Should a good mother expect nothing in return?

Should a good mother expect nothing in return?

After a rare but particularly unpleasant run-in with my teenage son a few weeks ago, I had retreated to the toilets in the restaurant we were eating in to clear my head and the wall was covered with a variety of quotes. Many were well-worn adages but one, in particular, drew my eye.

“Be a good mother but don’t expect anything in return.”

It kind of jumped out of me.  Possibly due to the fact that I had just had a row with my son and was feeling rather fragile.  But it has been going around in my head ever since and troubling me a little.

Just lately I have begun to wonder if I am a good mother. Heck, I have probably doubted it for years on and off.

How do we know if we are good mothers? What measure of rating system do we have? There isn’t one apart from our own and if you are anything like me, my internal rating system is pretty self-critical. I mean, I think I am doing okay, I make mistakes, I shout too much, I allow far too much sugar, I swear occasionally in the car, I’m sure there is a long list of things I do wrong.  But I love my kids more than anything and without realising it half the time, I think I am a good mum. They come to me when they are upset, they comfort me when I am.  They talk to me and tell me about their lives and come to me for advice.  If there was a rating system, surely those things would be high scoring?

The teen did go through a particularly challenging a few weeks ago. I guess it is the hormones who are mainly responsible. But at times he was so utterly vile, I found it difficult to simply pass it off as hormones.  But does that mean I am expecting too much?  Should I just shrug it off and think ‘oh it’s those pesky hormones again’?

You shouldn’t take it personally.  That is the advice I would give someone else if they were telling me the same story. It is just hormones, they will come out the other side, I would tell them the light switch story and make them feel better about the whole thing.  It’s funny how we aren’t so great at taking our own advice though, isn’t it?

“Be a good mother but don’t expect anything in return.”

So am I a bad mother if I do expect something in return?  The thing is I do.  I expect a certain amount of respect, not just for me but for other people in the family, the house, our things but also for other kids they meet, teachers and sports coaches.  I expect to be able to go out as a family once in a while without another world war breaking out or someone having a complete strop.  I expect my kids to be nice to me every now and then (I do accept that during the teen years, that isn’t going to happen all the time). I expect them all to do as well as they can in school, but that expectation is for their benefit, not mine.

As expectations go I don’t think that is unreasonable, is it?  Everything else I want from them really is not expectation but hope that they will be healthy, happy and as successful as they want or need to be.  Happy and healthy are the main ones.

As for any other return, that is as far as it goes, I just want them to be happy with a sprinkle of expectation on the top.

Does that make me a good mother?  The confident part of me would say yes. OR at least, I hope so. I am doing the best I can.  One of my brood has even made it successfully to adulthood and is a fully independent, self-sufficient human being, so I can’t be going too wrong can I?

“Be a good mother but don’t expect anything in return.”  What do you think? Can you be a good mother but still expect a little in return?

Should a good mother expect nothing in return





  1. June 18, 2018 / 8:42 am

    Such a brilliant and thought-provoking post. Like you, I ask for respect from my kids – for the people around them, for rules and possessions. One of them is definitely struggling with the concept at the moment. Once they’re teenagers they are old enough to at least give us that in return for everything we’ve done for them and will continue to do for them for years to come. But just because they’re old enough, it doesn’t mean it will happen!
    But you are definitely a good mother.

  2. June 18, 2018 / 4:59 pm

    This is such a wonderful and thought-provoking post. I have thought the same as my kids have gotten older, especially my oldest, who I am sure hates me half the time. I do expect respect as I respect them and I’d like them to be nice. You are a brilliant mother, but I get why you doubt it. I do too xx

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