The Good Mum Project

academic parenting

Jilly MacKay


March 21, 2024

This post contains discussion about post-partum anxiety/depression. If that’s not for you today, come back another time. <3


I became a parent in 2022 and it was so, so hard.

In many ways, it was incredibly easy. I’m middle class, cis, white, married, we conceived quickly, had an easy pregnancy, and we have great family and friend networks around us. We had excellent care from the NHS throughout my pregnancy, from the midwives, to the delivery team, to the health visitor who came after. I have many privileges as a parent.

But I was not surprised at all when I developed Post Partum Anxiety/Depression. I remember our kindly health visitor looking up at me after scoring my mental health questionnaire and saying “you have scored quite highly here”. She glanced at my husband. He nodded. He wasn’t surprised either.

I have dealt with anxiety for most of my adult life. One of my biggest issues is perfectionism, wanting to be the best I can possibly be. My standards for myself and far and beyond my standards for other people. I can afford other parents much more grace than I give myself. I don’t blink an eye at a parent in the shops shouting at their child, or losing their patience, but I cannot allow it in myself. About ten years ago, a University of Edinburgh counsellor observed “You have quite a lot of ego, don’t you?” and it’s true.

While I was learning how to parent, I also had to relearn all my coping mechanisms for my anxiety. My daughter is now two, and my anxiety isn’t fixed. I still don’t really know how to parent, and I often make mistakes that seem avoidable. The very week I wrote this I was crying to my husband one evening that if I died tomorrow, my daughter would only remember me as a terrifying ogre because I got so frustrated I yelled at her.

It’s important to say - this is not true. But that’s what anxiety does. It tricks you.

One of my most used strategies to cope with my anxiety is to finish my nightly diary entry with ‘one good thing’. Every night, I write a diary entry about the day, and when my mental health is suffering, I like to end it off with one good thing about the day. In 2023, I decided to make it my ‘Good Mum Moment’. One thing I did that day that made me feel good about my parenting. And I think it helped.

At the new year, I looked back over these moments, and I wanted to do something with the data.

So this is my Good Mum Project.


I reviewed my 2023 diary and, for each day, extracted the ‘Good Mum Moment’. This was most typically a 2-3 line sentence. The vast majority were actions that I had taken (or restrained myself from taking) with very few passive experiences. I don’t record a diary entry on every single day, and on some days I forgot to record the Good Mum Moment. Where possible (n=5), I retro-actively described a Good Mum Moment, but over the 365 days of the year, I had 51 (14%) entries with no data.

From there, I categorised the moments into a Primary Category, and after reviewing the year, I had these condensed into twelve categories, plus the No Data category. The categories were:

Example moments:

Accepting Imperfection

Engaging in a lot of messy learning play


Saying sorry for scaring her and mending the rift

Basic Needs

Feeding her snacks before dinner so she didn’t meltdown when she got into her chair

Hold Boundaries

Being firm when she threw her snacks in a fit of rage. She recovered well

My Self-Regulation

Didn’t shout at her once even though she was getting on my tits, instead I took her to the park where she had a blast

Parental Teamwork

Sending her and daddy off so I could get better in peace (I was unwell)

Providing Comfort/ Help

I thought about calling these Category ‘Self Sacrifice’ but it wasn’t the vibe I was going for.

Giving up all my miso and holding the bowl so she could spoon it on in

Quality Time

Changed the words of the Tiger Who Came to Tea to make it about her which she loved

Social Provisions

Organising and going through with a trip into town to see our friends and get culture

Support Feelings

Verbalising what I thought she was feeling in her dinner tantrum and helping her de-escalate

Supporting Independence

Helping her retrieve a dirty snail shell that she found interesting

Teaching & New Experiences

Letting her brush her teeth herself and praising what she did well


I then of course imported this data into R and couldn’t help doing a little text mining and frequency exploration.


The most prevalent category was ‘Quality Time’ at 19% of entries, with Social Provisions being the least prevalent category at 1%.

Frequency of ‘Good Mum Moments’ types observed in 2023
Primary Count Proportion
Social provisions 5 1%
Apologising 7 2%
Parental teamwork 8 2%
Hold boundaries 11 3%
Accepting imperfection 17 5%
Teaching and New Experiences 18 5%
Basic needs 20 5%
Provide comfort/help 24 7%
My self-regulation 25 7%
No data 51 14%
Supporting Independence 51 14%
Support Feelings 57 16%
Quality Time 71 19%

Frequency of ‘Good Mum Moments’ types observed in 2023

Quality Time was most frequently observed on a Tuesday or Wednesday (both nursery days) and Supporting Feelings seemed to be most prevalent on a weekend.

Most frequent ‘Good Mum Moment’ type by day of the week in 2023

The most commonly used words were:

The most unique words within a category were:

Most unique word in top Good Mum Moment categories


Now we come to the idea I’d always had. I love data blankets - see this gorgeous temperature blanket planner for examples. At one point, I considered creating a data blanket of my daughter’s sleep, but that felt too depressing. So I wondered, could I make a blanket of my good mum moments?

I swatched out a range of crochet and knit stitches on a few different yarns, but quickly went for the Rainbow Cotton 8/4 yarn from Hobbii, as its one I’ve used a lot for baby clothes and I really like it. I also thought it had a good mix of range of colours and, if I miscalculated, difference between dye lots hopefully wouldn’t be too obvious.

I arbitrarily picked a series of colours for each category and assigned them to the categories. You’ve been seeing html approximations of them throughout this post.

After consulting with my husband, I decided I would go for a crochet stitch. While I generally prefer the feeling and drape of a knitted blanket, it wasn’t going to be achievable for me in the size I was going for. I ended up choosing linen stitch as it was my husband’s preferred look, easy to do while watching telly, and relatively quick.

For the moment of truth, I ran a mock-up of the blanket as a striped version and came up with this.

I was now confident I liked the colours, the arrangement, and the idea of a striped blanket, so I looked to see how many stitches I got out of a metre of yarn, the size of my swatch, and did some quick maths to calculate how much yarn I’d need for a king size blanket. I then added a ball for safety onto each estimate and ordered it all at once to try and get one yarn lot.

A large pile of cotton yarn balls of various colours

My many balls of yarn for my Good Mum Project Blanket

I laid my foundation chain and started crocheting. At the time of writing I am 5% of the way there.

The beginning of my Good Mum Project Blanket

The beginnings of my blanket


Lately I have started reading Matrescence by Lucy Jones. It’s a bit of an odd book, mostly the author’s personal reflections scattered through with some of the limited science regarding parental health and wellbeing during and after pregnancy. There’s much of it I find hard to relate to: Jones’ deterimination for a natural birth, her subsequent home births, her guilt over being unable to breastfeed, but I find the snippets of research fascinating. I related to the evidence showing that mothers have excellent visual memory after parenting. I can recall exactly where a toy is in my house. I nodded when Jones talked about the dearth of research showing that mothers have poorer memory in general. Women report poorer cognitive function post childbirth, but don’t show it in tests. I’m exhausted, yes, but there’s nothing wrong with my mental faculties.

One of the interesting early points Jones makes is that we don’t have much of a ritual or event for celebrating a person’s transition into parenthood, so I’ve started to think of this blanket as my matrescence celebration. This is how I’m commemorating this big life transition, with a cuddly blanket that will live on my bed, and remind me of the times I felt good about parenting.

I’m pleased that over the year I was mainly able to focus on actions that made me feel like a good mum. There are some places where I more took advantage of a privilege, but I think most days I was quite consistent at finding something I did which was good.

And its nice to see ‘Quality Time’ come up so frequently in my good moments. This was most often just sitting reading a book, or going for a walk, or just playing a game. A nice reminder that all I really need to do is turn up.