Parenting

Good Mother, Good Father?

Difference between good mother/good father Ayelet Waldman
At the moment, I am reading Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman. It’s a collection of essays about motherhood. In one essay, Waldman mentions the difference between society’s idea of a good mother, and that of the good father.
Think about the women you know, who you would describe as a good mother…
I asked people on social media what they thought made a good mother. The answers I got included:
  • She would sacrifice anything
  • She gives and loves unconditionally
  • She never gives up
  • She will do something she doesn’t want to do, if it’s the best thing for her child
  • She sees her child as an individual, not an extension of herself
  • She puts her child’s needs before her own
  • She gives her child both praise and boundaries
  • She meets her child’s physical and emotional needs
  • She spends quality time with her child every day
As mothers, we are expected to be all things to all people.
We may not admit it, but we judge other mothers; whether in the street, on social media or in the gossip magazines. I do it too, especially with the gossip magazines, which seem to be designed to invite our judgement. That’s for another post, though. My point is: we all think we know what a bad mother looks like; we all like to think we’re a good mother; we all have an idea of what a good mother looks like, and the list is rather long.
A good mother should sacrifice of herself and her happiness for her child. She should be there when her child wakes in the night; she should be there in the morning when they wake, and for stories at bed time. She should put her child’s needs before her own.
Stop for a moment now, and think about the men you know, who you consider to be a good father.
Pretty much, the only requirement for being considered a good father, is being in the room.
How often do we refer to a man as a good father, when all he’s really done to warrant that title is change a few nappies, maybe do a bit of rocking. As the child grows up, perhaps they take them to the park every now and then. Many men refer to their time taking care of the children as “babysitting.” Babysitting their own children.
S’s father was on his own with six children when I met him. His children mostly ran ferral around the estate during the day, unless they were required to do chores at home. People knew that the children had no clothes that fit them or were appropriate. His 5-year-old daughter’s school shoes were a pair of knee-high boots with heels. He was quite vocal – and proud – about the fact his children did all the housework, from cooking meals to mopping the floors. Everyone commented on what a good father he was, to be raising six children on his own… I wonder, if the situation had been reversed, and his wife were left at home with six children, having them do all the housework or run wild around the estate, whether she would be considered a good mother by the neighbours.
I was talking the other day with a friend. She works in a shop and had worked a busy Saturday. She came home with her feet burning in pain, to find that her husband and daughter were curled up on the sofa watching a dvd. How lovely; father and daughter spending time together. Meanwhile, the washing basket was overflowing; the sink was filled; the bin needed emptying.
It seems that while men go to work and “win the bread,” they get the weekends off. Women, meanwhile, whether we stay home to care for the children (arguably harder work than any paid employment, and more important) or go out to work, are also responsible for most household chores in the majority of homes. We just seem to have lower standards for men; they get a pat on the back just for turning up, but the women have to jump through fifty hoops, and even then we all still bitch about each other’s wrongdoings.
I have mentioned this point before, but I feel fortunate to be on my own with S. She was breastfed on demand, all day and night; if a man had been laying in bed next to me, snoring through the night feeds, I would have resented him to the end of the world and back. I am the only person here; the only one that empties the bins, the only person to do the washing up, mop the floors, do the washing, make sure there’s milk for the morning. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.
I know many women, though, for whom “if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done” is true despite the fact they have a husband living with them.

Vicky is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. She writes about life as a single mother, parenting and lifestyle type things.

6 Comments
  • Tom Briggs

      REPLY

    I agree with you that society&#39;s view of mothers differs to its view of fathers and it&#39;s something that continues to frustrate me as it doesn&#39;t do either gender any favours. <br /><br />Women shouldn&#39;t be expected to do everything in order to be perceived as good mothers and, similarly, men shouldn&#39;t be written off as second class parents who people should have low expectations

  • Anonymous

      REPLY

    I&#39;m happy to be a single Mum. I was listening to some mums outside school saying how their partners disliked playing dolls with their sons and they&#39;d never let their son wear nail polish because that&#39;s &#39;&#39;too far&#39;&#39;. I had never considered any of this and never will have to.

  • LivingforGod

      REPLY

    I cannot comment about other men/fathers. I just know I am very blessed; my husband is a wonderful husband and father. He does all the things you listed above for a good mother...and lots more. I&#39;m so thankful for him!<br /><br />~Urailak (Fruit Bearer on Facebook)

  • Anna Jeanine

      REPLY

    You&#39;re a good mom! And I am, too. I did extended breastfeeding &amp; child-led weaning, and now that I think about it, I might have felt the same way had anyone else been there. :) And I agree with what you&#39;ve said about the difference between what is considered &quot;good&quot; in a mother &amp; &quot;good&quot; in a father.

  • loadsofsomething

      REPLY

    I don&#39;t have a child yet but my sisters are having rough times being a mum. Single mums are way tougher!

  • martyn

      REPLY

    Am so glad you shared this with me. I think you're right. I think if the roles were reversed with your ex then all hell would kick off. It's strange though because reading this I can completely agree. Dad's semi to have it easy or at least appear to. Yes it's sweet and lovely that a dad could sit cuddled to their child and watch a film but what about the other stuff. Some women have it extremely hard in comparison. What I find difficult is that I do everything. I have the boys 50/50 plus an extra 3 days a month. I home educate too (which I coordinate etc) I have no choice to do the housework if I don't do it then it doesn't get done. I am everything to the boys. I don't say this to seek praise, I really don't like seeking praise, as for me this is exactly what a man and a father should be. Yet surprisingly I hear the sentence "stop measuring what you do against bad dad's and start trying to be a good one" this upsets me because I clearly cannot do any more. I think sometimes people are blinded by situations and don't have a measurable scale of comparison so subsequently have categories that they put others in. It annoys me because I want to give some dad's a good slap but I also want to give some mums one too. You do an amazing job, as do I, as does any parent that is the 'leading' parent who has to do all that you mentioned above. martyn recently posted...Valentines Day 2015My Profile

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