My current case load at work has me still in my pondering. I do a lot of juvenile work - Children in Need of Assistance (CINA). From this I have learned that there are all kinds of families, and all kinds of mothers. I have also learned that the Department of Human Services, in the CINA realm, has the authority to define what "family," "parenting," and a "mother" should be. In general, I will say that I agree with DHS about the big things: you feed your kids, you know where they are (or where they are supposed to be), you clothe them, and you don't physically or emotionally harm them. But I disagree with the DHS philosophy that there is a way that a family is supposed to "be."
Every family is different. Each parent brings into the family his or her own life experience, personality and idea of what parenting should be. Each child brings a new personality into the family as well. There is no Cookie Cutter family. Remember the movie Pleasantville, with Reese Witherspoon? That is the DHS idea of "family." Hardly attainable, even by those of us who are fortunate enough to have education and employment on our sides.
I've learned through my experience working with parents in these CINA cases that no matter what, most parents genuinely love their children. But in the realm of juvenile law, love isn't enough. It seems to be the ability to express the love and convert it into "parenting" that causes so many problems. By DHS standards, my home would be inappropriate for my children because at various times I have: allowed my son and daughter to sleep in my bed; spanked my children (which I do only when they are VERY naughty); left my 8 year old son home alone for 10 minutes and put vinegar in my son's mouth for swearing. (Some of you are now gasping in horror, but anyone who has met my kids can tell you they are none the worse for these things.)
I guess my whole point with this is that there is no "perfect" family - there are no perfect parents - I certainly know that I'm not one. I love and care for my kids the best way that I know how. And 95% of the parents that I represent in CINA cases do the same. Unfortunately, they don't always measure up to the DHS standard of what parenting should be. Most of us are fortunate enough not be under a microscope; we have the luxury of not being judged for our every move. It is easy to judge when you are on the outside looking in, but judgment never helped anyone.