You are currently viewing Episode 25 – Defining Success as a Mother

Episode 25 – Defining Success as a Mother

Whether you are mothering living kids, angel babies or both,

all of us have ideas about what a good mother is. 

Today we are exploring why our checklists for motherhood only hurt us and how to define your own motherhood with confidence.

And how our success as a mother has nothing to do with how our kids turn out, or even if they live.

I can’t wait for you to listen to this one! If you love it, please leave a review and share it with another mom who needs it.

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Music provided by ZingDog / Pond5

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 ** miscarriage, stillbirth, babyloss, infant loss, grief **


Hey, how are you? We are gonna talk about success as a mother today, and I think this episode is coming at the perfect time. I have definitely been pushed these last few weeks as we finish out our school year and continue to deal with kids who miss their friends and they get bored and tired of each other, and there’s iPads and worksheets and a lot of time management issues.

So this is. Just perfect for me and I hope for you too. It is finally gorgeous here where I live. But of course those pollens are flying thick and there’s a lot of sniffling and sneezing going on around here, and we feel like we have to remind everyone. It’s allergies. It’s not the covid. So life is definitely 50 50, but we’re doing good, and I hope you are too.

We’ve got Mother’s Day coming up and. I really hope that you guys who listen to me are choosing intentionally what you want this day to be like. If you’re sad, let yourself be sad. Don’t resist that sadness, and if you’re doing okay, just let yourself be okay. It’s okay to not be sad on Mother’s Day.

Honestly, mother’s Day is not very difficult for me and. That’s just because I remember Lauren every day and Mother’s Day doesn’t really bring it up in any special way for me, but if it does for you, just recognize it. Do a little journaling, and choose now to make that day what you want. If you want a fancy brunch, you are the best one to do that, or you can communicate it really clearly to those you love and just make it the day that you want it to be.

Like I said, this episode we’re gonna talk about how to measure your success as a mother. I’m talking about living children, as I often do. It’s important to me that this is a place where we can really talk about anything. And if hearing about living kids is triggering for you, or if you are also a mom of living kids, but you struggle with other triggers, then you have to sign up for my six week trigger proof program.

So many lost mamas struggle with this. That’s why I created this one-on-one program to identify your triggers and then neutralize them for you so you can live your life fully and not spend so much time hiding from people, places, and things that make you emotional. And as you know, maybe causes you to buy some Dove chocolates.

All right. When I was growing up, there was a woman I really looked up to. She had 14 living kids and a sweet baby boy she had to bury. And I know that sounds like so much to manage, but she made it seem easy. She was such a fun mom. She was super musical and could play the piano and sing, and she made sure all her children did too.

She was an amazing teacher. She made sure that she and her family had scripture time and family prayer every day. She had an amazing testimony and always shared it with the people around her. She stretched every dollar and made the most delicious homemade bread. She made her family a priority, but she also had time to serve in so many ways.

But I think the thing I admired most about her is how she created a home where everyone genuinely liked each other and loved being together. And they still do today as adults. I am so grateful I got a chance to watch her and spend time with her and her family, and I think in many ways she has influenced my thoughts about motherhood.

Now, of course, their life had challenges like we all do, and she is a perfect, but I want you guys to think about a mom in your life who you look up to in this way. It could be your own mom, a friend’s mom, or even a fictional mom. A character in a favorite book or TV show or for many of us, that mom figure is something we’ve made up entirely based on everything we’ve heard, read and seen that a good mom should do.

That woman doesn’t actually exist, and we know that intellectually. But if you take a look in your brain, she’s often standing there in the background. Let’s not forget all the labels we place on moms and on ourselves. I had so much fun coming up with this list, but I could have added a hundred more types of moms.

So we have working mom, stay at home moms, working from home, quarantine moms, organized moms always late. Moms screen time moms. No electronics until you do your chores. Mom, boy, moms girl. Moms soccer, moms dance. Moms grieving moms, crunchy moms. I don’t cook. Moms young moms. Single moms. Mature moms and angel moms.

And then there’s that mom who goes on all the field trips. These labels seriously do nothing for us. I think as a culture we are inching closer to just letting everyone be themselves. But there is a long way to go and so often we compare those things we think we lack to the other mom who’s doing it perfectly on Instagram or Pinterest or in your neighborhood, right?

Like if you struggle with cluttered countertops, there’s always that mom who has a perfectly clean house. At no time has this been more under a microscope than during quarantine. The color coded time charts, the creative homeschool ideas, the stimulating activities, the family bonding time and daily walks.

Is anyone actually doing all these things or do we all just collectively feel like we’re failing? I want you to take a minute and think about what you would define as being a successful mother. This is really powerful if you write it down and just let the thoughts flow onto paper. If you are having a hard time coming up with a list.

Think about a specific situation. I had one happen just a few minutes ago. My rainbow boy is our child who is super busy and into everything. He recently found an old cell phone that his grandpa gave us, and he’s adopted it to play with the flashlight and take pictures. These last few days, he was headed outside just as I take in a minute to sit down for the first time today.

I said, don’t take the phone outside. And of course he just puts it behind his back and goes out. Anyways, in that moment, I honestly didn’t wanna deal with going after him, getting the phone, him being upset, et cetera, et cetera. I just wanted to sit for a second so it’s easy for thoughts, like you should really follow through on what you said.

You can’t just let him do whatever he wants. If you were more consistent, he would actually listen to you. He shouldn’t even have that device to begin with. You should never have let him have it. Now, if I analyze those thoughts in that small specific moment, I can come up with a bunch of things that my brain wants to tell me about a good mom.

She always follows through. She’s consistent. She doesn’t allow kids on electronics. She should never let herself rest. Her kids should listen to her and know the rules of the house. Does that make sense? Try it. It, it is really, really interesting. And again, we never wanna judge. We just wanna be curious. We just wanna explore.

But here are some more general things that most of us would probably agree on. A good mom keeps her kids safe. She teaches them life skills. She makes sure they stay in school. Her kids are well-behaved. They for sure do what they’re told on the first time, and they never throw a fit in public. Her kids don’t fight with their siblings or with other people, and her kids grow into responsible, contributing adults.

Those all sound pretty reasonable and true. And if you look at your own checklist, I want you to question it in this way. If you could accomplish everything on that list, how would you get to feel? Or at least most of the things, most days you’d probably feel pretty great. We all want to feel good. We want to feel happy and we want to believe that we are doing a good job, and that is totally normal, but we misunderstand what success really is, and that’s where this checklist mentality.

Whether we are aware of it or not can become a problem, and that’s why I wanted to do this episode today because I want you to understand how to find true happiness that doesn’t come from this weird motherhood checklist that we have been told about basically our entire lives. So I grew up with a lot of music in my home, but I never took piano lessons.

So when I had my own kids, I really wanted them to have that skill, perhaps because of my idea that a great mom has kids who play the piano. Now, of course, in my mind, that’s not what I’m telling myself. Instead, I think that piano is good for their brains. It’s a useful skill. It’ll be great for them to play piano at church and with their own families.

It’ll help them have a base in music, and that’s really important. Right. Does any of this sound familiar? It might not be piano, but it could be sports grades, knowing how to cook, or any other thing that you think is really important for your kids to succeed at, but why do we want them to succeed? Again, it’s so we can feel good, but no, it Amy, it’s for them to feel good, not me.

That’s what we all say. Nope, because what do you get to feel when your kids are successful and happy? I. That’s right. Successful and happy. Except when your kids don’t like their piano teacher or they hate practicing. This idea in your head of how great this will be starts crumbling down and instead of the fun family sing-alongs you envisioned, you just have a frustrated mom who feels like she’s failing and frustrated kids who don’t wanna do it anymore because.

Kids actually have their own opinions. They have agency, they have choice. And two of my kids wanted to quit piano and I had a really hard time with it because what kind of mom lets their kids quit something And what am I teaching them if I let them stop just because it’s hard? And what if they regret it later?

That was a big one for me because. Everyone says, if you quit as a kid, you’ll forget everything you learned. And so many people regret quitting later on in life. And I heaped all that on myself, and I tried all the ways to see if they could just stick it out long enough to change their minds. And then I got a life coach and she told me that I could be a great mom and let my kids make their own choices, even if I didn’t agree with them.

Even if I used to think it was failure on my part because I still believe that I had control and I still wanted that control. Not for me, but for the children. But I started to wiggle these thoughts loose and I came to them again and we talked, and I let them make their own choice to stop taking lessons.

And I had them call their teacher and tell her, and I had them make her a thank you gift for all she had done for them because independence, politeness, and gratitude are qualities I want to teach as a mom. And that shift from thinking I was failing because they didn’t wanna stay in piano to stepping into the mother I truly wanted to be, was a really powerful experience in my life.

And I learned so much from it. And that’s what I want to do for you today, show you how you can do this too. What if your success as a mother has nothing to do with what your kids do or even what you do, and it has everything to do with what you believe about yourself? Would that blow your mind just a little.

Well, stay with me because we really need this message. I wanna go way back to the beginning with Adam and Eve. Now these two had some sons, I’m guessing they were pretty good parents and they loved and taught their children to make good choices and follow their father in heaven. But then Cain killed Abel because of jealousy.

I mean, that’s pretty bad, right? Does that mean Eve failed? She didn’t teach enough lessons on murder being bad. She didn’t make sure her kids loved each other. Maybe if she just had more family dinners, then this wouldn’t have happened. Or at least if she had had better, more open communication, Kane would’ve felt like he could talk to his mom instead of killing his brother.

Oh, that sounds kind of ridiculous. But we do this to ourselves every day, and the world gives us all the fuel too. There is an expert and a study and a blogger and an article telling us every detail of how we should parent, except they change every day and contradict each other constantly. Oh, and let’s not forget our family and friends and all their opinions.

That they share openly or they just seem to convey with looks well, they must be right, and so we believe them, or at least we believe there is a right way to parent. But there isn’t. There really isn’t every part of you, everything you do or don’t do, all the things you do well, and the parts you wish you could change, make you the perfect mom for your child and you don’t have to prove it.

You can just choose to believe it and your kids don’t have to agree either. My kids could grow up and be so grateful. I let them make their own choices to quit piano, or they could be mad at me and tell me that I should have pushed them to keep going. Because kids get to have their opinions and thoughts and lenses that they look at us through, and they get to decide what they do with their lives.

It doesn’t mean anything about you. Even if they disown you and never speak to you again, it’s okay. You can still love them and believe that you are a good mother. I really want you to recognize that dropping the part where we have anything to do with how they turn out is an incredibly powerful thing.

Now, I am not saying that we let kids raise themselves that nothing matters and we should just give up. As parents, we have stewardship over these precious children, and we want to do our best to show up as the mom we want to be. And it seems like this cycle of trying to follow rules and then beating ourselves up when we inevitably fail is the way to go ago.

But what if you are wrong about that? What if it was possible for you to believe that your life and your child’s life is exactly as it was supposed to be? This is a part where people usually wanna ask questions like, well, what about a terrible mom who’s on drugs and has horrible boyfriends who abuse her kids?

Yes. Even her, she is the mom. Those children we’re supposed to have. See, we have this idyllic reality we create for ourselves where all moms are kind and loving and they treat each child exactly as they need so they can have the perfect childhood, but that’s not life as a human, and that’s not necessarily the best way to grow up.

We can see that in children of celebrities who have every choice and huge abundance in their lives, but they still end up in all kinds of trouble. Because lots of money in the best schools and specialists and opportunities don’t create our results. Our thoughts do. But still those kids had the exact parents they were supposed to and the exact experiences they needed, but we think that if we believe this, we won’t care.

The opposite is true when you allow yourself to believe that you are the right mom. That you have made all the right choices so far, and you know you will always be the best mom in the future. You can let go of the anxiety, the indecision, the fear, and the self-loathing that comes with thinking you are doing it wrong or that you can mess up your kids or your kids’ lives.

You can free up so much mental energy to really show up. As a mom, you want to be. Let’s do a simple model to explain this a little more clearly. Sally finds her kids writing all over the walls with their lipstick. She yells at them and puts them in their rooms while angrily scrubbing the mess. Her husband comes home later and tells her she should have made them clean it up, so they learned a lesson.

Sally feels awful all day and can’t sleep. She’s mad at herself for reacting so quickly. She promised herself just yesterday that she wasn’t gonna yell anymore, and she’s frustrated that she left the makeup down where they could reach it. She should have known better. And her husband, he’s probably right.

She should have taught them about consequences and not just sent them away. She wishes she was a better mom. The kind of mom who doesn’t yell, and he always knows the right thing to do. For days after the lipstick incident. She’s distracted and short with her kids. She’s a little bit cold to her husband and she completely forgets her friend’s birthday.

So what is the circumstance here? What is a fact in this story? We can’t put that Sally yelled because yelling is relative, but we can put, Sally said, what are you doing? Get to your rooms right now. And her thought about it that is really painful is, I wish I was a better mom. That makes her feel shame and when she shows up from this emotion, she is short and distracted with her kids.

She’s cold to her husband and she forgets her friend’s birthday. She also places over and over in her mind, and her result is that she is a worse mom, wife and friend. She creates the exact opposite result in her life from what she says she wishes for, and that’s how the model works. Our result will always tie back to that original thought.

It feels so useful to point out our flaws and our brain is really good at it, so we have to pay attention and practice questioning our thoughts a different way. This could go with the same circumstance, which is Sally says words to her kids. But she decides on purpose to think I am the best mom for my kids, and she feels love from love.

She apologizes to her children. She gives herself grace. She allows the anger to melt away in her body. She hugs her children and gives them a consequence for their actions. She continues on with her day and her result is that she is the mom she wants to be not a perfect mom. But a mom who has her own back and who loves herself and her kids.

I’m telling you, this concept has changed so much for me. I thought I was a pretty confident mom, but there was still so much work I had to do in letting go and learning to accept myself and my children’s journeys just as they are. And a bonus side effect of doing this work for yourself is recognizing that your parents were perfect for you too.

If you have resentment about your childhood or how your parents act today, you can let that go. You can rewrite your victim story and see how everything they did shaped your path perfectly. Here’s another way to look at it that might make it even more clear. Think about a piano teacher. How do we know she’s succeeding at her job?

Most people would look to her students and want to see how they’re doing for the answer. If they can play big, fancy pieces with perfect technique, then she must be a good teacher. But is that true? But she also might get frustrated because the kids won’t practice or they won’t hold their wrist the right way, or they don’t study their theory.

If one kid completely messes up at his recital, is she a failure? She might think so. But her job isn’t to make sure all her students grow up to be concert pianists. Her job is to show up and share her knowledge and experience the best way she knows how, and that’s it. It’s really up to her students if they take what she’s offered them.

From there, of course, she can have consequences and rewards, and she can even let her students go if they really aren’t doing what they’re asked. She does have control of herself and how she shows up as a teacher. And if you’ve done piano, you know that there are a lot of different styles of teaching.

One method that works for some kids may not work with others. I actually looked this up and there were more than a dozen methods listed, and they all seemed American. So I’m guessing internationally there are hundreds of defined ways to teach piano plus many more that are unique to particular teachers.

Some are just gonna resonate more with certain people. So even if a child quits to move on to someone else or quits piano entirely, the teacher didn’t fail. She doesn’t have to beat herself up about that. If she knows how to manage her mind and there’s no upside to her beating herself up about what happened, she can always learn and do better.

But she doesn’t have to be mad at herself. All right, let’s talk about grieving kids for a minute and then we’ll wrap up with parenting our angel babies. Often for parents who don’t have all their children living, there is a sense of failure in not providing them with the siblings they were supposed to have.

You believe that your child’s life would be different if everyone had lived. You think that they should have a big brother to protect them or a little sister to cuddle with? That somehow it’s your fault for not being able to give that to them. And it hurts, and it can be something you think of daily, especially with Rainbow Babies or as you watch your children grow.

But when these thoughts come up, I want you to really question them. You can keep them if you want, but the reality is that your children were never meant to have more living siblings to play with. You thought so, but you were wrong. And how do I know that? Because they don’t have more living siblings.

That’s reality. And we need to question the idea that their life would be better with that sibling in it and that their life would be better without knowing the pain of loss. Is that true? Are we better people if we never have to face adversity? Especially as a child, so many people believe that, that children should not suffer.

But children suffer every day and I know a lot of people who have been through terrible, tough things and they continue on and live an amazing life. Their fuel comes from overcoming. So think about it. Another thing I see a lot is wishing we had handled the loss better or that we handled our grief better than.

And now, and this is the thought, my child shouldn’t have to see their mom grieving. Or I was a better mom before all of this happened. Is that true? How can them seeing you deal with tough things be the best thing for them? Remember back in the day when people died and children were shut out of the room and no one would speak of it again?

How did that work out? It’s okay to let our kids see that we aren’t perfect. In fact, it is so, so good. I know lost moms often struggle to know what the right way to talk to their kids about the loss is. And we sometimes don’t know how to answer their questions or we don’t want them to feel sad, so we keep things inside.

Whatever you decide to do is the right thing, even if you decide not to say a word about the loss. But in my experience, kids are so very resilient and they are so able to handle things that grownups have a hard time with. I. Being open and honest and letting them do the same is so powerful. And that kind of confidence is going to start with believing that you are doing it right.

As messy as it may be, believe in yourself. There are things we can control and things we can’t. Our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and our results are up to us. Our kids are gonna turn out how they’re gonna turn out. We can’t control their choices or shield them from every challenge, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Now, our children that we don’t get to raise here on Earth, I have to be blunt here because I feel really strongly about this. You have to stop beating yourself up because your baby died. There is absolutely no upside to it. Deeply rooted in us is an instinct to protect our children, and it’s natural to feel like we failed at our most important job, growing a healthy living child.

We measure our success by their lives. We blame ourselves. I wrote this on Instagram about my daughter Lauren, and if you aren’t following me yet, you have to jump over and do that. You can find me at Amy dot Smooth Stones coaching. Did I fail as a mother because I didn’t keep her alive because I thought I was going into labor, but in reality, she was dying inside of me because I was too busy nesting and doing last minute preparations to notice that she was kicking less.

I mean, How could I not notice? I should have been counting her kicks. That’s what a good mom would do. I should have gotten induced at 39 weeks instead of wanting to labor at home naturally, after three previous inductions, then she would be here. If it wasn’t my fault, then it must be my bodies because it should have kept her alive too.

My uterine wall and my placenta should have done better. I mean, they only had one job. Keep the baby alive. Maybe if my uterus would’ve just gone into labor sooner, it definitely failed. I’m a failure. I failed as a mother. My body failed me. If I said this to you, you would tell me I was wrong, that I didn’t fail at all.

But you say these things to yourself, I see you doing it. I hear you. I see how you clinging to your story as you try to make sense of something so out of control. And how believing you failed as a mother affects so many other areas of your life. But I know that I didn’t fail and you didn’t fail either, and you don’t have to keep telling yourself that you did.

Your success as a mother has nothing to do with how your children turn out or even if they live, and it has everything to do with what you believe about yourself. You do not have to keep telling yourself lies. They do nothing but create pain in your life. It’s time to let go. Learning to accept what happened to both my children who died and learning to accept my living children as they are, and myself as a good mother.

Even on the days when it’s so easy to slide back into wishing it was all different is the work. It’s what we’re here to learn. It’s how we grow and move into the woman we want to be. You are powerful and you have infinite worth. You don’t need to spend any more time hating yourself. Stop gauging your success as a mother based off external, unattainable things.

Choose to believe that you are an incredible mother first and you will become her. Choose to believe that you and your children were always meant to be together just as you are now, and your connection will grow. Choose to see the child you struggle with the most as your greatest teacher, and you will see them in a completely different light.

I promise you are a beautiful mother. Decide what you value most as a parent and start today to live into it more intentionally. You don’t need to waste a bunch of time in the past. Just start today, right now because you are already the best mom for your kids. All your kids just as you are, and you don’t have to change a thing.

But if you want to get to the next level, you have to practice becoming her. Not because it’s better there or because you have to for other people, but just because you want to. And it all starts with redefining success. Let you be you and your kids. Be those amazing little creatures that they are. Make a new list.

You don’t need that old one anymore. Don’t let fear be the driving force in your parenting. Love feels so much better. If you are really struggling with this, I can help sign up for a free 30 minute session and will get started. If you love this episode, will you share it with someone who needs it, who’s maybe feeling down about themselves this Mother’s Day?

Don’t forget to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. I’m wishing you a gentle Mother’s Day. We’ll talk to you soon.

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