What it takes to be a good mother

I remember seeing the second line appear on the home pregnancy test. I couldn’t wait to share the exciting news with Ronell.  “I’m pregnant!” In anticipation of the unknown journey, I rushed to purchase books on pregnancy, including the classic “What to Expect When You’re expecting.” I read each page eagerly.

For me, the thought of becoming a mother, mom, mommy, or whatever affectionate term my kids would eventually call me, was one of God’s gifts to be treasured and came with a huge responsibility. Years later, I realize how right I was.

Motherhood has been rewarding, challenging, sometimes scary, and very fulfilling. I’m often asked by young mothers, “How do I know I’m being a good mom?”

I share with them what I wish I’d known early on: Focus on instilling great values and character traits, love unconditionally, don’t keep score, don’t compare, less is more. What matters most is God, family, love, and respect for self and others. 

In the early years, there were lots of trials and errors: I overspent on toys, had too many silly rules, and sometimes found myself being a helicopter parent. At times, I was short-fused, tired, and constantly worried about stages and phases because a book said every child should be doing something my kid hadn’t yet mastered. The light-bulb moment for me came during a visit to my local dry cleaners in Georgia. 

The owner, a friend and the mom of grown kids, offered the following advice: “You don’t need to be a perfect mom to be a good mom; it’s OK to be human. You will make mistakes. Your kids need to see you make and acknowledge your mistakes. They also need to be told no. Love and enjoy them, because one day they’ll grow up and leave home and unpack everything out of the life suitcase you’ve instilled in them.” It was timely and lasting advice. 

I’m blessed to have two teenage daughters who are kind, compassionate, loving, bright, and confident. They are still teenagers with big ideas and are sometimes mouthy know-it-alls. They have taught me to be more of a listener and to allow space for them to express their thoughts and opinions, respectfully. They are invited to share anything with me, but only if they do so in a respectful manner.  

Being a good mom requires being a good listener and picking up on cues for challenges, struggles, or emotional needs that require reinforcement, advocacy, guidance, or support. It requires lots of patience and a willingness to walk away and collect your thoughts. My biggest challenge has been adapting my default style for the needs of each child. 

Being a good mother means throwing away unrealistic standards, comparisons, and judgments. We’re all trying to do the best we can, figuring it out along the way. It means dropping the word “should” and replacing it with “It’s OK.” It’s OK to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom. Do what works for you and don’t feel guilty or apologize. 

It’s OK that my newly driving teenager got into a fender bender; she made it home safely. It’s OK that emotions were all over the place in the Smith household during the 2020 quarantine. Yet, we found creative ways to cope and grew stronger as a family.

My parting advice on what it takes to be a good mother is to practice self-care. I sacrificed workouts during the early years because of guilt; it was a mistake. I wasn’t always able to show up as my best self. Now, I make the time. I joined a gym that offered 5 a.m. classes, which became my personal time. 

It was the best decision. It’s also healthy for your kids to see you take care of yourself.

I love being a mother. I hope my legacy is that my kids learned to love, accept that they’re imperfect, perfect humans, and will one day appreciate that I was in a constant state of growth, learning to become the best version of me. I also hope we continue to have an unbreakable bond.

Words by Rachel Smith. I’m a wife and the mother of two Carroll Dragon daughters. Our family has lived in Southlake for eight years. This is home.

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