The recent post about the benefits to children of working moms and the subsequent “Why are we still talking about this?” post have sparked quite a bit of discussion - both among the readers here and in my own head.
What? You have discussions inside your own head, too, right?
One of the common themes that kept coming up was confidence. Well, that and doubt - which I suppose is the opposite of confidence.
As a mother - working or not - something I struggle with is confidence in my ability to be a good parent. There is a part of me that instinctively knows that I’m a good mom. I look at my children, who are happy, healthy, wonderful little people, and I believe that I must be doing a good job to be raising two amazing people. But, there is also another part of me who makes a decision, feels great about my decision, and then notices all of the people around me making different decisions and thinks “CRAP! What am I doing?!? What if I’m wrong?!? What if I am RUINING THEM FOR LIFE!?!”
I’ll let you guess which of those parts is confidence.
Somehow, I’ve accepted that dichotomy of doubt and confidence in myself. What I have a harder time accepting is seeing doubt in other mothers.
It breaks my heart when I hear a woman say “I’m scrambling to find another babysitter to dump my kids with at the last minute because mine backed out. I know, I know, I’m a great mother,” and I can feel her sarcasm and insecurity. I want to hug the woman in the mall whose child throws a temper tantrum, despite her desperate attempts to discpline and nurture and avoid making a scene all at the same time. I see the look of shame and fear on her face, and I want to tell her that no one here is thinking that she’s doing a bad job.
As a woman and as a mother, I believe that it is important to find ways to make myself and other mothers feel more confident about their parenting. Confident mothers raise confident people. Confident people do good things in the world.
What can we do to build confidence in mothers?
- Focus on our strengths. As comforting as it is to share in our struggles, it is important, too, to have a safe place to brag about our triumphs. Tell people what you do well, and point out to others what you notice they do well.
- Hold off on the advice. Sometimes a woman is asking for advice - but sometimes she’s simply talking out loud. Take the time to listen without figuring out how you can “help” or “fix” her situation. Show her that you believe in her ability to come up with the solution that’s right for her.
- Forgive your own mother. I entered into parenting with a long list of maternal mistakes my mother had made that I was determined not to repeat. And then I realized what a self righteous, naive idiot I was. I’ve come to appreciate that my mother has always done the very best she could - and I didn’t turn out too badly. Appreciating my own mother’s journey (and realizing that she did not, in fact, ruin me) helps me face my own parenthood with less trepidation.
What else can we do to build each other up?