Five-Year-Old Still Having Toilet Troubles

Q: I have a question relating to toileting. My daughter is five, and she will start school next year. She has a habit of holding on to her pee too long (sometimes four hours) before going to the toilet. As a result, it often leaks and dries up without my noticing it. Sometimes I do notice that her underwear gets quite wet, and her pants can be damp too and smell like pee. I have also noticed that when she washes herself in the shower, she tells me it stings and burns (I suspect from wet underwear). She has extremely sensitive skin.

I have long since stopped telling her when she has to go for a pee; she is fully responsible for it. My concern is that she will be in school all day next year, and if she does wet her underwear, she will either smell, develop a terrible rash or both. Me telling her about these possibilities do not faze her. Do you think it’s a good idea just to leave it, and ignore this entirely? Do you have any plans for me to perhaps help her a bit without taking back the responsibility?

Image courtesy of khongkitwiriyachan/
Image courtesy of khongkitwiriyachan/

A: Unfortunately, this is all too typical behavior for this age for some kids. Three of my four kids all held their pee until they had tiny “accidents” and smelled like pee. I would have conversations with them about the smell and discomfort my daughter had with wet underwear and my sons with chaffing from damp pants, but I refused to solve it for them.

Most schools require parents send in a change of clothes for the youngest grade for this very reason—kids get distracted and forget until they can’t hold it any longer. You could mention this to the teacher so that she would insist that your daughter go to the bathroom when the rest of the class does (most teachers have designated bathroom times to avoid constant asking to use the facilities). Otherwise, peer pressure might take care of this. Also, she might decide to please her teacher by not wetting her pants, or she might decide that she doesn’t like the stinging/burning any more.

Whatever the case, you should let your daughter figure out how to solve the problem. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t tell her to change and wash out her underwear/bottoms if you smell something. Just do it matter-of-factly and she’ll eventually get over this hump.


Recapturing Your Identity

All too often, we moms lose ourselves in our children and the duties associated with raising kids. Here are a few simple ways to start your journey to recapturing your self-identity separate from your children.

Re-evaluate your priorities. What you spend most of your time on is what you value most, or so the saying goes. Think about how you’re spending your day. Is it 90% kid-focused and 10% house focused? What percentage do you spend being a wife versus being a mother? You can do this exercise with all the hats you wear, too.

Re-evaluate your time. We all feel so busy—overwhelmed by our lengthy and never-ending to-do lists. Busyness has become a status symbol. Always rushing around from one task to another. Constantly busy. On the job 24/7. As Americans, we’re busier than ever, filling our lives with constant motion and tasks to be accomplished.

One way to find out what we do with our time is to keep a time journal. To make an accurate time journal, you should keep one for an entire week. If that seems too daunting, try it for a day just to see where you’re spending your time. Use a stop watch or keep an eye on the clock and record what you do each minute.

By doing a time journal, you can see at a glance where your time goes. It can be an eye-opening experience. And for those who might say, “I don’t have time to keep such a detailed journal for a day, let alone a week,” you are probably the person who really needs to keep one. We can’t re-evaluate our time unless we know where we spend it, much like to make a realistic budget, we first need an accurate and detailed picture of income and expenses.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Re-evaluate your schedule. If you’ve done a time journal, you should be able to easily see what is filling your schedule. Are you trying to do too much with and for your kids? In the recent book about mothering in France, Bringing up Bebe, one French mother stopped her kids’ tennis lessons because she found the lessons “constraining.” When the author asked what she meant, the Frenchwoman replied, “Constraining for me.”

If only more American women would view lessons and sports and clubs and all manner of children’s obligations in light of whether it works for them and the overall family instead of running themselves ragged trying to keep up with their kids’ jam-packed schedule.

Re-evaluate your home. Sometimes, we can get a bit obsessed with the cleanliness and décor of our homes. Maybe we like to have everything just so, or perhaps we need to keep every speck of dust at bay. You might be more like me and forget about cleaning until company comes!

You might also enjoy decorating for various holidays and seasons, which can be fun. But sometimes, we take that to the extreme and start to expect perfection in how our homes look. By thinking through your house expectations, you can begin to see where you might need to readjust your desires.

Re-evaluate your relationship with your husband. Don’t neglect your husband. Bringing Up Bebe has a great quote from a Frenchwoman about why this is so important. “The couple is the most important. It’s the only thing that you chose in your life. Your children, you didn’t choose. You chose your husband. So, you’re going to make your life with him. So you have an interest in it going well. Especially when the children leave, you want to get along with him. For me, it’s a priority.”

You can make time for your husband without leaving the house. Date nights are great, but sometimes you just can’t manage it on a regular basis. Have an early bedtime for the kids to give you and your husband time together in the evenings.

Do make time away from home with your husband a priority, too. If you don’t have regular babysitters, try starting a co-op with another family or families. Three families could each get one night out every three months. Even if you only go to the park for a walk, or grab some ice cream, you will find it refreshing. Kids need to see their parents do things as a couple, as it gives them tangible evidence that your marriage is strong. Many studies have found that a strong marriage makes kids feel secure.

Until next time,



A ‘Bad’ Mom’s Guide to School

The summer movie “Bad Moms” hit a chord with many mothers who feel pressure to do all and be all to their kids and families. The opening scene where Amy Mitchell (played by Mila Kunis) races around making breakfast and lunch for her kids, shepherding them to school, and handing her oldest son a huge papier-mâché bust of Nixon for his school project reminded me of how hard we moms try to do the right thing, especially when it relates to our children’s schooling. Over the course of the movie, Amy and two other fellow moms end up shedding the veneer of perfectionism and embracing the “just good enough” mantra that can keep a mom sane (but I’m not sure they full jettisoned the guilt that goes along with not doing everything for your kid).

While I could have done without so many f-bombs and other cursing, “Bad Moms” did show how difficult it can be to the be mother who’s out of step with neighborhood moms by stepping back from doing so much for her children. In the spirit of “Bad Moms,” here is how you can free yourself from the tyranny of trying to be a perfect mother.

  1. Get ‘em on the public school bus. I was frankly surprised that not one of the mom characters put their children on the bus. The school appeared to be a public school—a late scene in the movie did show school buses—yet Amy drove her children to school each morning, and picked them up each afternoon. A truly “bad” mom would make her little darlings walk to school if they lived within walking distance or ride the bus.
  1. Let ‘em make their own breakfast and lunch. Even a kindergartner can make his own breakfast and lunch, so unless you truly enjoy packing lunches, let your kids take over this task. It does help to walk through the week’s lunch menu with your children to ensure you have on hand what they need. For families with multiple children, I’ve found it helpful to post a list on the fridge with who’s making lunch when and with what fixings.
  1. Give ‘em ownership of their school belongings. It’s not your responsibility to keep track of your children’s school supplies, backpack, forms, etc., and the sooner you hand those over to your child, the sooner she will learn how to handle the items responsibly.
  1. Stop helping with homework.
    Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/
    Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

    For me, one of the best moments in “Bad Moms” came when Amy looked at her 12-year-old son and told him that she would no longer be helping him (i.e., doing) his homework. The look of disbelief on his face was priceless, but the realization on Amy’s was even more profound as she figured out she wasn’t doing her son any favors by co-opting his work as her own. This is a tough one for parents to follow through on—this letting the child either do or not do his homework. (Later this month, I will tackle what parents should and shouldn’t do in relation to homework in my Practical Parenting e-newsletter—sign up today to get yours each Friday morning.) If we remember that the purpose of homework is to enforce what the child learned in school, then we would realize that the child should be able to do the work by himself. If he can’t, then the teacher needs to know that so she can review the material or approach it from a different angel.

These are just a few suggestions for how to get off the perfect parent merry-go-round that none of us can achieve. What are some things you’ve stopped doing for your kids lately?

Not Your Grandmother’s Cloth Diapers

When I was expecting our first child, using cloth diapers never occurred to me, probably because memories of struggling to shove the diaper pin through the thick, white cloth of a squirming baby while babysitting still makes me cringe. That and the fact that we lived in a condo community with communal washers and driers pushed cloth diapers off my radar. Pregnant with our second child, a friend was talking about the “new” cloth diapers, ones without the mess and fuss of the old-fashioned diaper pins and plastic pants. Intrigued—and spurred by the rising cost of disposable diapers—I investigated and found a whole new world of cloth diapers, ones that my grandmother wouldn’t recognize.

The cloth diaper booth from MommyCon
The cloth diaper booth from MommyCon

I recently had the chance to talk with Xza Louise Higgins, a businesswoman, marketer, feminist, philanthropist, and multi-tasking mother of two who has channeled her expertise, experience, and passion for bringing people together into establishing herself as a leader in the field of natural parenting. Xza founded MommyCon, a conference that promotes natural and organic parenting. This year’s MommyCon is on Saturday, July 23, at the Walter E Washington Centre in Washington, D.C.

How has cloth diapering changed since pins and plastic pants?
Xza: Cloth diapering has changed so much over the years, and has become a lot more accessible and easy to use. There are now so many different ways to cloth diaper. There are some cloth diapers which even mimic disposables by creating an “All-in-One” design that allows you to place an all-fabric diaper around your baby, which then snaps into place or uses Velcro to keep the diaper together. You can be finished in seconds. Other cloth diapers allow you to use cotton inserts, wool covers, and other natural fibers. With these diapers, moisture is wicked away using organic fabrics or PUL barriers. Some of my favorite cloth diapers are BumGenius, Applecheeks and Sloomb.

What are some benefits to cloth diapering?
Xza: Overall cloth diapering is much better for the environment, and can even be more beneficial for your baby. Cloth diapers can be re-used multiple times. You can use the same cloth diapers for all the children in your family, and the only waste that occurs is the waste from your child. My daughter was cloth-diapered using diapers that had been worn by three other children from different families. They were over nine years old! It’s the ultimate gesture of kindness to the environment. xza family photo

How do you respond to those who think cloth diapering is way too much work?
Xza: If you are doing laundry, what’s one more load? Cloth diapering doesn’t take any more work than doing one extra load of laundry once or twice per week. It is also a huge cost savings to families big and small, so it’s economically sound, as well as environmentally safe.


Personally, we (Sarah) used Fuzzi Bunz diapers with inserts for three of our four children, and I know we saved a bundle over disposables. Also, washing diapers becomes old after a while—a great incentive to potty-train early. Plus, there’s a huge market for used cloth diapers, so you could possible recoup some of your original investment by reselling your cloth diapers. All in all, cloth diapers can be a win-win for your family.

Stepping Back

By Gail Kittleson

Looking back over our parenting years, it’s easy to moan, “If only I’d known then what I know now.” But one strategy I later learned would have revolutionized my skills.

Unfortunately, 12-step concepts like stepping back entered my life too late. At least I can use them with our grandchildren!

I wish I’d known that….

  • Interfering with youth’s normal ups and downs blocks learning opportunities;
  • Each of us is responsible for ourselves. This gets complicated when our children are young, but it’s so true as they become adolescents.

The transition from fulltime caregiver/teacher/mentor to part-time, on-call adviser can be traumatic for parents as children. But maybe a word picture like this one would have helped me back then.

A baby bunny whose mama birthed him in our 18-inch high wheel rim eventually had to find his way down to earth. A little bruising ensued in the process, most likely, but carrying nine offspring over the side, one by one, proved too much for his mother.

At one point, she gave the sign and stood back. Sure enough, the little ones toppled over the edge, unscathed, and happed off to greater adventures.

A mama robin cannot take her fledglings’ first flights for them, but must step back to watch. And, unable to rescue her offspring if they fail, she must sometimes accept suffering.

Our children need to learn by doing, by experimentation. It’s scary for us, and not all experiments succeed. But James Joyce wrote, “Mistakes are the portals to discovery.” And consider this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

If we hinder our children from the learning potential of mistakes, we do them an injustice. Every time they fall down, they glean the know-how to get up again. In order for our beloved namesakes to become realistic, responsible adults, we must let go as we step back and cheer them on. The sooner parents learn this lesson, the better for both parties.

9-15-15 authorAbout Gail Kittleson
Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband enjoy gardening and grandchildren. Her memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, paved the way for fiction writing, and she’s hooked for life.

Her debut novel, In This Together, released late last year. After World War II steals her only son and sickness takes her husband, Dottie Kyle beg9-15-15ins cooking and cleaning at the local boarding house. The job and small town life allow her to slip into a predictable routine, but her daughters and grandchildren live far away, and loneliness is Dottie’s constant companion when she’s not working. Al Jensen, Dottie’s long-time neighbor, has merely existed since his wife died. Al passes his time working for his son at the town’s hardware store. However, he still copes with tragic memories of serving in WWI. Being with Dottie makes him happy, and their friendship grows until, for him, love has replaced friendship. When Dottie’s daughter has health issues, will Al’s strength and servant’s heart be enough to win Dottie’s love and affection? Can Dottie’s love for her family enable her to face her fear of crowds an d enclosed spaces and travel halfway across the country to help the daughter who so desperately needs her?

Who are you?

Recently speaking

on the topic of rediscovering your calling, I asked a group of about 20 moms, “Who are you?” Of course, the answer was “Mothers.”

Then I pressed further. “But who else are you?” That flummoxed them because they had bought into the idea that to be a mother meant there was nothing else to be, nothing else that could fit onto the plate besides raising their children. Granted, many of the women in the audience that day had toddlers, preschoolers and/or babies, who do require either near-constant care or near-constant supervision during their waking hours.

All too often we women fall into the trap of shoving aside our personal identities once we become a mother. We forget that we are women first of all. We ignore the fact that most of us are also wives second of all. Many of us also had a career third of all. Then we became mothers.

However, we act as if motherhood is the only option once we have that baby, that all other identities must be subjugated under the all-encompassing altar of mothering. Then we have articles like “Motherhood stole my identity. Other women brought it back.,” in which the author lamented that “once women give birth, they’re expected to identify as mothers first and foremost.”

For all our talk of women’s liberation, motherhood is one area where we have taken a decidedly huge step backward. Our grandmothers most certainly didn’t think that the mere fact that of children meant they were only regarded as a mother—these women might not have worked outside the home in large numbers, but they most certainly didn’t refer to themselves (or think of themselves) as “mothers first and foremost.”

Image courtesy of phanlop88/
Image courtesy of phanlop88/

Unfortunately, that’s something that has been lost in recent years. As the Mommy Wars have shown us, it’s all about being a mother. We’re now paying the price with women who stay home with their kids pouring everything into their care and upbringing to the point of losing their own identity, and women who work living with massive amounts of guilt for not staying home–then also trying to compensate for not being at home.

How can be break the cycle and help women recapture or rediscover their own identities apart from motherhood? Here are a few simple ways to begin.

Stop referring to yourself–even in your mind–as only a mother. Mothering might be the most time-consuming part of your life, especially when your children are under 5, but it doesn’t have to define your life. Sure, I’m a mom, but I’m also a writer and a wife, a knitter and a seamstress, a reader and an American Heritage Girls troop leader.

Do one thing for yourself per week. This must be totally for your pleasure only. It can be a simple as a walk around the block by yourself or spending 15 minutes reading a book. But start to reclaim some time doing what you enjoy.

Spend time with your husband–and don’t talk about the kids. Part of who you are when you’re married is a wife. But sometimes, when we add in mothering, we completely forget that we’re wives first. Start small with five or 10 minutes of non-kid talk without the kids around, then work your way up to regular dates or time with your husband. Remember that your kids will grow up and leave–and that won’t be the time to figure out who your spouse is!

Start a new hobby or pick up an old one. We all have things we liked to do before we had kids. Naturally, some of those we had to put aside because taking care of children took priority. Even if you can’t physically take up the hobby again right now, you can certainly start looking for ways to reconnect with it and planning when you can return to it. You can also learn how to do something new by joining a club, going to meet-ups or searching Pinterest or blogs for ideas.

These are just some ideas to get you started on reclaiming your identity. What are some ways you don’t let mothering smother your life?

Underage Drinker

Q: My daughter is in her second year at college who recently came home with six of her friends over fall break. All six are 19. Things were going well until the last night. The girls were heading out to a local festival, and my husband left to attend a football, where I would join him after having dinner with the girls.

But it turned out that when I arrived at the game, I couldn’t find parking, so I returned home to find the girls still home and a cooler full of beer and a bottle of vodka sitting on the kitchen counter. Calling my daughter downstairs, I asked why she had the alcohol.

To my surprise, she snatched it off the counter and ran upstairs, saying that I couldn’t have it because it wasn’t mine.

Naturally, I followed her upstairs. When she wouldn’t come to my room to talk about this in private (the other girls were around), the conversation went something like this:

Me: “It’s disrespectful to drink in our house.”

Daughter: “We’re not going to drink it here but elsewhere.”

Me: “Great! Even dumber. Do you know of the rule for open containers in our state? The whole car can get cited. What kind of parent would I be to just overlook the alcohol and say, ‘Hey do you need some diet coke with your vodka?’”

She decided to put it away and assured me that they weren’t going to drink it. But I know they drink while away at college, so I printed out and gave her the medical reasons why the drinking age is 21, and also the state law pertaining to open alcohol containers.

I am pretty frustrated, but because I really don’t know what I should have said differently and if I should continue the conversation or just let it go. Help!

Image courtesy of Naypong/
Image courtesy of Naypong/

A: Unfortunately, many parents react like you did when confronted with a child doing something wrong. Instead of acting, they, like you, talk about the misbehavior. You discussed why she shouldn’t drink as if she was a rational human being instead of a teenager making the wrong decision. Instead of confiscating the alcohol, you let her keep it and handed her a sheaf of paper listing why she shouldn’t drink it. But that’s water under the bridge now. While you can’t do anything about her drinking in college, here’s what you can do.

  1. If ever she has alcohol on her person or in her possession while in your home or vehicle, you take it and pour it out immediately. That’s it. She’s breaking the law and you could be held accountable for her actions while she’s in your house or car with alcohol.
  2. Instead of pointing out why drinking at 19 isn’t a good idea (and believe me, she knows she’s breaking the law!), tell her calmly that if she chooses to drink at college, that’s her business.

But–and this is a huge but–if she gets into any trouble relating to her drinking (on campus, off campus, while at home on break, etc.) whether she’s with friends who are imbibing or tossing back vodka shots on her own (in other words, if alcohol is involved in any way, shape or form to the trouble), then you are not going to pay for her college for at least an entire year, maybe more. If you’ve already paid for the current semester, she can stay. But you are not paying one more dime for at least 12 months until she’s proven she understands how to obey the law by not drinking. And then stick with it.

Yes, she might manage to drink and not get into trouble, but this should show her how serious you take her underage drinking is.


The Price of Being the Perfect Mom

A recent study from shows what the cost of raising a child is exacting on today’s mom–and the results aren’t all about the bank account. With an average spend of $13,000 per child each year, moms are attempting to create a perfect childhood, but the price is more stress on mom’s bank account, relationships and children.

Three out of five moms are worried about having enough money to raise their kids, and 53% are stressed trying to create the perfect life for their children—one filled with enriching activities, superior experiences, and perfect meals. BabyCenter found that 56% of moms feel some type of pressure to keep their children’s days filled with important activities and that they are spending extra to make it happen. Moms spend an average of $1,391 a year on extracurricular activities for their children.

mage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

And in an effort to give their children the best and introduce them to new things and experiences, the majority of moms say they are willing to stretch beyond their comfort zone for vacations/experiences (47%) and entertainment (36%). Additionally, a third would also stretch for organic foods, education, and clothes/accessories.

As a result, 46% of moms have gone into debt, one in three are working longer hours, and 32% say their children feel overscheduled or frazzled at least sometimes. “Moms have a very specific idea of what type of life they want their children to have, but they are putting too much pressure on themselves to make this fantasy a reality,” said Linda Murray, BabyCenter global editor in chief, in a press release. “In the long run, a loving and connected family brings more satisfaction than a calendar packed with activities.”

This idea of perfection impacts more than bank accounts: 44% of moms say they argue with their partner over money at least some of the time. This percentage jumps to nearly 50% in households with two or more children. The main causes of arguments include cost of living, lack of financial support, savings, daycare, education, and bills. Kids feel it, too. According to the report, 47% of children whose parents have finance-related friction in their relationship are somewhat affected by these issues.

“It’s important for couples to take steps toward improving their finances and ultimately their relationship,” said Andrea Woroch, BabyCenter financial contributor. “Parents should set money dates once a month to review their budget and work toward shared saving goals, which will keep each other’s spending in check and also set a good example for their children.”

Social media puts moms under a microscope and makes it easy for them to draw comparisons between their lives and what they see on other people’s social channels. BabyCenter found that 40% of moms feel they can only share good things about their life on social media, and 31% of moms worry about having a positive or perfect image on social media at least some of the time. While 53% of moms maintain a positive outlook and feel as though they have a good life, 22% feel as though their life is not as fun, nearly 20% feel less organized, and 13% feel like their life is not as good as others’ when looking at social media. “It’s important for moms to remember that social media only tells a portion of the story,” pointed out Woroch.

May 2015 Practical Parenting: Let’s Ditch Being “Mean” Moms

I had no idea what I was getting into when I became a mother. I’m not talking about the anxious anticipation before the birth, when everything seemed possible and impossible at the same time. I don’t mean the late nights with a screaming baby who refused to nurse or sleep. Nor the tired days when I felt like a zombie. I don’t mean the longing for the baby to pick a schedule—any schedule!—and stick with it please, pretty please, before I go crazy.

What I didn’t have a clue about was the fact that I had to make so many decisions. Not about what outfit to put on my baby, but what ideological camps I would join, such as

  • Breast-is-best or bottle-is-fine?
  • Working mother or a stay-at-home mom?
  • Organic-only or conventional food?
  • Public, private or homeschool?
  • Bubble-wrap or free-range?

I truly had no clue that becoming a mother meant picking sides in battles in which I didn’t want to participate. I might have breast-fed my four kids for 13 or 14 months, but that doesn’t mean I thought everyone who used formula was harming their babies. I choose to stay home but that doesn’t mean I thought working mothers should quit their jobs. I might send my children to public school, but that doesn’t mean I think that’s the right choice for all kids. I might embrace fostering independence in children but that doesn’t mean I think those who don’t are raising milquetoast kids.

But what I’ve noticed is that we certainly act like those who don’t do exactly like we do as mothers are, in fact, certifiable idiots. That they are actually hurting their children by not raising them just like us. That they must get in lock-step so that we can feel justified about our own decisions.

And frankly, that hurts deeply. It hurts every time I read another article about the Mommy Wars. It hurts every time I see another mother look browbeaten for taking out her non-organic snack at the playground. It hurts every time I see a mother in the grocery store struggling with her screaming kids and looking embarrassed by the fuss.

When are we mothers going to stop wanting, no needing, all moms to be in agreement with our parenting choices? We should be supporting each other in child-rearing, not arguing over cloth versus disposable diapers. We should be helping each other, not picking sides and lobbing word grenades at the opposing team.

Here are six ways we can halt this merry-go-round of divisiveness and work together in this calling to raise children. And yes, I’m speaking to myself as I write these, as I’ve been more apt to do the negative, than the positive.

Be helpful, not condemning. How many times do you see a mother struggling with crying kids and walk quickly past? Instead, why don’t we offer a smile and a word of encouragement? Offer to load the groceries in the van while she puts the kids in their seats? Let her go ahead of you in line? It’s the little gestures that mean more than anything when you’re in the throes of the hard parts of raising kids.

Be grateful, not superior. How many times have we seen another mother with unruly kids, for example, and thought, “I would never allow my children to behave like that?” When in reality, every single one of us has had “bad” parenting moments where our children misbehaved in public. Remembering that we are not perfect, that we all have off days, that none of us would like our parenting mishaps to be displayed for all the world to see, can help us cultivate a grateful heart instead of a superior one.

Be kind, not strident. How many times do we simply yell louder when someone doesn’t agree with our parenting position? Instead, let’s try to be kind when others have a different point of view. We’ve lost the ability to debate in a way that doesn’t shred our emotions, that doesn’t browbeat our opponents. We should be able to agree to disagree on some of the hot mommy topics. However, we must be careful not to be condescending to those who hold an opposing view, but treat them as fellow mothers alongside is on this path that is child rearing. Isn’t there room at the mothering table for both breastfed and bottle-fed babies, for instance?

Be open, not secretive. How many times have you felt able to share your worst parenting moment with friends? We should be able to tell of the time when we left our kids at the gym or dropped the baby on the floor. We should nurture an attitude of openness among our friends and families that would allow us to disclose our frustrations and our mistakes, as well as our joys and successes. We all need to unburden ourselves of our fears and our stresses, but if we don’t have a safe place to do so, we will keep those emotions bottled up inside us. That’s not good for us as mothers and it’s certainly not good for our children, either.

Be watchful, not fearful. How many times have you seen a child not your own walking or playing and berated the absent mother to yourself? Fifty years ago, mothers watched out for other children in the neighborhood, at the local playground, walking down the street. Mothers back then didn’t call the police—instead, they kept an eye on the child to make sure nothing happened to him or her. If they left the area, they would often point out the child to another mother, passing along the passive watching that ensured all children were safe. Today, our first thought is to call the police. Let’s work together on ensuring our children are safe by being willing to watch other kids while our own are playing.

Be careful, not careless. How many times have you tossed off a comment in person, on social media, or in an email that denigrated another parent? I’m just as guilty as the next person for making remarks about moms I haven’t met—and those I have. We should have more care in how we talk about other mothers, even if we’re not being overly mean. We never know when a careless comment can find its mark and devastate a mother’s heart. The more careful we are in our speech about mothers and mothering, the more we can build a better environment where all mothers feel safe and secure.

Raising children has its own challenges—let’s not make it harder with our careless speech, our strident tone, our fearful attitude, our secretive nature, our superior outlook or our condemning spirit. If we all strive together to be helpful, kind, grateful, careful, watchful and open, we can change mothering—and mothers—for the better.

The Good Mother

I’m a terrible mother.
Before you call social services and report me, no, I don’t beat or starve my children, but there are days when I fall way short of today’s definition of a good mother. I don’t spend a lot of time with my children (and often think that’s okay). I don’t correct their homework (and have no intention of doing so). At times, I get annoyed when they interrupt me. I sometimes yell at them when they frustrate me (like spilling milk on the table I just cleaned).
How many times have I not paid attention to what a child was saying because my attention was on my email? How many times do I pack my day with too much work and end up too tired to play a game or read a story to them before bed?
We as mothers and women have a tendency to set the bar so high, it’s nigh on impossible to reach. We tell ourselves that if we don’t bake the cookies from scratch, or don’t pay close enough attention to the babblings of the 2-year-old, or don’t fill-in-the-blank, our children will not be happy, healthy, or have a good life.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But how many of us have had similar thoughts dance through our minds, along with the accompanying guilt at not being a good enough mother? I sure have, even though I try very hard not to.
Then there’s the inevitable comparisons with other mothers. Even when we’re not consciously thinking about how other women parent, it can seep into our minds in the blink of an eye.
Here’s an example of what I mean: When my oldest was a toddler, we went to the park on one of the first warm spring days. She had on a short-sleeved shirt probably for the first time that year. As we walked to the playground, I looked around at the other mothers who were arriving with their children. Nearly every one of them had whipped out a tube of sunscreen and was slathering their child’s face and arms with the stuff. My daughter looked at me and asked if she needed sunscreen. I told her no and to go play, but in that moment, I felt like a bad mother, one who sends her defenseless child out into the sunny world with no sunscreen.
Other times this feeling has cropped up for me includes being the mom without the first aid kit at the playground and another mom has to lend you a Band-aid to bandage your child’s bloody knee. Or giving my kids a non-organic, not-too-healthy snack when other moms have artfully arranged carrot sticks and hummus.
If we fall into this mindset that we are not good enough mothers, that our parenting styles and family life is not up to par with the rest of the world—and as a result our children will not be able to fulfill their great destinies— then we will miss out on a lot of the joys of childhood.
We also will miss out on the laughter and the pain, the joys and the sorrows, the average grades and the missed goals. And those lessons learned from not being perfect, from seeing how we as mothers handle life’s disappointments, and from enjoying life to its fullest whatever our circumstances, are priceless.
It’s not being the perfect mother that our children will love us for—it’s being the best mother we can be for them. That won’t look good some days, but if we turn our backs on measuring ourselves to an impossible standard, we can have more good days than bad.
It took me several years to come to terms that I wasn’t a great mother by certain standards. And there are times when I slip and start to obsess about how I’m not a good mother. But most of the time, I aim to be a good enough mother, and so far, it’s been a good one for my four children.