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What does it mean to be a good mother?

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What does it mean to be a good mother?

I have never been much of a “beach read” type of woman but I would like to share a wonderful book that I did read this summer. The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan is a heart-breaking tale of “a bad mother trying to be good.” It is a work of fiction, a bit dystopian in nature, but as a mother and as a woman who works to support other mothers, it did strike a chord with me, plucking at the question that I have been mulling over for years: What does it mean to be a good mother? Furthermore, is it possible to feel like one is a good mother? The book further pushes the topic by asking, through the plight of the main character, who is allowed to determine what makes a good mother?

Much has been written about the good enough mother, the types of mothers that exist, temperament, attunement, ways to help children meet developmental milestones. For a moment in my career, I even held the title of Parent Educator, as if parenting was somehow attainable through education. Very little, or at least very little that I have read, really speaks to the reality that motherhood is a progression. I have, at moments, even crossed boundaries with clients, letting them know that while I love my children, there are moments when I very much hate being a mother.

So much plays into what our personal construction of a “mother” means – our culture, personal experience, our socio-economic status, our individual needs and desires. In my personal quantification of the “mother” identity some of the best mothers I know (nurturing, doting, child-centered) are in fact men. I also believe that this concept of motherhood is further complicated by our children’s birth stories: planned, unplanned, adopted, fertility struggles, etc. The way children come into our lives very much shapes how we (as mothers/parents) create our identity around them.

It’s complicated. Its messy, and for many it is an overwhelming journey. The good news is that is needn’t be a lonely one. The joy of Hopeful Beginnings is walking alongside imperfect mothers (and fathers) to find themselves and their new identities as caregivers of little ones who have turned life upside down.

We are so lucky that our work allows us to comfort mothers with empty arms, as well as unite men and women yearning to be mothers and fathers through adoption. It’s messy, but it’s joyous.


Natalie Rodriguez

Executive Director​

Hopeful Beginnings


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