updated 1/5/2007 12:52:45 PM ET 2007-01-05T17:52:45

Quit being so hard on moms! That's the message many of you had when we asked if mothers today are held up to unachievable standards.

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A recent “Growing Up Healthy” column on motherhood explored how passing judgement on mothers has become a popular American pastime. It's time to cut it out, many of you wrote in to say.

"Good mothers come in many styles, and no mother is a perfect mother," wrote one.

Maybe it's time to also hold dads responsible too, some said. "Let’s concentrate on what is expected of fathers for a change and their responsibilities in the etiology of a balanced, well-adjusted mom!," wrote one reader.

Others suggested that what makes a good mom isn't whether she stays home with her kids and makes their lunches, but rather how happy and fulfilled she is. If she takes care of herself, she can enjoy her children more, some said.

"We were people before we were moms, and we need to remember that — so does the rest of the world! The best 'new mom' gift I ever got, and one I give all the time now, is a couple’s night out AND some pampering for the mom, complete with free babysitting. Nobody needs or should be watched all the time, moms or dads," wrote one reader.

But like it or not, children do see their parents as examples another reader pointed out: "If they can’t be a good judge of themselves, how will they teach their children?"

Read on for more reader response:

Mothers are only human. How are we to show our kids how to live life if we ourselves have not lived it? I had my son at age 18. His father was not present and I had to make many mistakes and partied and was still there for my son. My family took a lot of the slack, I will admit. But to this day I am the one who is able to show my son the reality of being a teen today and how to have self esteem for who he is. I talk to him about sexuality and protecting himself. I make him feel normal for wanting to march to his own beat. These are things my old fashioned parents didn’t teach me that I had to go learn on my own and by myself.
Naomi Rodriguez, Stockton, Calif.

As a young mother (same age as Britney and with back-to-back pregnancies), I would like to point out that children do sleep. When my husband and I go out it is always after our two children are tucked away for the night. Our fun does not intrude upon the amount they are fed or read to because they are asleep. In defense of Britney, who I do not think is super-mom, she has shown a great deal more presence with her children than other celebrity moms. She seems to be very bonded with Sean and seems to enjoy holding him. I’m sure he’s nurtured while with her.
Amy Briggs, Roswell, N.M.

As much as we would like to [think] that society has learned to accept a mother as more than a JUST a house wife, we haven’t. The expectations are even higher! Mothers are expected to be able to work a 40-hour week, be able to keep a clean and tidy home, tend to not just to her kids, but to her husband, and have a hot meal at the end of the day, and on top of all this she is not able to go out with the girls one night a month or so for a few drinks because it might be viewed as wrong in society's eyes. The father is still able to have a life away from the home, but a woman has not. Why is it that when someone makes a mistake, everyone notices, but do something right, be surprised by an acknowledgement. I am referring to Britney Spears’ current behavior. We really don’t know what her life is actually like, we are judging her by what we have seen in snapshots. Does she not have the right to go out and enjoy herself after what was probably a horrific year for her? If a mother is doing her motherly duties and yet the extra duties of everyday life, she should be allowed to enjoy herself too. Every person, including fathers, should be able to separate their lives from father/mother to employee to husband/wife and enjoy the pleasures of life ... if you don’t, then what is the point of living if you can’t enjoy it!
— Nuemi Mora, Racine, Wis.

I had a stay-at-home mother who read to me, had lunches packed, etc., and was also completely manipulative, brainwashed me into hating my father and sister, lied to get attention as a victim. Maybe she should have gone out and partied a few times and then she could have actually been a “good” mother.
Erica, Arizona

Behind every stressed out mom there is a man who doesn’t shoulder his amount of emotional, spiritual and financial responsibility to his family. A good family man recognizes the need for the mother of his children to have the necessary co-parenting partnership that gives everyone balance. Let’s concentrate on what is expected of fathers for a change and their responsibilities in the etiology of a balanced, well-adjusted mom!
Mary Zorn, Dallas, Texas

As a mom, you should be setting the standards you are held to, and those should consider the best interests of your children, your family, your career and yourself. Only when you create the standard that is right for you and your family, and get buy in and support from those closest to you, can you achieve success as a mother. It is fair to say, though, that immaturity and/or poor judgment can make it difficult to recognize appropriate standards. But that does not mean that you should allow society to set them — you should shape up, recognize what is important, and do what needs to be done.
Tracy, Woodbine, Md.

Motherhood is overrated. Kids are being cared for as much by fathers as mothers these days because women do not want to be mothers anymore. Jobs and having an identity outside the home have become the things that women strive to achieve, putting off motherhood for far too many years to actually have any energy to give to children, which leaves child-rearing largely up to men. So when you see some mother out partying and leaving her kids behind, the kids are probably with dad.
Steve M., Cranston, R.I.

We were people before we were moms, and we need to remember that; so does the rest of the world! The best “new mom” gift I ever got, and one I give all the time now, is a couple’s night out AND some pampering for the mom, complete with free babysitting. Nobody needs or should be watched all the time, moms or dads. We need to let parents be people, make mistakes and be there for each other. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals or pause buttons! I’ve always been “looked down upon” as a mother because I am one of those moms who will let my hair down, admit to my kid when I’ve made a mistake and thinks it’s OK to have hot fudge sundaes for breakfast once in a while. I’m not over-involved, but am always there (and have been) when my son needed me and been an active part of his life. As a result, now that he is 17, we can talk about almost anything, and it's my opinion he seeks (and actually listens to sometimes!). He doesn’t see me as intruding, and we have a very close relationship. Be yourself first, then be the best mom YOU can be. Nobody should ask more of you than that.
DM, New London, N.H.

The discussion “overdevotion” and the “measure of being a good mother” mixes issues. In the case of overdevotion, the issue takes a jab at mothers without focusing on the cutting to the question of makes good parenting. Good parenting includes giving kids responsibilities, chances to make decisions, and the like. It takes great devotion (and flexibility and a sense of humor and the ability to learn on the job) to do that.
Kelley Coyner, Arlington, Va.

Yes, we are held up to unachievable standards. The thing is, we are exposed to media versions of a “good mom” and we internalize them. Whereas our grandmothers compared themselves to real mothers, we compare ourselves to idealized versions of mothers as delivered by the media — everything from TV commercials to television shows. While we also have celebrity moms like Britney Spears to show us what a “bad mom” is, in a subtle way that reinforces (by contrast) the ideal of “good mom.” I think Janet Penley’s message in "MotherStyles" — that good mothers come in many styles, and no mother is a perfect mother — is very needed by moms of all ages. I’m a mom of a teen and preteen, and I still wrestle with this. Her message has helped me a lot.
Diane Eble, Winfield, Ill.

As a 70-year-old mother of six by age 32, I did my share of cooking, bathing and, yes, spanking. My children will tell you they always did and do feel loved. Would I do it different today? Maybe some things, but overall no. I would not try to be pals with my children. That’s for school chums, aunts and uncles. Just be momma.
Opal Holt, Newport, Tenn.

Yes, mothers are held up to unbelievable standards of becoming the June Cleaver type of mom, and at this time when it is almost impossible to survive on one income per household how can any woman become June Cleaver? Men are expected to work, and that is all. Anything beyond that “should be appreciated because he didn’t have to.” However, a woman is required to go to work, come home, help kids with homework, make dinner, do activities/sports/miscellaneous, and then clean. By the end of the day she is tired, irritable, and doesn’t want to talk to her partner. I am not saying that is how all families work, but that is “standard/normal.”
Sheina, Vermont

Society still holds mothers to a very high standard but open your eyes, people! Take a look around at how involved the young men of today are. I have a son that does 90 percent of the care of his small child. Mom is out going to movies alone, enjoying time at the gym, shopping, etc., while Dad is picking son up from day care and going home to get supper ready and do the laundry. He takes care of the baby if he wakes in the night and when he wakes in the morning. I am all for getting the guys to help out, but the compromise should be just that, a compromise — each should do 50 percent so that no one is overstressed. I am in my early 50s and in my day Dad was the breadwinner only and Mom was in charge of all child care. Society definitely expected the mothers to be saintly and our job was solely to be a mother. I am proud that my son is so involved and think he is a wonderful father, but think maybe the wheels have turned a bit too far when he has to be both the main breadwinner and the child-care provider.

Double standard, again. Yes.
Nick, Georgia

Who are June Cleaver and Donna Reed? I think you need examples your younger readers can relate to, not those from the black and white TV era. Perhaps they are still on "TVLand"? I’m not one of your younger readers, so I remember June and Donna very well. I don't know any moms, including my own, that were expected to be like June and Donna. None of my friends moms were expected to be like June and Donna. I didn’t hold my wife and I don’t hold my daughter to that TV standard. I don’t know anyone who does. I guess I’ve lived an unsheltered life. Celebs are always in the public eye and receive criticism all the time. That’s part of the territory. We’ll need to see how Britney’s kids turn out to know whether she was a bad mom.
Bill Lang, Milwaukee, Wis.

Yes. The stay-at-home mom is not fulfilling her potential. Especially if she has a college degree, she is not pulling her weight in the marriage. She is a clingy, over-protective mom. On the other hand, the mom who works outside the home is letting someone else raise her kids. She is probably working just for more “stuff.” She is not “there” for her kids when they are sick, when they have special things at school. In other words, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t! To me what is most important is that we love our kids and are content doing whatever we do — stay at home, or work outside the home.
Jane Easter, Rolla, Mo.

No, I think mothers create their own standards. They become the lead force in the family and that becomes a big responsibility. They have flaws and faults just like every one else. If they walk into it with insecurities they will lose themselves in the role. There is a right and a wrong, mothers should not be exposing their C-sections and everything else in that area. If they can’t be a good judge of themselves, how will they teach their children?
Kathleen, Basking Ridge, N.J.

Mothers are not held to high enough standards. If women don’t want to be devoted mothers, maybe they should think about why they felt they should have children in the first place.

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