The Happiness Connection  

You're not a bad mom

Not everyone likes the term fur baby.

I’m not sure why. For many people, their pets are like children. They love them fiercely and want to give them a good life.

For any woman who identifies as a mother of some sort, whether she’s given birth to her baby or not, one of the worst things to experience is being thought of as a bad mom.

This fear-of-parenting judgment is probably true for men, too. But this week, in honour of Mother’s Day, I’m focusing on women.

I walk my dog twice a day for his benefit more than my own. I take him for his annual examinations and vaccinations. I buy special dental food that can only be sourced from a vet. I shower him with my love.

I consider myself to be a very good mom.

I’m also a good daughter. I’m starting the clearing and cleaning of my mom’s house, so it can go on the market.

My dog, Charlie, doesn’t fit into this plan very well. He can be high maintenance.

Rather than worrying about his walks, pee breaks, and giving him enough attention while I’m attending to the house, I’m going to put him into daycare.

He needs his Bordetella vaccine before I can do this.

I contacted our regular animal hospital, but they didn’t have any appointments for two weeks. Rather than wait, I booked him in with a different vet.

I expected a quick shot and the exchange of money.

It wasn’t quite so straight forward. This new person insisted on doing an exam. It had only been a month or two since Charlie had received his annual checkup, but whatever.

I was taken aback when the vet came out and said Charlie’s coat was a little rough and should be washed more regularly. He recommended every two weeks.

I was also told that his teeth needed better care.

I’m sure my eyes narrowed, and my mouth straightened into a hard line under my mask.

He might have been trying to drum up new business by telling me things he felt my regular vet had missed. Perhaps not knowing Charlie’s history, made him see the situation in a different light. It didn’t matter.

I heard criticism that amounted to him declaring I was an unfit mother.

If he’d been talking about my car, I’d probably have dismissed his comments without much thought, or even agreed with him. But he wasn’t talking about an inanimate object. He was discussing my baby.

Being a mother can be tough. If you love your human or animal babies passionately, you want to do your best by them, but who decides what’s best?

When my daughter was born, I struggled to breast feed. I managed for 10 weeks. By that time, I realized she wanted more milk than I could produce.

When I turned to formula, I felt ashamed of my actions. I’d been indoctrinated to believe that breast was best. What kind of mom was I if I couldn’t’ do what was best for my child?

This same protectiveness, mixed with feelings of being judged, rose to the surface with the words of this unfamiliar vet.

Have you ever perceived that someone was judging your parenting skills? Maybe it was by your children. They’re often very quick to let you know of any improvements they think you should make.

When it comes to motherhood (and fatherhood,) it’s easy to fear judgment and to perceive criticism.

When this happens, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do my actions/words feel like the right thing for me to do/say?
  • If applicable, have I listened to the thoughts and feelings of my child and taken them into consideration?
  • Am I doing anything that I believe will harm or hamper the health and happiness of my child?
  • Am I willing to change my mind and course of action if the answers to the above questions change?

After considering these things, if everything still feels right, stay strong in your convictions. Ignore the naysayers and critics.

You can’t let yourself get too bothered by the words of others. Being a mother to any living being is tough enough without accepting perceived slights or criticisms.

No one gives you a mother’s instruction manual, and even if they did it would be useless. Every child is unique and so is every parent. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to be a mom.

If your children are adults, let yourself off the hook. Be there to love and emotionally support them, but recognize it’s time for them to chart their own course.

I accept that there will be things my kids didn’t like about my parenting. There will be situations they judge with some level of criticism.

That’s OK.

As long as you try your hardest, do what seems best at the time, can apologize when you get it wrong, and lead by example, you are not a bad mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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