Being the ‘good enough’ mother

I’m the first to acknowledge that I’ve spent the majority of my life as a perfectionist. An insatiable demand placed over myself, by myself. A desire to be the best, with little room left for my humanness. I never believed I was enough. I could write a whole post on how I have begun to let go of perfectionism in the last few years as a parent and how freeing I’ve found it, but that’s for another day.

This post is for us Mum’s who often don’t feel good enough.

When did ‘good enough’ stop becoming good enough?

As children we welcomed a ‘tick’ on our school work. Little validations in scrawled marks telling us that we met the standard. Good enough used to be good. It used to be enough.

‘Good enough’ has been steam rolled by perfectionism and comparison. Good enough is now substandard. Pah! Who’d want to be good enough when you could be GREAT? We see snapshots of other people’s mothering, and we merge them together into one supposedly attainable ideal of what it is to be a ‘great mum’.

Perhaps it’s the increase in social media. Tiny little Instagram squares feeding this belief that others are mothering better than we are. They are coping better, parenting better. They shout less, cook more, look nicer, never argue in front of the kids, gaze at their phone less, and NEVER ever want to run away and hide in the kitchen with wine.

How come when we compare ourselves to others, we tend to come off worse?

Winnicot was a Psychoanalyst and parenting expert in the 1950’s. He studied thousands of mothers and knew the emotional, physical and mental energy required to raise these small people. He summarised that the way to be a good mother, is to be a ‘good enough’ mother.

Good – acceptable, positive, satisfactory, valuable, worthy, agreeable, admirable

Enough – abundant, ample, sufficient, suitable, acceptable, competent, decent, sufficing

Mother – source, origin, creator

Good enough takes into account our humanness, with all of our failures and our limits. Imperfection becomes positive.

It’s healthy for children to be failed in tolerable ways in the context of relationship with a loving parent. We are teaching them how to survive in an imperfect world that will fail and disappoint. Parenting is a long-haul job, it’s a daily grind. We mother through sickness, highs and lows, sleep deprivation, PMT. We need to have more grace for ourselves.

Guilt fills the void between the mother we think we should be, and the mother we are.

I should be more patient
I shouldn’t be letting my little one watch so much TV
I should be doing more,
giving more,
loving more,
I should be more.
I am not enough

The very fact that we feel this guilt says that we are probably doing a fab job. But perhaps we need to change the language we use.

‘Should’s are aggressively critical, pointing the finger, breeding guilt and stifling action. This language slowly chips away at self-acceptance and worth.

Perhaps the ‘should’s are alerting you to areas for change and tweaks. Turn it into a “hey, let’s grab a book”, an encouragement for action, rather than an an action stifling criticism.

When you offer your children consistent love as a base, no matter what the day holds, or whether sleep deprivation induced impatience leaves you snappy and highly strung (my hand is up here!), or the TV does the babysitting whilst you tear around the house tidying yesterday’s chaos…. you are good enough.

So, beautiful Mum’s. You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.

SM x

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