Accepting your Mothering Type

I’ve been a personality-type junkie as long as I can remember. I was 10 when I asked my parents to buy a copy of “Please Understand Me’ – and I loved discovering that I was a type, and that my quirks were part of my structure, rather than some failure to live up to the norm.

In this light, the things we agonize over as mothers are often traits we lack. I, for example, am an introvert, and worry that I am too hasty to withdraw from the kids into my own world of books, thinking and computers. I wish that I was more like my husband and the mothers I admire – parents who enjoy nearly every moment of being around kids (to all appearances) and who love playing pretend, playing soccer, etc. I don’t play well. Even as a child I preferred reading and the company of adults over play. So when I’m comparing myself to that crazy quilt ideal, I seem distant and neglectful.

But I see, at the times when my feelings of inferiority fade, that my kids have certain strengths because of my personality traits. My children have an astonishing capacity to entertain themselves, and play together for hours. They have so much fun together that it is often difficult to call them back for homeschooling. Another way this failure of playfulness can be seen in another light is that my children are being exposed to a role model who reads, writes, and thinks passionately. They probably won’t remember me as an energetic, playful mother. But who says that it is a bad thing to be remembered as a sympathetic mother you could always seek out reading underneath a tree ?

It is important for us to understand that we can’t do and be all the good things in this world. We simply can’t embody every virtue. Sometimes virtues are in conflict. For example, I *could* keep a tidier, cleaner house and then I could claim the virtues of order and cleanliness. Or I could do as I have – take care of the basics, fight the good fight against the clutter monster, and live a joyous tumble of a life – and claim the virtues of even temper and pleasant countenance. Which set of virtues can claim supremacy? The answer is simple – those that suit our family best. Valerie Bendt wrote, “We should not let the good things crowd out the best things.”

Being dissatisfied with our parenting can be a sign that we need to make changes. But we need to ask several questions of ourselves before we embark on a mothering-makeover. Why should we make this change? This question is central to making good changes. I have caught myself longing for a particular trait, only to discover, when I dug deep into my thought processes, that I thought that this trait would make my life perfect. If only I did X, or were Y, then I could guarantee my kids would have the perfect upbringing. The second question that we must ask here is: Who’s idea of perfect? A Hallmark commercial? A bossy and convincing book writer? Our family?

In all of our tossing and turning we need to understand whether we are talking about a weakness or merely something that is different. We can hold to our ideals so doggedly that we leave no room for seeing that something that is different from our assumptions is still a good thing. My picture of a perfect mother includes a gregarious, playful woman, and my difference from that picture feels like failure. But it isn’t a failure, it’s a departure from my inner script.

I’ve had to retune my thinking. None of us can be all things. We can’t simultaneously be the gregarious mother and the quiet, listening mother and the active mother and the reading mother. We must, for our own health and happiness, accept that there are many models of motherhood. We must accept the good we do embody, while finding a way to seek improvement in a way that does not devalue ourselves.

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20 thoughts on “Accepting your Mothering Type

  1. Nicole says:

    Wow. I needed this today… and yesterday… and likely tomorrow too. I’m not much of a playful mom either. I don’t do pretend play very well for very long. But I do do board games and art projects and knitting together on the couch while listening to music. I help rearrange and decorate bedrooms. We cook together and walk together and sketch together. But because I won’t play Polly Pocket for an hour or Littlest Pet Shop I do end up feeling bad about it from time to time. No more. I will try for no more.

  2. Kiwi Girl. says:

    Thank goodness for sound advice. As a mother who lives with chronic depression I spend alot of time wishing I could be more energetic, more motivating and be more social. I seek refuge in books, art and my garden and often think I am depriving my wonderful six year old daughter of a greater existence. However, every so often and more so resently, I stumble across a brilliant piece of writting or quote that makes me realise that I need to stop wasting moments barrating myself for what I am not and be more comfortable with what I am. After all, is that not one of the best things we can teach our children, to be happy with who we are. Thankyou.

  3. Aimee says:

    You know, I just found your blog through The Mother Load and I’m so happy I stumbled upon it. What you say resonates so strongly to me and my life right now. Thanks for your honesty and I can’t wait to see what other treasures I find here.

  4. sturdymountainwomen says:

    Wisdom comes in many forms—your’s is gentle and calming and no doubt perfect for your family. I live with the opposite “ideal” —that of being the playful, chattering, 11 year old type mom, continually on a search for fairies in the forest. I worry sometimes that my children yearn for quiet and peace and seriousness that they can rarely glimpse in their mother. You have set your arm around my household and told us we’re ok. Thank you for that….

  5. Dayna says:

    What a wonderful message! I have needed something just like this at many times in my life, and today was definetly one of those days!

    Is there any way that I can subscribe to your blog via email? I would love to follow you, but don’t have the “readers”.

    Thank you,

    Dayna

  6. Katherine says:

    Such sage advice!! Your words ring so clear and true. Thank you for reminding us that we can’t be everything to our children and they they will flourish because of it not in spite of it.

  7. Joanne says:

    I was just having a look around your site – via a hbln post – and thinking to myself that you must be one of “those” mothers who have everything so together. Also wondering for the hundredth time whether I am the right person to be homeschooling my son…. and then thankfully I found this post which made me smile as I realised that we are all so full of the same doubts. I am going to bookmark your site and come back whenever I can – I also wish that I knew how to knit now as well 😉

  8. Amanda says:

    Oh, I LOVE this! This is so what I’ve been thinking about lately. We began as radical unschoolers, until I realized that I was driving myself crazy and we weren’t really happy. I started to think only “perfect” mothers could radically unschool — those who were simultaneously laid back AND organized, completely attentive to their children and also following their own interests as an example, spontaneous but not distractable, etc etc. We’re still unschooling, but I’m naturally bossy when I run out of energy. I had to learn to accept my limits. 🙂

  9. Carrie says:

    Just came across this post. Am often trying to remember to take myself (ha) and motherhood less seriously. I am so glad to know other mothers have undergone this type of self-scrutiny.

  10. ruralaspirations says:

    I’ve just found your blog and this post really resonated with me. I have often chided myself for those times when I preferred to read rather than engage in some imaginative game with my kids. Thanks for putting it in perspective.

  11. Aussie chick says:

    I have also worried that my need for quiet was ‘bad’ for my children. My 5yo son told me the other day that Daddy was good for wrestles and Mummy was good for cuddles! I think your blog put it all into perspective.
    PS I also have children who are very good at playing alone….

  12. Melissa Scott says:

    I love how you have written your thoughts, experience and conclusions on this topic! And I am so grateful that you shared them with us! Thank you! I needed to hear it just the way you presented it, so I’m praising The Lord for having drawn me here to read it! 🙂

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