We ask mothers the wrong questions

On this Mother’s Day, as the mother of 4 children who are in college (one just about to start), graduate school and out in the workforce, I am struck by the fact that we are obsessed with the wrong questions. We ask of other mothers:

Do they breastfeed?
Did they have natural childbirth?
Did they have vaginal deliveries?
Do they use cloth diapers?
Do they have a family bed?
Do they “wear” their babies?

I can assure you that my children could not care less about any of these aspects of their childhoods. They have never asked, never praised or complained, never expressed any interest at all.

In truth, we already know how meaningless these questions are. Think of your own mother. Is your relationship loving, fraught or both? Does the quality of your relationship have anything, anything at all, to do with how she parented you when you were an infant? Or does it depend on how she treated you when you were a child, a teenager, an adult? Do you even know if and how long she breastfed you, if she used cloth diapers, whether she “wore” you? Do you care? Or do you care far more about whether she accepts you for who you are, and does not try to change you into who she is?

Let’s stop asking questions about our mothering that don’t matter and start asking the questions that do matter:

Do you love your children?
Do you let them know it?
Do you accept them for who they or do you try to change them into who you want them to be?
Do you acknowledge and praise their interests, strengths and talents or do you try to channel them toward your interests and talents?
Do you recognize their learning and personality challenges and help them meet them?
Do you spend the time and effort to properly discipline your children so they show kindness and consideration to others?
Do you expect (and provide support if necessary for) them to reach their full academic potential?
Do you provide support and encouragement for them to pursue the sports and hobbies that they want to pursue?
Do you get to know their friends?
Do you accept their choices in lifestyle, marriage, parenting, even when those choices differ from yours?
Do you recognize that they are people, different and separate from you and treat them with the respect that all people deserve?

Let’s stop asking the wrong questions and start asking the right ones. It makes absolutely no difference to our children how we answer the wrong questions (that’s why they are the wrong questions), but it makes all the difference in the world how we answer the right ones.

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