If you want to know how to be a good wife and mother, you’ll find all kinds of information out there. Some of it’s good advice, and some of it is really detrimental in so many ways!
But here’s the real truth:
*It’s a great thing to want to be a good wife and mother!
*Being the best wife and mother you can means prioritizing your relationships, NOT your role
I’ll explain more about what that means below, but essentially, in order to have a balanced, healthy relationship with your partner and children means using healthy relationship practices, not just focusing on what you do for them.
Why do you want to be a good wife and mother?
This is an important question to ask yourself, because it shows your primary focus and goal.
Because it is valid for everyone who identifies as a wife and mother to want to be a good one! Whether you’re conservative or liberal, traditional or feminist, it’s wonderful that you want to be a good wife and mother!
As someone who identifies more on the liberal/feminist ends of those spectra, I thought perhaps it was in defiance of my “GIRL POWER” motto to want to rock it as a mother and a wife. The honest truth is that wanting to be the best you can for the people in your life should always be okay and should always be celebrated.
I wanted to be a good wife and mother to bring happiness and joy to my wonderful husband and my two boys. But I also know that life gets in the way. We lose track of our priorities, we forget our values, we get caught up in the frustrations of life.
And these things can all hinder your ability to be the best wife and mother for your partner and children.
So what are the qualities of a good wife and mother?
If you’re asking “How can I be a good wife and mom”, you already know that it’s wonderful for you to think that, whether you’re traditional or more of a modern woman. But you should know that the role of the wife and mother was often toxic in traditional household of the 1950s.
The 1950s role of the quiet, obedient wife who keeps herself ready for her husband’s demands (of any kind) at any time is long gone. The wife of the 2020s is much different.
That quintessential “good wife” of the 1950s focused on her role. The qualities of a “good wife” from the 1950s might look like:
- have dinner ready
- prepare yourself for him
- keep the house clean
- make sure the children are obedient and quiet
- let him talk first
She always put herself last. She sacrificed her dreams for a family. She submitted to her husband. She spent her time occupied with what she could do for her husband and children. The focus was always on her as a good wife and mother — the role, NOT the person. And this often leaves a woman feeling empty and bitter.
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Today’s modern good wife
That’s the primary change in today’s world. (And you don’t have to be a feminist to get this.)
Women are done being treated as second-class citizens. We know our worth. We practice self-care, socialize with our friends, get a good education, self-reflect, and focus on our personal growth. We focus on quality experiences for our children and shared responsibilities with our partners. In other words, we focus on relationships.
And this is how it should be. Learning about “how can I be a good wife and mom” means that you put your attention on the relationship with your partner (not on being a wife) and the relationship with your children (not on being a mother).
Focusing on our relationships is how we bring that happiness and joy to these people in our lives while also keeping us sane, mentally healthy, and empowered all at the same time!
How to Be a Good Wife and Mother: 13 Ways
That’s what we’re really talking about. Being a good wife and mother means prioritizing our relationships. So how do we foster fulfilling and wonderful relationships with our partners and children?
Here are 13 ways that you can nurture your relationships with the most important people in your life: your partner and children.
1. Turn toward
Time and again, when you read articles from psychologists about the couples that are happiest and stay together longer, you will undoubtedly come across the concept of turning toward. And this concept is frequently listed as the number one predictor about the success of a relationship.
Turning toward means that when your partner or child makes a plea for your attention, that you focus your attention on them. It’s that simple.
Maybe it’s when you are on the couch on your phone, your partner comes home from work and says, “Phew, I had a crazy day today.”
Turning toward looks like putting your phone down, looking at them, and saying, “Oh really? What happened?”
Turning away could look like a variety of things, including:
– mumbling, “That’s crazy,” and not looking up from your phone.
– not responding
– telling them, “Well, you do have a crazy job, what did you expect?”
You don’t have to turn toward them every time. It’s incredibly difficult (and often impossible) to turn toward a child EVERY SINGLE TIME they ask you something. But the more you do, the more fulfilling the relationship will be. This is the number one thing you can do when you want to be a good wife and mom.
2. Spend meaningful time together
When learning how to be a good wife and mother, having fun together always strengthens your relationships! There are many ways to spend time with your partner, including spending good quality time together, doing things you both enjoy, and sharing activities like cooking or a good laugh together. You can really strengthen your bond by doing these things on a regular basis.
It creates happiness in the relationship and helps to iron out any differences you might have with each other. You have time to talk to each other and learn about what is going on in the other person’s life. (This is especially important for children who are learning and growing constantly!) When you spend quality time together, it’s essential that you have the next skill as well.
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3. Listen in order to be a good wife and mother
Being a good listener is integral to being a good wife and mom. Listening is good communication skill that is very useful in your marriage and with your kids. As a good listener, you give others the chance to talk out what’s in their mind like problems they have or just want to say.
Active listening looks like this: good eye contact, good body language like nodding your head and saying “uh-huh” or “I see”, good tone of voice like concern, empathy.
The good listener knows that the best way to listen is by asking questions at the right time to clarify what’s being said.
(You’ll notice similarities between “turning toward” in number 1 and active listening.)
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4. Show vulnerability
Being a good wife and mom means showing vulnerability. Shame researcher Brene Brown talks about how vulnerability makes leaders more courageous and connects them to others. (Yes, it can make you a better wife and mother, too.)
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”- Brené Brown
She also says, “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
So… what does vulnerability look like? It looks like putting down your walls or barriers to be real and honest in the face of uncertainty. Vulnerability always requires risk and can be emotionally overwhelming.
But in order to show your partner and children that they are in a safe space and encourage them to be open and honest with you, sometimes you have to take that risk and be open and honest with them.
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5. Be honest
Honesty is another quality of a good wife and mother that can be difficult sometimes. When it comes to difficult emotions, it’s yet another risk.
The good wife and mother tries to be non-judgmental and communicate feelings, problems, or needs with honesty. This is good for everyone involved since it helps restore trust within your relationship and also helps resolve an issue in a calm manner that can benefit you both!
Modeling honesty and openness for our children is incredibly mentally healthy for them and allows them to express their honesty as well (even if it takes them a while to learn how to do it calmly!)
6. Don’t put conditions on interactions
We do this with children a lot.
“I’m only going to speak with you when you’re ready to calm down.”
“I can only help you when you help yourself.”
Conditional love means that you accept, love, and/or support someone as long as they meet certain goals or standards, such as only giving your children positive attention when they follow directions.
The problem with this form of love is that the other person never knows how much “love” they have; what needs to be done in order for you to turn on your acceptance; and how good they must feel about themselves in order to receive it. This type of relationship can often feel like a competition or a game instead of an authentic connection.
Basically, conditional love is incredibly harmful to relationships. And it doesn’t only happen in parent-child relationships. It can also happen with your husband or partner.
Giving your partner the cold shoulder because they forgot to do their breakfast dishes again is a form of conditional love. Use unconditional love in order to be a better wife and mother.
7. Show interest in their interests
Showing interest in your partner’s life or your children’s life greatly enhances your relationship. This relates to number 3 above and number 9 below.
One of the worst things is to be so excited about something and have someone you love crush your feelings. Whether your child is geeking out about building their new Lego set, or your partner is so excited for his new promotion, sharing in their excitement will greatly enhance your connection with them.
After all, showing intense excitement can be a display of vulnerability from them (it opens them to emotional risk). Just like you modeled vulnerability above, you want to express your attention and interest when they show their own vulnerability.
Everyone in life deserves to fully enjoy the things that they like, without shame or punishment! (Hence why I fully support women embracing their guilty pleasures!)
8. Watch your judgment
When we judge others, we often send subconscious signals to those that we love about what we do or don’t want them to do. Judging is not a good way to be a good wife and mother.
Let’s say you have a teenage daughter, and so does your best friend. Your best friend’s daughter is struggling with her weight and she’s getting bullied a lot at school. You tell your daughter all about it and say, “I’m so thankful that you’re healthy and don’t have to go through that bullying.”
It seems innocuous at first, but really what you’re telling your daughter is that it makes you happy that she’s thin and you would be disappointed or burdened by dealing with her bullying if she was fat.
This is especially true if you tend to judge others a lot. Your children read between the lines much easier than you think and may feel inadequate or shameful if they develop a problem.
Being a good mother means that you are a safe person for your children to be around, and that goes for emotional safety as well.
The concept of watching judging or criticism also goes for your partner. Nitpicking or regularly criticizing them gets old really quick. And while your partner might not feel the same shame and inadequacy your children do, they may distance themselves from you in order to protect themselves, or they might also lash out and criticize you in return.
9. Ask meaningful questions
Asking meaningful questions is a great way to be a good wife and mom. When you ask someone questions you are supporting them. You are showing that you care and that you have an interest in what they do.
Don’t just ask generic questions! If you’ve spent time listening to them and geeking out with them about their interests, then you can ask them specific questions.
“How do you like your new office? Is Sheila still angry with you that you got the promotion over her?”
Or ask your kids, “What do you like best about your Lego set? What kinds of Legos would you want to build if you designed Legos for a living?”
Be specific and show interest!
10. Be accepting to be a good wife and mom
When we have expectations of what our life should look like, sometimes we don’t accept it when things look different.
Maybe you always had dreams of being a soccer mom, but your child has no interest in sports. Instead, they like dance and gymnastics. Accepting your child for who they are means giving up those expectations and embracing your life as a dance mom.
Accepting our partners is often more difficult. Most of us have very specific requirements for our romantic relationships, how they dress, how they behave, how they treat you, and what the focus of the relationship is.
Of course, I would advocate that you continue to keep (and express, when necessary) your expectations of how your partner treats you. So don’t get rid of all expectations! But many of those other things—their clothing choices, their hobbies, their friends, or even how the focus of the relationship changes over the years—should be flexible.
When you keep unrealistic expectations of your partner, you’re almost always going to be disappointed. Accept him or her for who they are and show them the love you want from them.
11. Apologize when you need to
Let’s face it: apologizing is hard. Especially when you actually messed up or when your husband or child expresses an honest and vulnerable need from you.
Not too long ago, when I was still figuring out how I could be a good wife and mom, our second son was learning how to sleep in his crib because he had co-slept most of his life. I was sleep-deprived and exhausted, so I kept bringing him into our bed when he would cry. My husband eventually expressed just how awful this was for him because it made him feel like he was being kicked out of his own bed.
I listened to him, apologized, and we were able to make some changes that benefitted everyone’s sleep!
The good news is that you don’t need to apologize all the time. Don’t apologize for upholding your boundaries. Apologize when you’ve hurt someone or when you’ve failed to listen. Apologize when you really, actually mess up. Be vulnerable, specific, and take ownership.
“I’m sorry you felt hurt”—that’s not an apology.
“I’m sorry for not listening the first time you said you didn’t want our son in our bed anymore. I’m sorry I hurt you.”
12. Learn their love language
There are 5 love languages: 1) touch, 2) words of affirmation, 3) quality time, 4) receiving gifts, and 5) acts of service.
Every person prefers to receive love from others through one (or a combination) of these five ways. When you have different love languages than your partner or children, it can result in challenging relationships.
For example, my own love language is words of affirmation, but my eldest son’s is acts of service. He loves when I do things for him, but I like to share loving words with him. I also prioritize teaching him to be independent. This results in a lot of head-butting.
I began to see that, “Oh! He’s not meaning to be obstinate! He just wants me to show him I love him by doing it for him!”
Once you make these realizations of differing love languages, you can act accordingly in a way that gives the other person what they desire while still expressing your own love language or expectations. This is a wonderful way to be a good wife and mother!
What if you do these things and your partner doesn’t notice that you’re being a good wife?
Here’s the thing. Being a good wife and mother doesn’t mean that your partner is automatically going to be a good husband to you.
And unfortunately, with the pervasive toxic masculinity in today’s culture, traditionally feminine traits and skills like listening, vulnerability, emotional supportive, and turning toward get snubbed by many men. They think it’s normal for the wife to be like this, but the man doesn’t need to do this.
In order to have a balanced relationship both people need to participate in these actions.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve done all these things, you’ve been the best partner, the best wife that you can, and your partner still doesn’t seem to appreciate you, the next step might be marriage counselling. And after getting professional help, if they still don’t feel that you’re being a good wife, it’s likely that they want you to sacrifice yourself for them–to be submissive, like a dog, rather than a human being.
I found myself in this situation many years ago when I got divorced from my first husband. You can learn more about the situation I went through with my divorce and finding a healthy, loving relationship here.
“How can I be a good wife and mom” can be answered with three words: prioritize the relationship.
Hopefully you can see that by focusing on your relationships with your partner and children that you can nurture healthy relationships, foster supportive emotional environments, and model good emotional regulation.
These are ways that you can have satisfactory, healthy, loving relationships with your partner and children for the rest of your life! They will thank you for being a good wife and mom!