I’ve been thinking about this post forever — maybe even before Soph was born, and she’s six months old next week, so that’s saying something — but I wondered over and over again if it’s the kind of thing I could put into words. It’s just such a big topic, unwieldy even, and I didn’t know if my limited experience of motherhood would be enough to really do it justice. And then this week a Time magazine cover, with the cover line “Are You Mom Enough?,” happened and it was just the push I needed to put pen to paper.
I’ve read a few posts about the cover already, most expressing outrage over the sentiment scrawled across an image of a woman breastfeeding a toddler — like if you aren’t an attachment parent, you aren’t in the same league as those who are — and, I admit, it was my first reaction, too. I subscribe to some of the AP ideas (for example, we wore Soph for weeks but co-sleeping made me so nervous that I couldn’t do it) but it’s not because I set out to follow a set of principles. I just did what made sense to me, and what would work for my daughter. I’ve written about that before. But no, what angered me most about the cover was that it seems to suggest there is only one way to parent, and that diminishes all of the incredible mothers I know — attachment or otherwise. You are mom enough if you love your kids fiercely, if you make them feel secure and safe, and if you put their best interest ahead of everything else. However you do that is up to you, but it means that you are in the same league as every other mother out there.
When I think about the kind of mother I want to be, I don’t think about rules and research. I don’t go back to my books (and I’ve read a lot of them) to tell me how I should be. Instead, I look to the women around me, mothers who have earned their stripes in myriad ways, who have happy, funny, interesting children. These women have inspired the mother I want to be.
I want to be the kind of mom who celebrates her kids every day (even if they colour on the living room walls. I’ll celebrate in my head, later, when I’m not so annoyed). I want Sophie, and any siblings that may follow, to feel special and unique. One of my old camp counselors, Michelle, celebrates the half-birthdays of her three girls. I love that. Who says birthdays have to come once a year? Soph’s first half-birthday is next week, and you can bet she’s getting sweet potatoes for supper.
I want to be the kind of mom who fingerpaints, colours with sidewalk chalk, makes forts and builds sandcastles. My brother Matt actually put hooks into the ceiling of his rec room in order to make elaborate blanket tents for my nieces. (Oh yeah, this post doesn’t just pertain to mothers. Matt, you are dad enough, too.)
I want to be the kind of mom who makes home wherever she is. My friends Nat and Nicole are married to professional athletes, and they are constantly on the road. When Nat’s husband was traded, she picked up and made a home in a different city. Nicole takes home out of a suitcase during training camp or in the off-season. I want to be like that — to make any space feel comfortable and safe.
I want to be the kind of mom who does her best to balance work and family. I have a tendency toward workaholism, but I want to learn boundaries. I also want to be the kind of mother who knows that time for herself and her dreams, and for her partner and for her friends, is important. My friend Ashley, despite having a full-time job, a husband and a busy one-year-old, always has time to write me an email when she knows I’m struggling (and she always says exactly the right thing. Like Yoda).
I want to be the kind of mom who makes tough decisions, even if it’s going to upset their child. I have more examples than I can count on this one. It’s no fun to have a sad kid, but if that kid is sad because they can’t drop math or because they don’t like curfew, I’m okay with that. I want to be the kind of mom who can say no when I have to. But in addition to that, I want to be the kind of mom who lets go when it’s time. Who says “You’ve got wings, baby — let’s see you use them.” Even if it scares the crap out of me.
I want to be the kind of mom who knows that it’s never going to be perfect. Who stops trying to get all the ducks in a row all the time. I like that orderly row of ducks, that’s for sure, but life with kids is chaos. My kitchen counter at this very second is proof. My aunt Bernadette told me that she does one thing a day for herself, for her family and for her home. That seems doable to me.
I want to be the kind of mom who does all of the voices in books, who brings treats on long car rides, who is the best Christmas shopper ever, and who makes a mean plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if any of these women — or the other amazing mothers in my life — breastfed, or wore their babies, or shared their beds. And I don’t care. Because they are all mom enough. And then some.
Stay in touch
Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.