her New Year’s Resolution was to enjoy every day with her healthy children and husband, and to be thankful for all that she has instead of focusing on the fact that she really hates her teal carpet. I completely concur. That’s a resolution I can get behind.
The truth is God has given each of us the children we have for a reason. Your child or children were born to you for a particular purpose. Each of us, with our unique personalities, gifts and quirks, has the potential to be a great parent. The cheerful, stoic, social, shy, creative, nerdy, organized, impulsive, dreamers and doers can all be simultaneously – and in their own ways – great.
Life will never be perfect and there will always be things to get done to improve ourselves and our lives. Just remember to focus on how you are uniquely suited for your children. If you’re trying to turn over a new leaf in 2014, remember the Apostle Paul’s words of wisdom in Galatians 6:4: “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” Here’s to all of our personal bests this new year!