Who is the better mom? The lone cowgirl versus the tribe builder
I am 100% against judging ourselves against other moms.
Or at least I would be if that would stop this automatic response.
The fact is, we do it constantly, don’t we? Sometimes going with the flow can be used to our benefit. So let’s go there, and see what we can learn, okay?
Just before we do I want to make a quick side note:
Humans can’t help but be judging machines. That’s a big and valuable conversation to have for
our own knowledge as well as to teach our children. For now I want to be clear that just because
we are judging machines doesn’t mean it is a bad thing per say. It helps to know that there are
good reasons why we judge everything. It’s also so powerful when we also know ways to work
with and transform the negative judgments we make into positives. I’ll happily write more about
For now, let’s sidestep that discussion and take that honed and valuable tool of ours, our
judgment, and use it to help us be the best parent we can be. Ready?
Begin with the end in mind:
Let’s imagine I were to plunk two parents down in front of you.
One, the lone cowgirl, aka modern super mama, is doing it for the most part all by herself.
The other, the good enough mama, has a village helping her with her babies.
Which one would you say was the best parent?
Let’s say that both parents had happy, well-adjusted and successful kids.
(I would argue vehemently that super mom who has slogged it out all on her own or with minimal support is much less likely to have as good an outcome. However, I have good reason for wanting to have you make your decision based on assuming equal outcomes.)
Let’s make this situation even more real.
Imagine you were the child and could pick which mom was yours?
Would you rather a mom who gave you the world successfully, with little support from others? Super mama equipped with cape who was meeting your most every need? Suspend disbelief about super mama being possible long enough to ask yourself if this is who you’d rather have as your mother.
Or would you rather you were raised by tribe mama? She’s the mom who either knows how to build and tap into community, or was blessed to parent you in a situation where community came easily and naturally. Say you could choose to be raised in a tight knit cultural community or a smaller town or center within a city where people knew and relied on each other. In that community both happy and sad times would be shared experiences, where the workload was spread. So that would mean you got not only all that she had to offer, but many gifts from the community members in your life.
Both mamas are no doubt great moms. Arguably super mama is the better mama if you are using self-sacrifice and 100% dedication to her children as the main benchmarks. But if you look more broadly at what it takes to raise the happiest, most successful and resilient children, the good enough mama starts looking so much better, don’t you think?
Which mama do you think would prepare you the best for success for life?
Which one would give you the most gifts for the long term? Which mama would be more able to share with you her unique gifts? The good enough mama is likely to have some time and energy to continue to grow and flourish as a person. Super mama in real life often is filled with resentment, feels like she’s lost herself and is struggling with depression and anxiety from seeing her life flash by her. She often is trudging through her life, beating herself up for not feeling more joy with her kids, when she has lost so many of the sources of simple joie de vivre that she used to have prior to having children.
Even if we don’t believe that super mama is attainable, isn’t it helpful to think about whether we really are serving our kids best by striving to be her?
No doubt my bias is obvious!
I suspect though that all other things being equal, most of us (all?) would chose to have a broader foundation, a community raising us rather than one person contributing to our happiness, success and memories.
Now for the cold hard reality.
One of those mamas is much more likely to have happy, successful and well-adjusted kids.
We all know which one she is. In our gut we do, if we think of which one we’d like as our mama. Yet most of us are swept along a culture that is obsessed with the magical, non-existent super mama.
For every one mama out there who seems to be super mama, there are 99+ who are depressed, anxious and ready to trade their kids for 2 hours of sleep. (I don’t believe that there is one single super mama. We just don’t see where she’s getting support, or what the sacrifices she’s making are costing her.)
Even those mamas who seem to be successful super mamas may not be all that they are cracked up to be.
Their kids may well be suffering from anxiety, struggling to live up to their mom’s often unattainable ideal.
So why then are we trying so hard to be the lone cowgirl, aka super mama?
I’d love to hear your answer. I’ll speak more next week too on how to build support, to grow a village for your child. I’ll also say more about why that village is so critical.
I believe that one reason we don’t spend near as much time and energy on building a community to help raise our children is because we don’t get how critical that village truly is. With the onslaught of new parenting challenges, we can’t afford to do it on our own. It’s a risk not worth taking. It’s a risk we only take when we don’t see the big picture.
I’d love to hear your comments below. Share this with the mamas in your community if you’d like to spread the idea that it’s time to embrace a new vision for motherhood. Do it for your kids, if you aren’t yet ready to do it for you.
It’s crazy how we twist ourselves into pretzels for our kids. Yet it shows what caring, devoted and wonderful mamas we truly are. It’s time though to make a better choice for ourselves, for our families and for the world, don’t you think? Ironically enough, it’s time to focus on being good enough mamas, as that’s where the magic really lies!