I watch CSI and love Marg Helgenberger’s character, Catherine Willows.
She’s a great woman because she is a great partner, always committed to helping the people around her look good and get better. She understands their habits and strengths, and she fills in the spaces around them in a gracious and graceful way.
The old feminist slogan went “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high-heels.” There is no doubt that while Fred gave Ginger class, Ginger gave Fred sex.
But Fred did one thing Ginger never did. He went on to partner many other women, and even showed a great talent for dancing solo. It sure seems like Fred did more to make Ginger look good than Ginger did to make Fred look good. Maybe that’s just due to women having shorter careers, but I suspect it is more than that.
It seems to me, though, that the key to being a good mother is being a good partner, sensing what your partner needs and being there to help them achieve it. In the beginning, of course, this is everything from food to cleaning, but as children grow, they need different things, need us to take different positions, from cheerleader to rehearsal partner, to director, to cop, to soother, to stiffener.
Learning to be a partner, doing what is required to make someone else look good, feel good and get better, is learning to be a good mother.
Being seen as a good mother, though, well, that’s harder.