The Myth of the Good Mother

Jacqueline Dooley
6 min readOct 4, 2020
Original artwork by Emily Dooley — Published here with permission

My idea of the good mother began long before I became a mother. The good mother was implied in the toys I played with, the TV shows I watched in the 70s and 80s, and the cultural cues I got from religion, family, and community.

The good mother was kind, patient, and endlessly compassionate. The good mother was happy too and, perhaps more importantly, her children were happy.

The good mother baked. She listened. She sacrificed. There was not much more to the good mother’s identity than motherhood itself and motherhood was enough.

I internalized the myth of the good mother throughout my early life, even when my understanding of myself had nothing to do with motherhood and my identity was still nebulous and ill defined.

I didn’t count the days until I became a mother, didn’t picture my life being completed by a child, and didn’t define my personhood in the context of motherhood.

Then, at the age of 29, I suddenly wanted a baby. About a year after this desire manifested, I had my first daughter.

My younger daughter turned 16 in April. She is not happy. Her days, restricted by the pandemic and further restricted by her too-young-to-drive status, are filled with screens and anxiety.



Jacqueline Dooley

Essayist, content writer, bereaved parent. Bylines: Human Parts, GEN, Marker, OneZero, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Pulse, HuffPost, Longreads, Modern Loss