The BEST Kind of Mom

Mar 21, 2018

Aaron will turn ten this year, which means I will also be celebrating my tenth anniversary of motherhood.

Becoming a mother was probably the easiest transition of my life. It was easier than going to college; easier than marriage; easier than moving. It just felt so good and so right.

But even though I was always content to be a mom, I wasn't always comfortable in my own mom-skin. I often found myself watching other moms, both older and younger, with more or fewer children, and thinking I should be . . . different.

Excursions to the park would trigger feelings that I either wasn't being interactive enough (observing the moms who were narrating all their children's actions while going down the slides with them) or was paying too much attention to them (observing the moms who were absorbed in a good book while their children entertained themselves).

I tended to feel extremely guilty when one of my children was invited to an elaborate birthday party because I knew I would never be throwing a similar party for him.

But I had a bit of a turning point about three years ago when I read MotherStyles, which was all about how Myers-Briggs personality types could be specifically applied to motherhood. The book made the case that you naturally have certain strengths and weaknesses and that rather than try to give yourself different strengths, you should focus on the strengths you already have.

My thoughts further evolved last year when I used a quote by Marjorie Pay Hinckley as my theme for 2017. She said,
"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.
At first, I tried to force myself to be the kind of mom she seemed to be advocating--one that would almost certainly welcome all the neighborhood children into her kitchen for warm cookies and cold milk.

But anytime I tried to be that kind of mom, I felt tense and irritable, which led to feelings of guilt, which led to me feeling bad about myself.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized Sister Hinckley's statement was less about becoming a certain kind of mother and more about being present and involved in the way that suited me best. There were many ways to show the Lord that "I was really here and that I really lived."

In the book Crossing to Safety (side note: if you haven't read it, read it), Larry Morgan's father gives him this piece of advice: "Do what you like to do. It will probably be what you do best."

Last year, I began paying attention to certain activities and actions and how they made me feel: when was I happiest as a mom? when did I feel the most anxious or grumpy? when were the times I felt fulfilled and proud of myself?

It turned out that the things I liked to do were, no surprise, the things I was best at. Maybe I needed to spend more time using my strengths and less time trying to force myself to acquire new skills. Maybe I should let the moms who were good at the things I was bad at do those things so I could have more time to do the things I was good at.

Maybe, just maybe, if we moms played to our strengths instead of our weaknesses, our kids would have exactly what they needed.

In light of that, here are a few of my strengths (i.e., the things I do well):
  • Reading aloud
  • Teaching my kids how to read
  • Doing puzzles
  • Going to familiar places, like the library, pool, or park
  • Giving piano lessons
  • Teaching my kids how to work
  • Recording important moments in my journal
  • Having one-on-one special time
  • Having consistent mealtimes, nap times, bedtimes
  • Taking photos on a regular basis
  • Celebrating birthdays and holidays with simple traditions
  • Making/achieving goals
  • Cuddling
  • Making a photo calendar
  • Memorizing poems/quotes/scriptures
  • Going on walks
And here are a few of my weaknesses (i.e., the things I don't do well):
  • Engaging in creative, imaginative play
  • Doing messy, involved crafts
  • Throwing themed birthday parties (with 20 children)
  • Going to the store
  • Going on new adventures
  • Making dinner
  • Making memory or photo books
  • Organizing play dates
  • Enjoying lots of noise
  • Inviting neighbor kids over
  • Being okay with messes
  • Playing games
  • Being spontaneous
  • Being patient
  • Not yelling
This shift in mindset has done wonders for my identity as a mother, but it has also given me an unexpected blessing, which is that I love other mothers more. I no longer feel jealous of their cake decorating/infectious enthusiasm/fun games/fill in the blank skills (not most of the time anyway). Instead, I think, That's one of their strengths. They're doing something they love. That is one of the ways they find joy in motherhood. (And interestingly, many of my weaknesses are actually Mike's strengths, so it has helped for me to recognize that as well.)

This is not to say there aren't things I could improve or skills that would be beneficial to acquire (see "being patient" above). However, I have chosen to embrace the good things I'm doing and look for ways to build on the strengths that are already there rather than try to do something (poorly) because another mother is doing it.

So you probably won't see me playing a magical dinosaur game in the park, but that's because I'm curled up on the couch with a big stack of picture books. And that feels just right.

I'd love to hear about some of the things you do that make you feel happiest as a mom. Or, conversely, what is something you're willing to let go of because you don't enjoy it? 


  1. Amy, thank you so so much for this post!!! I often get stuck focusing on my weaknesses as a mother. Reading this was eye opening and gives me a desire to seek out and focus more on my mothering strengths and let some other things go. I'm grateful you listed both your strengths and weaknesses; in reading them i was able to recognize some of my strengths and weaknesses and in the case of weaknesses, feel less alone.
    Thank you!!!

  2. Yes Amy, thank you for this. It was beautifully said, and articulated things I feel about motherhood but haven't actually thought about in quite this way. I actually feel like I have quite a few strengths, but yes, the enthusiastic, imaginative-play, crafty, adventurous-outing thing is not my mo at all either. In fact, I was thinking just yesterday that the only time I feel good/happy about time spent with my children is when I'm reading to them (imagine that!). My other strengths are less about how I spend time with them, and more about how I manage/plan/take care of details. Those are important too, even if they are less visible parts of motherhood.

  3. This made me feel so much better! I think you and I are very similar. I don't enjoy taking my kids places by myself, and I'm not good at inventing games for them to play or pulling out crafts. I like my home to be clean, and I get stressed out when it isn't. I need to be better about letting other moms do what they do best, too, and focusing on what I do well (like snuggling my kids and throwing themed birthday parties for just a few people). Thank you for sharing this!

  4. You and I have a lot of similar things we're not as good at 😀. I love your words! I feel the same way.

  5. This was beautiful! Thank you for your honesty and for forcing me to think about my role as a mother in a different way.

    Things I'm good at as a mother... decorating birthday cakes, planning outdoor adventures, teaching kids to read...

    Things I'm terrible at... keeping our house clean, putting laundry away, inviting other kids over and organizing play dates (I think this list could go on for awhile :)

    THANK YOU for helping me embrace both the good and the bad! There's no such thing as the perfect mother, right?

  6. Love this post Amy! I have constantly questioned myself as a mom and I think you've got it exactly right!

  7. I soo relate to your journey, I too had a tendency to look at what I didn't do, rather than accept my strengths for the longest time. when I changed my mindset it was so freeing. Mind you I was a lot older than you, took me longer. You are wiser than I.

  8. I know this post has been in the works for a long time and I'm so happy to finally read it. I love your thoughts and the conscientious and thoughtful look you've taken at your own mothering strengths and weaknesses. It must be so liberating to figure that part of yourself out! I'm going to pay more attention and work on recognizing mine too.

  9. Loved the insight in this post. When I was a missionary, I struggled a LOT with this concept of comparing my weaknesses against another's strengths and feeling like I came up short, but when I finally accepted what I was good at (getting in deep gospel discussions, encouraging the most noble and best attributes in people, and being hardworking and obedient) and let go of what I wasn't (making a lot of small talk, being super funny or making a lot of jokes, entertaining people/kids), I become a MUCH BETTER missionary.

    I wonder if as I progress more as a mom (and have more kids) if I'll struggle more with comparisons, but I'm hoping that my hard-earned lessons as a missionary will mean that I don't have to learn the same lesson as a mom (since I haven't really struggled with comparison too much thus far).


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