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Big question - what are the qualities of a good mum?

(38 Posts)
jasper Sat 20-Apr-02 23:53:25

I have been thinking about this a lot.
What makes someone a good mum? What personal qualities do they have, and what kind of things do they do or not do that makes them a good mother?

LiamsMum Sun 21-Apr-02 03:20:30

Jasper I think love, affection and encouragement rate pretty highly. When my brother and I were children, we were over-protected by my parents and we received quite a bit of criticism, so we both grew up lacking self esteem. I can see clearly now how much it can help a child by giving them praise and encouragement and by helping them to believe in their own abilities. My goal is to try and instill confidence into my son so that he will be able to do whatever he wants to do in life. I also think it's a great thing to be affectionate with children and let them know how much they are loved... little boys are often very loving and I think this is a quality which should be nurtured in them.

Monnie Sun 21-Apr-02 08:15:18


I'm new to this site (Babyworld regular), but I could become addicted to this one also!

I think an essential quality for good mothering is me-time.

You need this to enable you to devote quality time to others.

Also, being able to count to 10 and deep breath when DS is kicking off at 3am!!!!

ScummyMummy Sun 21-Apr-02 11:06:00

What a huge question, Jasper! And practically unanswerable, though I think you've had a good shot, Liamsmum and certainly a bit of me-time is a very good idea IME, Monnie.

I work with parents- mostly mums- and young children who are having difficulties and I also have quite a few friends/acquaintances with kids, not to mention spending vast stretches of my time surfing on Mumsnet(!), so I meet and hear of lots and lots of families, one way or another. I assure you it's EXTREMELY rare to find mums who don't want the very, very best for their children. I really can't emphasize that enough, I suppose because, if I'm honest, it was a bit of a revelation to me. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into really very grim homes (badly maintained, poorly furnished, postage stamp sized places, often housing people with profound health, emotional or social needs- homes that are in essence the 21st century equivalent of the hovels of Dickensian disgrace) which are leavened only by the love and care lavished on the children's room, toys, food, equipment and primarily, of course, the children themselves. I've met some superb mums in this way- people whom I admire immensely. I've also met a small minority of people who were on the cusp of being unable to be good parents because their situation was so unbearably overwhelming for them that they could not cope with their child(ren).

I suppose what I'm saying with this ramble is that I believe being a good mum is sometimes about there being suitable conditions for a parent's natural wish to love and nurture their child to flourish- having decent housing and support, access to a good education, good health care, not living in poverty etc. Once these things are in place we can argue about Gina Ford or not, private vs. State education, smacking or not, Caesarean sections leading to ADHD vs. natural birth leading to a sore fanny, breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, authoritarian rule setting vs. permissive wishy-washyness till the cows come home. We can have great fun speculating about how all these affect our children and our status as good mothers. The truth is that some of these probably don't affect it very much at all, no matter how heated we all get about how very right we are, because, IMO, Mumsnetters' kids are, in general, likely to do just fine in life and reflect much glory on their parents! Why? Well- their mums are obviously interested in them and in childhood issues generally otherwise they wouldn't become addicted to Mumsnet. The fact that Mumsnetters are an articulate and supportive bunch and- unlike, I think, 86% of the population of GB- have regular access to a computer seems to me to indicate that they are also comparatively rich in any or all of the following: money, intelligence, education, employability. This means that their kids are unlikely to suffer extensive social hardship and will therefore get the chance to bask in their parents' love, howsoever this may be expressed, and grow up great.

What are your own thoughts, Jasper?

SueDonim Sun 21-Apr-02 11:54:32

I've thought about this a lot over the years and I don't think I'm any nearer the answer! Being a 'good mother' is such a nebulous thing, very hard to pin down. I'm sure we can all say what a 'bad mother' entails - abusing a child, starving them, beating them etc, but merely *not* doing these things doesn't automatically turn someone into a good mother. It's bit like people saying that X,Y or Z isn't a good reason to get married/have a baby/change your job. But somehow, no one seems ever to tell you what a good reason is!

I know sometimes I come across women that strike me as being wonderful mothers, who put me to shame and make me feel I am shortchanging my family. But I still find it so hard to define those qualities. One friend had a seriously sick child in hospital, yet still managed to make chocolate brownies every morning before school, with her other children, including a baby. (I'd just be moaning on about how life was so unfair and pull the blanket over my head to shut out the world!) But what does my example mean? Was she selfless, was it a matter of time management, devotion to duty, or what? I wish I knew!

jasper Sun 21-Apr-02 12:54:19

Scummymummy what a well put reply. You are so right that a lot of the very interesting discussions we have here are about peripheral things compared to the nitty gritty things like love, affection and encouragement as mentioned by Liamsmum.
Monnie, wellcome to mumsnet and prepare to defect from all othe rsites .I had not thought about me time but goodness you are so right.
Suedonnim you expressed what I had been thinking - it is easier to pinpoint what you think is being a bad mum but far trickier to put your finger on what makes a good mum.
Also you get a whole new perspective on your own mother when you become one yourself. In my case i think my mother was not in fact the killjoy she sometimes seemed when I was growing up, but something of a saint! Her outstanding qualities are patience, a softness of spirit and lifetime of sheer bloody hard work.Of course she still drives me up the pole sometimes...

maryz Sun 21-Apr-02 12:59:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

jodee Sun 21-Apr-02 14:02:40

Liamsmum, you are right; to me, to love your kids unconditionally is the best thing. Even when they've misbehaved and have to be disciplined, they need to know that no matter what, they are loved and cherished above all else.

WideWebWitch Sun 21-Apr-02 14:17:13

What a good and interesting question Jasper. My quick list before lunch burns:

Paying attention to your child/ren and listening to them, properly.

Letting them know that they are loved unconditionally. I feel pleased when my son says "I know you love me *all* the time, but you just don't like my behaviour sometimes" (too bloody right I don't!)

Giving your time (suppose similar to attention)

Encouraging them and instilling self-confidence

Scummymummy, good points and you're right, we all have the luxury of the time and money to debate the issues we do. Many mums don't.

sis Sun 21-Apr-02 14:34:23

Jasper I think a good mum needs to be a mindreader - as all children have different physical and emotional needs and the "good mum" has to work out what they are and meet them. Then, just as the mum starts to pat herself on the back for being so good, the child moves on and gets a now set of needs...

On the other hand, may a good mum is someone who really enjoys a good challenge!

Demented Mon 22-Apr-02 08:34:13

I agree with all that is being said here. Also I feel that being a good mum involves letting up on yourself a little, stop worrying about what you are not doing, that maybe the woman next door or your friend up the road manages to do, just relieve the pressure a bit and concentrate on what you can do. Your child needs you and your skills, I may not have as clean a house or be as a fancy a cook (I know some women seem to be able to do all of this but I don't need this pressure)but in not obsessing about these things have more time for my child and also more time for me as Monnie says this is very important, re-charge the batteries before the next onslaught!

bells2 Mon 22-Apr-02 08:55:31

I think it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that often what children want from you more than anything else is simply your time and attention.

bells2 Mon 22-Apr-02 08:55:32

I think it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that often what children want from you more than anything else is simply your time and attention.

bells2 Mon 22-Apr-02 08:55:35

I think it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that often what children want from you more than anything else is simply your time and attention.

bells2 Mon 22-Apr-02 08:55:39

I think it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that often what children want from you more than anything else is simply your time and attention.

mollipops Mon 22-Apr-02 08:58:04

Wow, what a huge question alright...what does a perfect mum need...let's see. Infinite patience, time aplenty, ability to do at least a dozen things at once and to be in at least two different places at once, ESP (and telekinesis would also be useful at times!), eyes in the back of your head, speedreading skills (to absorb all the parenting books available), needs only 3 hours of sleep a night, stain-removal knowledge 2nd to none, empathy and sympathy galore, psychology degree, first aid certificate (at least), taxi licence, ability to problem solve and resolve arguments in any given situation, and an understanding of the developmental ages and stages of children, including possible gender differences.

There is so much pressure on mums to be "perfect", when all we can really hope for is to be "good enough"! So for those of use who are mere humans, here's some more realistic goals (though still far from "easy" to achieve every day without fail!): To give affection and love, be a good role-model, give praise and encouragement, be as patient and resilient as possible, keep a sense of humour, listen, set limits and provide consistent discipline, be respectful, give choices and responsibility, AND be realistic. And I agree me-time is very important, (as is one-to-one time with each child, and family time too) because an unhappy mum can't really be an effective mum.

When my kids are grown up, I'd like to think they will look back and say I was a good mum. Sometimes I wonder if that will be the case...will they just think, she was always cranky/too tired/too busy...or will they remember the love, the hugs and kisses, the fun we had? Guess I'll just keep doing my best, and hope that in the end it was "good enough"!

bloss Mon 22-Apr-02 08:59:32

Message withdrawn

Marina Mon 22-Apr-02 09:22:44

Scummymummy, I salute you. What a beautifully worded post for an interesting thread. I can't really add anything to what you and others have posted other than nobody seems to have mentioned chocolate and Postman Pat, which are very high on the list of demands from ds right now. So I suppose if I were to ask him...

Monnie Mon 22-Apr-02 10:29:05


I think that what you sauid was spot on.

I'm like the lady you spoke about: Doing what I personally feel is best for my child, irrespective of what the general consensus is.

Not so sure if that makes you the 'perfect' mother, but I think it makes you the best mother you could be to YOUR child in YOUR circumstances.

tigermoth Mon 22-Apr-02 11:02:08

Bloss, that mother's confidence sounds good to me too.

Can't add much to all the inspiring messages here, but I think being a good mum is also keeping a distance. Keeping your identity, finding the energy to make new friends, cutivate interests, study - whatever makes you happy with yourself.

My sons may not see the importance of this now, but as they grow older, I hope they will. I want them to feel they have a happy, interesting mother, with lots going on in her life, growing old gracefully, full of independence as well as love for them. When they fly the nest, I want them to leave me without guilt and come back because they love my company, not out of duty. Helping this to happen is, I think, all part of being a good mother.

Azzie Mon 22-Apr-02 11:32:05


What you say about how you want your sons to see you sounds very like my MIL! I often think that if I can end up with relationships with my children that are similar to the relationship that dh has with his mum I shall be very lucky indeed. She has a very full life now that she has retired (amateur dramatics, book group, local history society, weekly walks in the Peak Districk with the Ramblers, work for Save the Children etc), but still manages to show that her sons and grandchildren are immensely important to her. Dh and his brother regard her as a special sort of friend, and often ask her opinion on matters of importance. Don't get me wrong, dh is not a mummy's boy in any way, he just values, respects and loves his mum. I'm trying to learn from her if I can, because as far as I'm concerned she obviously got it right as a mother, if her sons are anything to go by.

Mooma Mon 22-Apr-02 11:53:12

Accepting that from their birth, your children's needs will always come before your own, or your partners?

Lizzer Mon 22-Apr-02 12:09:43

Scummy, that was ber-illiant post! Do you fancy writing a 3000 mord Shakespeare essay for me when you have a spare moment?

ScummyMummy Mon 22-Apr-02 12:13:38

Errr, thanks but no thanks Lizzer! Maybe Bloss or Zoya would oblige, them being ye old lecturer types?

sobernow Mon 22-Apr-02 12:20:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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