Bento Boxes And The Art Of Being A Good Mom

March 12, 2021
Written by:
Crystal Esteves

“You’re such a good Mom.” I can feel that little shot of dopamine hit my brain as I read the latest comment on a photo of my adorable daughter sipping tea in a café with (apparent) perfect manners. “You are giving your children the best education,” another person posts on a photo of my son playing with some Maasai children in Tanzania. “You are so brave,” on a photo of us swimming with whale sharks. (I always wonder if that one really means “You are so crazy!”) The list of comments that can easily feed my ego, goes on. Whether these comments come from strangers on social media, or the loving friends and family cheerleading us on in life, it seems we so easily find ourselves craving the approval of others.

We let these off-hand comments of others, good or bad, determine our opinion of ourselves and affect our decision making, even if indirectly.

In an effort to be real with myself and actually do my children the service of being a good mom, I have to ask myself what that really means. How does one achieve “good mom” status and, beyond the opinions of others, am I really living up to it?

Attention From Others Does Not Define You As A Parent

Have you ever sees the parents who make their kids those crazy awesome bento box lunches for school, each day with a little handwritten inspirational note? How about the ones that sew their kids over-the-top, amazing, Broadway-worthy costumes to wear to Disney World? This one mom even travels all over the world with her kids and goes on these epic adventures with them. (*wink*) Clearly, then, what makes them a “good mom” is going overboard in some aspect of their child’s life and then broadcasting it to the world so everyone else can feel inferior to these extreme demonstrations of love and devotion.

But wait, is it also possible that maybe they are just parents who really enjoy cooking, sewing, or traveling, and are happy to have children they can share this with?

It is very easy to get caught up in the need to do things that are praise-worthy to gain some form of reassurance from the world that we are good parents, even though it quite often has very little, or nothing, to do with being a good parent. We cannot know the motivation of others. Maybe “bento box mom” ignores her kids all day while she is making crane shaped radishes for their lunches in the hopes of getting more likes than she did last week when she made smoked salmon roses. Maybe her kids throw it all in the garbage and eat their friends’ tater tots instead. Or, maybe she is the most loving, caring, and attentive mother in the world, and she just also happens to love making her kids bento boxes.

What I’m saying is we don’t know, and bento box making skills is hardly a sound basis to judge her, or our, parenting skills. Admire her art, but don’t read more into it.  You are neither failing nor succeeding as a parent simply because of bento boxes. Get my point?

There Is No Perfect System

We have established there’s no need to perfect our panda-shaped rice ball skills to earn the approval of others. We can now move onto the Amazon best-sellers list and see what the professionals, and self-proclaimed professionals, tell us. We’ll learn about what parenting system we use, what products we should be buying, which form of school/curriculum we should be using, and what essential oils we should be defusing.

It’s a pretty common saying that “you haven’t really parented until you have had more than one kid.” My dad always thought this was because with two or more kids, it was much harder to figure out who broke the lamp. Yet now that I have two kids, I realize it’s because siblings are wildly different from one another and no two kids need the same parenting.

When I was pregnant with my first kid, in-between perfecting my Spirulina, chia seed, and kumquat baby bento box recipe, I made sure to read every parenting book on the market.  I know you are now waiting for me to tell you how none of them worked, but actually they were really helpful. I learned a lot of different things and I have been able to apply much of it, without totally subscribing to any single system. I can use what works, and not use what doesn’t work.

The only time I have really had problems was when I was convinced something had to work because a book, or product, or well-meaning person, told me it would work. With that perspective, I became more caught up in making the system work than listening to my child’s needs.

How To Actually Be A Good Mom

Here is the deal: I can’t tell you how to be a good mom, a bento box mom can’t tell you how, nor can the latest parenting guru. We are not the ones raising your kids. But, since you hung in for the whole article, here is my opinion and what I strive for while aspiring to be a “good mom.”

A “good mom” is someone who works to know herself and to know her children. She is someone who constantly re-evaluates, can adapt to her children’s changing needs, and is not bogged down by rules and systems. While she seeks the advice of others, she is not ruled by the opinion of others. She gets lost, and makes mistakes, but she can admit them–even to her children–and learn from them. She defines her values and works to prioritize where her energy is best spent for building the relationship she wants to have with her children.

There is also a good chance she might just make a mean tofu teriyaki.

More About the Author

The Esteves family left the states in late February to travel the world full time. Just three weeks later Covid-19 hit and changed everything. They ended up spending 7 months in Mexico having some amazing adventures. Recently they made the jump to Tanzania Africa where they are living more like locals and less like tourists in an effort to give their kids a more unique and in-depth cultural experience. Share in their adventures as they document both the good times and the fiascos while navigating their way around the world in these uncertain times. Their YouTube channel is Culture Trotters. Get daily photos of their experiences on Instagram @culturetrotters.