I’ve just voted in a nationwide contest for the 2018 Mother of the Year award, but the woman I voted for almost certainly won’t win. I didn’t vote for myself, nor did I vote for my own mum. The woman I voted for is indeed an exceptional mum, but not in the way that wins these nonsensical awards. Let me explain.
Holding a contest where women vie to be awarded the best mother in the country is ridiculous. It’s hard enough being a woman in this world today where our every move seems to be measured, compared, and commented upon and/or in competition with other women. Women are measured on their ability to do things, to achieve feats, to ‘make a difference’ on a grand scale. The last thing we need is to bring the role of motherhood into the mix, and yet we have now added mothering to this equation.
To be considered the best mother – as evidenced in the many reasons for nominating for Mother of the Year – a mother needs to give selflessly of herself, put others ahead of her, and needs to sacrifice her blood, sweat and tears for the sake of caring for others.
We define the role of a mother as one of sacrifice and so it follows that the women who choose not to do so, sure, they can be good mothers, but never the best, in the eyes of this Mother of the Year competition and also society. We could also now ponder on how such a way of mothering is in the eyes of her children…
We have given a very natural way of being – deep care – a whole new definition and ask women, who happen to be mothers, to bastardise deep care into meaning the woman must trade off her own wellbeing for that of another.
It is also interesting to notice that nowhere in the application form for Mother of the Year does it refer to the mother as being a woman. To me, this is a travesty, for if a woman has lost the understanding that she is a woman first and foremost, before she became a mother, then she is likely to tie her self-worth up in how she mothers.
The following phrases in italics are examples of reasons mums were nominated in last year’s Mother of the Year competition.
- “… a mum who can’t help giving even when she herself is in need of a little extra TLC”
- “… a tireless mother who never complains about sleepless nights”
- “… often being exhausted but still having a positive nature”
- “… the mother who never leaves her sick child’s side, ‘no matter what’”
- “… pursue her dreams only after her children have pursued theirs”
- “… a great mother because she makes sacrifices to look after a tribe of other children as well as her own”
- “… championed for getting knocked down, then getting right back up again – first checking that everyone else is okay”
- “… thanking mum for always putting everyone’s needs first and never once putting herself first”
- “… ‘Mum has always done everything for her children’”
- “… ‘Mum has not eaten so she can keep food on the plates for us kids’”
- “… ‘I have never seen my Mum break down or cry’”
- “… ‘My mum has never asked for help.’”
I think it’s time we questioned if we are celebrating the wrong behaviours.
What we actually want is for our daughters and granddaughters to know who they are as women first and to be able to ask for support when they become mums.
Perhaps too, we need to change the language around ‘being a mum.’ For is a ‘Mum’ something you turn into when children are in your lives or is it a word that in truth describes a ROLE of behaviour? If we were to understand this concept, we could never BE a mum, only DO mothering. We would remain the Woman first because that will never change.
The woman I voted for hasn’t saved a child’s life from a rare incurable disease, fostered 17 children and completed a masters in astrophysics in record time, or battled through her own cancer and double mastectomy while never missing making a school lunch or getting her child to their French lesson on time.
She hasn’t against all odds given birth while in a wheelchair, invited 10 homeless children into her house while she sleeps on the couch or isn’t pregnant again for the 9th time – despite having always suffering severe pregnancy-related nausea, depression and premature deliveries.
We can all be awesome mums; we just need some guidance as to another way to do this.
I’m being a bit ridiculous here, but you get my point. I write to expose the lies about what we think (the best) mother is and should be. The above examples are (only slightly) exaggerated reasons why someone has been celebrated as a better mother than another. We champion the achievements of what mothers do, like we celebrate the adventurer who makes it to the top of Mt Everest, without ever knowing or even caring about the impact that the desire to make it to the top has had on themselves, their wellbeing, and within their relationships.
Women’s health is suffering on a global scale and I continue to wonder if it isn’t our expectations, beliefs and ideals of what a woman and mother should be doing that isn’t a very major if not the root cause of such illness and disease.
The woman I voted for truly cares for herself, and not at the expense of her family. Caring for oneself is not selfish. She is sensitive, compassionate, a hard worker, a woman who listens and constantly reads her children, always looking to understand why they make the choices they make. She knows profoundly how vital the relationship she has with herself is, in fact THE critical foundation to the relationship she then has with her children.
It is because of these gorgeous qualities that I voted for my friend. People need to see mothers celebrated because of the Woman they are, behind the doing-ness that motherhood has become. We all need to value how the connection we have with ourselves naturally leads to beautiful and true mothering.
And we need contests like these to be disbanded.
As mothers strive to outdo one another in the school playgrounds, so too do these Mother of the Year contests support competitiveness and false ideals and beliefs of how to be a mother and what is expected of women who choose to be a mother.
Mothers will always be busy – that comes with the territory – but how we do ‘the busy’ is the difference. Our society does not need yet another cause asking women to do more and give more, no matter how subtle, without once asking them to stop and feel how loving they are with themselves first.
Mothers might well be the glue that holds a family together. They might well be always there for the children; they may be generous, kind, openhearted, giving, compassionate, devoted, selfless, great knitters and cooks, foster carers or countless other amazing qualities. But a woman should not be Mother of the Year if any of these qualities come at the expense of who she is, how she takes care of herself and how she loves herself. Without the relationship a woman has with herself, her mothering will be functional but empty and our society deserves better than just function.
Let’s mother like in the inflight safety demonstration: “Put YOUR oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”
By, Suzanne Anderssen, 43, B Com, Dip Av Air Traffic Control, mother, daughter, wife, friend and writer, Brisbane, Australia
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Hurray for this article, Suzanne. I just starting coaching a mom today and we spoke about so many of the topics you wrote about. The crazy thing is that most women and mothers just think it is ‘normal’ to forget about themselves and put their children first at all costs. And I agree contests like mum of the year need to be disbanded for they only glorify sacrifice and let women compete with each other instead of celebrating and supporting each other.
True. This is a common belief and one belief of the many in society that is taught, imposes upon females whether directly or indirectly, from a very young age.
Loved reading this as it shows how far we will go to get recognition and how these acts are promoted, prized and encouraged as being a good thing. It’s crazy to think that if we as mothers put ourselves before anything else, then we are considered bad mothers.
The fact that an actual competition to be recognised and win a prize has been created is a big red flag to me that this is something that celebrates a false way of being. And when I read the nominations it only confirmed the level we as a society have stooped to by the fact that we even consider championing this level of disregard and lack of true care for oneself.
Great lifting the lid off the many ways that we have been placing more value on the activities and outdoing one another and place this over and above the actual care, honouring and quality with which we are living. The in-flight safety statement of “Put YOUR oxygen mask on first before assisting others” is a great reflection of how championing such behaviour is neither wise nor responsible in truth.
I love this blog Suzanne. I went through so much of that ‘sacrifice in order to be a mother’ before I came to understand myself differently, and that mothering was simply the role that we have in our lives at any one point. It took a while to learn what ‘putting myself first’ was but it gradually unfolded as I built a relationship with myself. It is key to grasp the point you make Suzanne, that we are women first and foremost, and that what we do as a job or role is simply what we do.
I really loved reading this Suzanne.
Wow, what a great discussion to bring to the table Suzanne. The reasons listed here for being Mum of the Year are straight out shocking – ‘Mum’ is reduced to being a machine.
The way we currently consider mothering is super harming for women and this blog explains this so well. Thank you Suzanne.
I fell deeply into the competition that being a Mother pulls one into. This brought me much heartache as it provided a reality where I was constantly having to push through, having only myself to support me, as the constant competition never allowed for the door to be opened to accepting support from another. Much really needs to be challenged in how the current paradigm of mothering is set up.
This conversation is long overdue. For too long being a Mother has completely negated the importance of the person that is doing the mothering is.
Brilliant article Suzanne. It’s quite shocking to see the list of reasons why a woman would be seen/voted as mother of the year. Good on you for seeing beyond the popularity contest.
I as a parent am constantly being offered situations and events in all manner of ways to deepen the love for myself. The situations arise because of the ill-behaviours I have been choosing to live in but this is not to condemn or judge myself but to welcome and embrace for there is much learning. As I learn to welcome the challenges, opportunities arise to re-imprint my movements but it is not just how I respond with my children but ultimately how I respond to myself.
‘“… pursue her dreams only after her children have pursued theirs”’ – children learn from their role models, from their parents – what sort of message does this send to young girls when their mothers put their children before themselves – that when you become a mother you are no longer equal, others become more important.
true Alison, contrary to what we might desperately hope for children don’t do as we say but do as we do.
Men also have their own imprisonment such as they need to be the breadwinner, the provider, tough, into sports and of course boys never cry. I imagine best dad would be kicking a football around the barbie!
What a fantastic blog and much needed blog. So great you speak up about this great harm that we not only do to ourselves but also our children. Interesting that we have the phrase “mums the word” to keep quiet and not say things like this!!!
How exposing that all those “qualities” are listed as something great when really they are very harmful and how we not only accept these self-denigrating roles but are proud of them.
We have championed the flogging of our most graceful qualities. We rah rah running Sacredness ragged consistently. The way we celebrate sacrifice is not honourable but indicative of a deadly malaise where we prefer to see each other stay in misery rather than true glory. It’s time we flipped all this and celebrated quality. And if we really understood what mothering means our nurturing, stillness and care for ourselves would go through the roof and beams. Brilliantly said Suzanne.
‘Without the relationship a woman has with herself, her mothering will be functional but empty and our society deserves better than just function.’ Absolutely – the way a mother is has a huge effect on her children and if she role models the attributes that you list here, the reasons why mums were nominated last year, this is so disempowering and, leaves the woman wanting. So lets give her a prize to make her feel better? No lets support her to care and love herself so her self worth and value returns and her children grow in confidence too.
Unbelievable but not really, in this world of the never-ending pursuit of recognition, acceptance, adulation and applause, a trophy to boot and a medal pinned to a tired and sagging bosom. When will we learn that competition is not part of our divine make-up and a win no replacement for knowing and living who we truly are.
Yes, and not only that but the win is so short lived that soon after the quest for another medal begins…a never ending spin that exhausts to the bone.
A constant chase for the next.. the next.. the next, as one gets more exhausted and disconnected from their truth of who they truly are.
With women’s health seriously affected to greater proportions than ever before with higher rates of breast cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome etc. we really do need to question if we ‘are celebrating the wrong behaviours’. I whole heartedly agree, Suzanne. To consider if the behaviours we choose are the root cause of our illnesses, as women today, is very much needed. Thanks for writing such a powerful article.
To stop and look at our behaviors and consider if they are harming us is a form of medicine. Just even the stop moment to say, this is not working, I’m exhausted, drained, down and depressed always putting me last, is a step in a more healthy and loving direction.
What is evident to me in this list of reasons why mothers have been voted is the fact that mothers are often considered the “best mother” if they pander and keep the comfort others are in in tact. There is no way this is loving in the slightest and hence what is the quality of this form of mothering?
Great question, Joshua, there is no true love in pandering so there can’t be love in mothering that has sacrifice as a foundation. If self-love is missing the end result can’t be loving.
This is brilliant Suzanne and a much needed pause for us all to consider exactly what we have in place in our society in terms of truly celebrating women. Love the last line – so true! It really is very simple: in order to love and care for others we first need to love and care for ourselves. For we would not offer another an empty cup and expect them to be nourished by it.
Indeed – an empty cup is an empty cup with nothing to give, nothing at all. Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others is a timely reminder that we treat our neighbour as we would treat ourselves and not the other way around.
Very well said Liane – when we stretch ourselves beyond our own limits and disregard our own natural needs, do we ever consider what kind of quality it is we are then offering?
When women’s health is suffering to the extent that it is on a global scale, we have to ask ourselves how we’re living, and what pictures we are subscribing to about what we – or society- think it means to be a woman, a mother, a daughter, worker, friend, girlfriend or wife, that then has an impact upon the state of our health.
Whenever we put others needs or beliefs ahead of ourselves it’s a breeding ground in our bodies for exhaustion and resentment. These competitions are promoting resentful and exhausted women and relationship damage as a result.
Motherhood is definitely not a doingness, but a quality in our presence that comes with our livingness, so can’t be measured or compared with anything and anyone, just lived, enjoyed, learned and explored without any perfection.
It feels very surrealistic to make a contest about the best mother of the year. It’s like making a competition about the best person… Is it possible that one person would be better than other? We are genuinely unique as well as each motherhood is unique too. Why the need of comparing? Why the need of making some behaviours more desirable than others? Why pushing women to be and behave in a specific manner to ‘win’ the recognition of others? Is not each woman enough for being who she is and freely explore the motherhood at her own pace? Is she not the unique woman that she can be before anything else she can do? Contests aside, why not approach life from connection to who we are first and foremost?
Then, we would have quality in our relationships, instead of results at the expense of everyone. Only through the connection and nurturing that a woman has with herself, can there be a true connection and nurturing to her children and everything in her life.
A much needed blog. A must read for all mothers and everyone.
This blog was a bit of a jaw-dropping read for me! ‘ if a woman has lost the understanding that she is a woman first and foremost, before she became a mother, then she is likely to tie her self-worth up in how she mothers.’ This seems to be the general rule and explains why so many women struggle when their kids leave home. The fact that we champion a woman putting herself last says a lot about where we are at as a society but we are all the less for it, for if a woman is self-sacrificing then she is playing less than the fullness she really is. A woman can’t hold her family and truly support it if she herself isn’t whole.
Great exposé, Suzanne, of the ideals around mothering. The list of quotes from the competition were quite shocking to read, in that they highlight so clearly the value we place on not caring for ourselves as women.
I love how you challenge the accepted just by writing about it, not condemning or judging but simply saying “hey, what if this is not actually the way?”.
Ir’s interesting how we tend to make heroes of people whose life has been a struggle, or have had big things happen in their lives and pushed on regardless. I think we all have big things to deal with at time to time, but why is someone more worth celebrating who’s been through hardship, and could it be that the struggles of life are largely self-created and we have more autonomy in our struggle or our hardship than we like to admit?
Wow thank you for exposing these utterly ridiculous lies, when we read the list of past achievers and what a mother get celebrated for its no wonder we have illness and disease rates increasing so much.
Absolutely – we are asking women to strive for the impossible and sacrifice themselves on the altar of function and longed for short-term adulation; brownie points all around, year after year and sleepless night after sleepless night. What a sickening joke.
These competitions are a nonsense, as you so rightly claim. As with beauty competitions, the winner of the ‘best’ whatever is in the eye of the beholder. Each woman is unique. We need to cooperate, not compete with each other.
‘Caring for oneself is not selfish’ and as you mention, on a flight we are told to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others in an emergency. Yet most still see a so called ‘self-less’ mother as being the ideal. There is a huge consciousness around mothering. It makes sense to love and care for oneself as a woman first. In a family, if a mother suffers through exhaustion etc, everyone suffers.
Mothers are women and themselves first. Without that they are an empty puppet for whomever’s wishes are deemed most important, and that reflection is what the kids grow up with as a role model and will either emulate or react and do the opposite (is become very selfish). So what if the reflection to the kids was that you honour yourself, be so full of love inside that the cup is full to overflowing and everyone around can’t help but feel it. Imagine……
Great article Suzanne, thank you for sharing this. The list of the so called qaulities for mother of the year seem to be all about women who are mothers putting everyone else first and not caring for themselves. This will leave women probably exhausted and likely not knowing who they are – this is not something to champion.
Put simply, to not care for self (Mum or not), equal to how we care for others is dishonouring and does not set a true example for others.
How long have mothers read to their children rather than read them? Have mothers become gatekeepers rather than the shepherd that guides them?
wow Steve that is awesome – it is about reading your children, connecting to them and if you have not connected to yourself how can you connect to anyone else.
Powerful article Suzanne, many a myth blown out of the water and about time too.
Wow Suzanne, I didn’t know there is such competition, ‘The World’s Best Mum’. It seems our society is very good at turning many things into some form of competition. The list you’ve shared is shocking and it highlights how much we emphasize on doing and dishonouring who we are and not much on self-care, self-nurture and self-love.
Wow, I have to admit I was quite shocked reading the dot points of why mothers were nominated in this competition – it was a jaw on the floor moment. These points expose the ideals and beliefs we have about mothering, that it’s a mentality of sacrifice, and the deeper the self neglect the higher the achievement in mothering. The beliefs we currently have about being a “good” mother prevent us from seeing that we can actually do both, love and care for ourselves and our children. It doesn’t need to be a ‘me or them’ mentality, but love and care can be shared equally, including with ourselves. This is how we break generational beliefs because children most of all learn from role modelling, so a mother who loves and cares for herself is preparing her children to self care and self love as adults – now that is love.