I'm a mom, and I don't know what’s best for my kids. (Gasp!)
That I’m not a know-best-expert has been a humbling lesson to learn.
After all, “mom knows best” is so pervasive, it’s become cliche. I mean, of course we know best, right?!?
I offer this post to you not to knock you off your momma-pedestal -- I'm all about moms being some of the most amazing people on the planet -- but in case it might apply to you and help.
Here’s what I see:
We cling to the idea of “mom knows best” when our kids make choices we’re uncomfortable with. Even when our kids are adults.
We think we know them best, that we have mom instincts, mom radar, life experience, wisdom. We think we know what they should and shouldn’t do. How their lives should and shouldn’t be. We want them to agree and get on board.
When we think our adult kids are “doing it wrong” we feel righteous, maybe angry. We take a strong stance and feel in control, powerful. Which of course feels better than powerless, threatened, and confused by their choices.
But judging our kids lives as wrong won’t change anything and feels awful. It's sad and stressful to think our kids are ruining their lives, our lives, their relationships, etc. Arguing with the reality of what is happening only causes us a lot of mental anguish in the long run.
And let’s be honest - it's work for most of us to figure out what’s best for us, in our own lives.
That we can know what’s best for any other adult - even when the adult is our child - is worth questioning.
How would it look if we accepted that even as mom we don't know best?
Well, let's be clear: it's not agreeing or condoning. Giving up rigid judgements and arguing with reality doesn't mean we're supporting or celebrating.
It means we're accepting that adults are free to make choices, even ones we don't like. It's seeing the possibility that our adult child's current reality may be exactly what he/she needs to go through right now. That we can let go of our uncomfortable fearful agonizing. We don't have to pressure ourselves to control things we can’t control. Or think we’ve failed because our kids didn’t follow our lead. It may sound far-fetched, but we might even appreciate our kids figuring out what’s best for them, even if we don't love the path they're taking to get there.
So yes, by giving up our motherly righteousness we might feel powerless and the discomfort of ambiguity. But maybe that’s what life really is. Maybe thinking we know best gives a false sense of comfort - a momentarily useful crutch when life feels overwhelming, scary, and out of control.
It makes sense. I'd just question if reverting back to "mom knows best" - whether it's the literal words or just the spirit of the saying - is a long-term strategy that will serve you best.
In my experience, allowing myself to not “know best” - even be wrong! - is empowering. I can only control and make choices for my own life. With all 3 of my adult daughters - the 2 in contact, the 1 who is not - I see my job as loving them and wishing good things for them as they create their own adult lives. I accept their choices as theirs. If they want guidance or support, I’m here. If not, I choose to trust they’ll figure it out. As they do, I’m doing the same - figuring out what’s best for me. (Because actually, my momma doesn’t know what’s best for me, either 😉)
Love you moms, whether you know best or not!