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What is a good mother?

One who provides for her children in every way she can?

Then perhaps I am failing at this.

I am a single mother of 3 children ages 12, 15 and 19. Many women are in the same situation, working and juggling households, jobs and families. I wonder if they feel as useless and frustrated as I do? Exhausted from trying to cope with everyone’s moods and schedules, and guilty that I cannot provide for them better than I am able to.

I work full time, an hour and a half’s drive from home. My youngest hates me every morning when I drag him out of bed to go to before school care. I have little choice. I must work to provide for my family.

How do the mothers who seem to do it all perfectly do it? Or is it all a clever façade?

I am constantly barraged by guilt that I cannot buy my son a car to make travelling easier for him, or the sadness of watching my daughter suffer through bullying at school, only to discover she has been self harming as a result. Every notch on her arm felt like a strike against me as a mother. Then there is the concern that my children dislike each other and fight constantly. Why do I see other families on social media sharing love and positivity with their siblings? Have I stuffed up here too?

Will my children be forever marred because their mother failed at her most important job? Will they blame me in the future for everything wrong with their lives, jobs and spouses?

This fear haunts me.

With this in mind, I have penned a letter to my children in the hope they will one day understand my actions. I may even actually give it to them in the future.

Dear Ivanoff Children,

It is with the best intention I write this to you in the hope you’ll come to understand how much I have always loved you.

I know life has not been easy for you growing up. When I separated from your father it was with the belief that I could give you better lives if we lived apart. This may have been true in some ways, but I realise how difficult it was in many others.

I know too, that you often disliked my decisions, or resented the fact I could not give you everything you wanted. I could see the unsaid “I hate you’ in your eyes. I read somewhere that if your children don’t tell you they hate you at least once, then you’re doing something wrong.

I want you to know I tried the very best I could at the time and every decision was not made lightly. Many a night you did not see my tears as I agonised over choices to be made, on my own.

Instead, I worked hard to provide you with good morals and kind hearts, two of the things I think are essential to living good lives, and something money cannot provide.

For all of the times you thought I was mean and unjust, I apologise.

My only intent was to be as good a mother as I could, even if it meant not being the mother you wanted at the time. 

I hope you know I love you with my entire heart and only did what I thought was best.

Love forever,


Even if they never read this, I have reminded myself that I am giving them things money cannot buy: strength of character and kind hearts.

Perhaps I am not such a failure after all.

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Catherine Whelan

I am a divorced mother of three human children and two fur babies, a freelance writer, editor and teacher. I try and see the world with positive humour and help others to see the silliness around them. Find my blog at: http://www.divorcedsupermum.com/

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