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What Makes A Good Mother?

What makes a good mother?  This question is explored in:

What Makes A Good Mother?Good Mother Bad Mother
By: Gina Ford

Publisher:    Vermillion

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As a mother I was very keen to read a book about motherhood in general.  There finally came a time when my toddler was nearly two, sleeping well enough, eating well enough, playing and growing well and I didn't need to refer to a book to learn about him.  No it was my turn.  I needed to turn to a book to learn about me. 

Sometimes I had the feeling that I had 'left the building' so to speak.  Motherhood had changed me, hugely and I was keen to explore these many changes.  So I turned to one of the many books on the subject 'Good Mother, Bad Mother' by Gina Ford.

The author Gina Ford is a well known British Childcare writer of the bestseller 'Contended Baby' series.  She is also a controversial writer known as the 'queen of routine'.  This however did not show up in 'Good Mother Bad Mother'.  Instead this book reads more like Ford's memoir showing the personal side to the woman behind the very routine parenting style.  

Ford shares a deeply moving account of the relationship she had with her own mother which she notes was extremely close.  Interwoven throughout the book are accounts of the 'love of her life' as well as her feelings of not having been a mother herself.  She shares aspects of her own family and childhood and many experiences of working with hundreds of families from all over the world.

What Makes A Good Mother?
The question of what makes a good mother is explored in the first chapter and Ford notes (p.13) "interestingly when there is so much to unite parents, it is often the mothers who stand divided...and then pit themselves against one another".  Personally I can't relate to this as this has not been my experience but reading the accounts in this book I can well imagine how that can happen. 

Gina Ford also looks at the changes in mothering since the early 1900's and questions why mothers put so much pressure on themselves today to look the part and be in control with so little of the support systems that were once in place for mothers.  In fact it may well be that one of the problems of being a mother today is there is too much advice, magazines, the TV. and books can all offer conflicting advice which serves to only confuse and help make mothers unsure of themselves. 

This sentiment is carried over in the third chapter, 'mothers at war', which addresses the competitiveness that many mothers state they experience.  As does the chapter on 'breast is best' which largely makes the point that, while breastfeeding is best there are circumstances where it should be abandoned or only used in part and not exclusively.  Ford notes the general feelings in today's society have made women feel very pressured to breastfeed and believes that some are doing so to be perceived as a 'good mother' when it might not be best  for them at all.  

I wonder if this book will be doing anything to encourage the 'baby friendly initiatives' in some hospitals in the UK to promote breastfeeding where from all accounts the breast is best message still has a long way to go?  I do take the point of course though that "we have no right to sit in judgement on one another, and it makes no sense to judge ourselves (p.223)".

Gina Ford has had a very successful career as a maternity nurse and writer of parenting books but my personal opinion is that a book about motherhood lacks the personal element it requires if it is written by a woman who hasn't been a mother.   The book is largely made up of letters to Ford from her many clients each sharing a different version of the point that Ford was trying to make.  I found these letters long and largely distracting from the essence of the book.  It felt to me that there was never any conclusion met other than, "everyone has a story and every story is unique (p,223)".

Mother/Daughter Relationship
The book helped me to look more closely at the relationship I have with my own mother and mother in law through the chapters on 'my mother my best friend', 'mothers of men' and 'the twilight years'.  This is where this book does come into its own.  It looks more in depth at the mother daughter relationship helping us examine how this may be affecting our role as mothers today.

What Makes A Good Mother?
So what makes a good mother?  Well the conclusion of this book really is love your children and try hard not to worry about being perfect, and just be the best you can be.  At the end of the day "The loved child whether breast or bottle fed, attachment or routine, will always be happier that then unloved (p.222)."  Ford's message is take the pressure off each other and support each other as mothers as best you can.  Any parent who has read and loved Ford's books will be very interested to read 'Good Mother Bad Mother' and learn more about Ford herself.

Carmen Benton

Recommended Books on Motherhood

Recommended Book About Motherhood Here's a great (very special) book about motherhood that helps examine this very important question 'What makes a good mother?'

As the author's website tells us: "You're going to feel every moment of being a mother ... you're also going to be making sandwiches until you die."

What makes a good mother? Somebody's Always Hungry: Essays on Motherhood
By: Juliet Johnson
Publisher: 2008, Nell Books, an imprint of Wyatt-MacKenzie

Becoming a mother turns a person inside out. Your heart’s in a lunchbox. Your body and time belong to someone you barely know, a parasitic thief, a rude gobbling shrieker who outwits and foils you at every turn. You forget to mind. Juliet Johnson doesn’t say much about her pre-mom life, except that her idea of what it would be like to have two small children did not turn out to resemble the universe in which she now resides.   Read the rest of this review

We would love to hear your opinion of what makes a good mother.  Please feel free to share with us your review of either of these books or any others that you recommend on Motherhood.

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