The Good Mom Measuring Stick

“I just want you to know that my family and I see you all the time and you’re a really good mom.” She blocked my way in the sidewalk.

“Huh?” I pulled out my earbud.

“Well, we see you running with your kids and you’re just a good mom.”

I searched my brain for ways to respond. I wasn’t sure how running made me a good parent… in fact, I assumed everyone who saw me thought I was a selfish mom for dragging my kids around so I could exercise. I was so taken aback I let go of the double stroller with my boys in it, rolling into the busy street. I quickly grabbed it, laughing nervously, “Uh… am I still a good mom?”

Before my third child (and first daughter) was born, I logged a lot of miles with the double jogging stroller, toting my boys around the neighborhood streets of the suburb we inhabit. Anytime the weather was fairly decent, they were strapped in, snacks and sippy cups in hand, along for the ride. Sometimes we would end up at a park and sometimes it was just a quick tour of our town. Nevertheless, running was a priority to me and this was how I knew to make it happen. I was at home with two little boys all day while my husband worked long hours and I needed the time outside, earbuds in, podcast on, to just decompress and mindlessly push the fifty pounds of toddler boys 3-6 miles at a time.

It never occurred to me that anyone was noticing, or what they were thinking. Well, maybe it did on days that the weather was less-than-stellar or if one of my kids was throwing a mid-run tantrum. I totally wondered what everyone was thinking on those days and was sure to cut my run short. But I definitely never thought of anyone thinking of me as a good mom. It was unquestionable that running made me a better mom, but a good mom? Simply for sticking my kids in a stroller and running behind it.  

My daughter recently celebrated her first birthday and I honestly haven’t gone for a run with a child in a jogging stroller for her entire life. A few months ago, my dad graciously offered to stop by for lunch a few times a week so I could run sans children (thank you, Dad). This is preferable, for sure, for everyone involved. My boys didn’t always love the confines of the stroller and I didn’t exactly knock out some quality mileage with the jogger. 

But, now I’m not a good mom. At least not to the woman who stopped be on the sidewalk. Good mom status: revoked.

My Good Mom measuring stick has ebbed and flowed over the five short years I’ve been a mother. Depending on my friend group or whatever book I was reading, I would try and adapt to fit the new version of Good Mom. Hands on parenting, micromanaging social interactions so as to not produce sociopaths. Hands off parenting, to combat my oft-bothersome millennial generation. Free-range parenting, so my children can develop independence. Close-watch parenting, so my children aren’t kidnapped. Let my kids witness an argument between their father and I. Shelter them from our arguments so they feel secure. It can be never ending and exhausting, this race for the prize of Good Mom. Regardless of the measuring stick, there will always be another way to measure up, another way to fail.

With each passing year, I slowly begin to feel a semblance of confidence, a reassurance of voice, a familiarity with the milestones as subsequent children grow. A reminder that, ah, yes, I’ve been here before… and survived. No parenting book comes equipped with a camera for the author to question each time I don’t follow their advice. No pediatric nutritionist is sitting on my couch, brow furrowed, wagging their fingers as I serve yet another processed, GMO-laden meal. I am the last stop for parenting while my husband works tirelessly at a job he doesn’t enjoy, only to come home and start his second-job as dad.

The anxiety and trepidation that filled my soul once my son left my womb to rest on my chest is starting to slip away. I can glean parenting advice and tips where I want it and leave that which I don’t. My children are each unique, as am I, and there have yet to be any magic bullets or one-size-fits-all prescriptions for my particular family. If someone balks at any of my parenting decisions, I can shrug my shoulders, and walk away, at peace with our decisions. I will not pretend I am any sort of expert. I could definitely use a daily dose of parenting 101, especially now that my oldest is entering this delightful argumentative and disrespectful stage. But, at the end of the day, we are it. Sometimes we reassess and change our trajectory but, for the most part, we are stumbling along just fine. My husband and I can pass each other in the hallway after a particularly hard day and grab each other and remind each other that, yes, we can do this and, yes, it’s supposed to be hard.
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Ultimately, I am not a "Good Mom" regardless of the measuring stick. Being a mom is simply the Lord's kindness to me... to remind me of my need for Him, for a Savior. Anytime I fall short, yes I need Him. Anytime I start to think I have somehow met the mark, it's all due to His grace and kindness.

So, maybe we won't measure up to friends or family. But, thankfully, the only measure that matters was taken on the cross long ago. And, for that, I am thankful.


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