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I love my job. As a pediatrician, I get to examine little babies on my lap, talk with mothers who are afraid their teenage son is going to run away, and encourage dads (yes) to hug (yes) their daughters.
Early in my career, I learned something very important: If I wanted to help kids, I had to help their parents, because happy parents equal happy kids. So 30 years ago, I began listening very carefully to parents. I learned one thing about mothers: They worry too much.
I understand because I’m a mom (and a grandmother) too, but I’m here to tell you that most of the things you worry about either don’t need to happen, won’t happen, or are out of your control anyway. Still, why are mothers filled with angst that we’re doing something wrong?
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Almost every young mother I see worries that her child will not grow up to like her, not be able to get into a good college, flunk out of high school, miss out on his chance to go to the Olympics, turn against her, or simply turn out to be a rotten kid. And if good things don’t happen for our children, we believe it’s our fault.
Mothers feel that they should breast feed their baby until he is at least 1, make their own baby food, cook only organic food, make sure their child is in the fast reading group, sign up for at least two extracurricular activities per semester, drive them to those activities, pay for the activities by working, be room-mom for each child for at least one year of elementary school, go to work every day and be courteous to coworkers, be in a good mood for husbands in the evening, and do whatever else her child or family needs until she goes to bed. Then she awakens the next morning to start all over again.
Sadly, many mothers feel that at the end of each day, they didn’t do quite enough, be kind enough, work hard enough, or parent well enough. I’m here to tell you that this is a bunch of nonsense. You, Mom, are more than enough for your child, so start living like it.
Burn that list and start focusing on the “big stuff” your child needs, because you and your kids will be a whole lot happier. So what is this “big stuff”?
Being a good mom (and you are one because you care enough to read this) is fundamentally about answering three questions for your child.
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- What do you believe about your child?
- How do you feel about your child?
- What do you hope for your child?
That’s it. Take the years your child is living with you to answer these questions in a positive, healthy way and you’ve won—no matter what else you do or don’t do. You’ve got it. So relax.
I wrote Strong Mothers, Strong Sons for every mom with a son. Why? Because I want you to stop worrying so much about what your son does and doesn’t need. I want moms to get a peek into the hearts of their boys and see yourself as they see you. My hope is that it will delight and encourage each of you who has a son.
This Mother’s Day, we have one message for moms. You’ve got everything you need to be a really, really good mom. So let yourselves off the hook. Focus on getting the big stuff right and let the rest go. I guarantee that’s exactly what your kids want.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health.