Good enough Mom (and dad)
If you hear nothing else today, I hope you hear me when I say you are good enough. You and all you do are good enough, and you should know that your kids love you for it.
I get tired of trying to meet the (probably unrealistic) expectations I create for myself. Or that (I imagine) my family create for me. Or that I imagine other moms have for themselves (and therefore I must apply to myself). Sometimes, it isn't about how much you do, or how great you are, or how amazing you cook. Sometimes, it isn't about your awe-inspiring craft abilities. Sometimes, it isn't about your coloring abilities or how much time you invest in reading to your kids. Sometimes, it is not about how great you’ve coordinated your outfit or having the best slogan on your t-shirt. Sometimes, it isn’t about having the coolest job or earning the biggest salary. Sometimes, it is about being good enough. And that's okay.
You know what I am talking about. Oh, the effort it takes to be the perfect mother/spouse/sister-in-law/daughter/neighbor/PTO member/volunteer! Oh, the effort it takes to accomplish all that you do during the day, accomplish it with amazing ability and clarity, and still be pleasant to those around you. To still – after all of that – reach out and hug your kid(s) and to (perhaps most importantly) mean it. Oh, the effort it takes to cook and clean and pack lunches and contribute to the myriad of other (usually last-minute) calls for action from school or work. Sometimes, good enough is good enough, and that is completely okay.
And look at what we have contributed to the family during the seemingly never-ending awful pandemic! We filled the roles of teacher/IT technician/PE assistant/supply chief/full-time cook to include short-order lunches/housekeeper/laundress/yearbook photographer/assignment reviewer/fight marshal/confidante/etc. We do all this, and in many cases, carry a full work load, too, all from the comfort (and confines) of home. It’s been exhausting, right, to do all of these roles, shifting seamlessly from one hat to the next, reading the crowd, knowing how to respond. And you’ve definitely fulfilled these roles more than “good enough.” As we shift back to life “in-person,” our kids rely on us again heavily to relearn social cues and interactions, to spend extra time on sports drills missed during lockdowns, and to rebuild confidences with interactions with people outside the safe family circle. Sleepovers, playdates and sports teams are all again possible, but this means moving outside of the confines of house and out from under the umbrella of mama’s watchful care… this is as it should be, but it still feels new and awkward. Try as we might, we can’t maintain the family-only time we have enjoyed the last several months; try as we might, we have to let our kids return to normal. And try as we might, we will watch our kids fall a few times as they figure out their path. You have done an amazing job with your kids; your good enough is definitely good enough and they will be okay. A few tumbles never hurt anybody; a few tumbles will teach them that they can fall, and they can falter, and they can still get back up and make it on their way.
The thing about all of these hats you are wearing: you do this on top of working. And yes, I mean WORKING even if you do not have employment outside of the house. The responsibilities of home do not reduce though the responsibility of an outside job increase; these tasks still need to be taken care of, regardless of how many other hands are tugging at your proverbial pant leg. Demands of outside employment are important, yes; as important as tasks at home? I guess that is up to you to decide.
Please don't think I am a proponent of mediocrity. I am not encouraging you to do any of these things half-assed or without completion. Parenting is a HUGE job; I’m not saying to slap things together. What I am saying is that it is okay that you aren't always number one because a) the people who love you most already think you ARE number one without you winning any meatloaf contests; b) your best is pretty damn good; c) just showing up, just trying as much as we both know you will means more than anything else, and you ALWAYS show up; and d) you, my friend, are a worthy recipient of some of the time you are pouring into others. If you don't do everything else 100% -- say just 90% -- then you will have time to sit and read those last 10 pages of your book. Or finish your coffee while it's still warm. Or actually sit down to eat your lunch instead of eating it while standing and finishing two or three other things. Or just sitting and enjoying a minute of stillness. No guilt. “Good enough” can net you that 10 minutes.
I have news for you: you are imperfect. You are not actually going to be able to Do.It.All. Don’t forget, you ARE human. Remember this: when your kids see you not be perfect, it allows them the chance to allow themselves to make mistakes, too. And when they see you accept being “good enough” (or learning from your mistakes and growing, rather than getting upset and uptight, having a huff and giving up), they too will start to emulate that ability (which is a good thing. I’m sure you’ve heard of growth mindset…). Being good enough doesn’t mean shrugging and giving up when things don’t go your way. Instead, it is allowing for the possibility that in every ‘oops’ there is an ‘a-ha.’ By not being perfect, we start seeing possibilities for change, for improvement, for growth, for something different. Being “good enough” does not mean you are not nurturing. Beyond that, letting your kid not have Perfect Mom present allows him to learn how to do things for himself. Your kid packing his own lunch box is not your failure, my friend. That is the perfect opportunity for him to learn how to do one more thing for himself… and you know what? If he hates his pickle-and-peanut-butter sandwich, then he’ll learn not to pack that for himself next time. These are as important life lessons as are those BIGGIES like tying shoes, ABCs, and favorite Christmas traditions. Being a “good enough” mom actually helps your kid develop their own individual and independent skills that will successfully take them from under your roof to the great big world … and if you ask me, the more self-reliant they can be out there, the better.
Confession time: I am really really bad at basketball. Really bad, but you know what? When my kids ask, I go out there, and I play with them. They remember my being there more than if I manage to get the ball into the net each time we play (which, let’s be honest, will never happen anyway). It means more to them that I am out there, spending time with them, chatting about the latest in the world of basketball, who is on which team, and how many rebounds they may have made recently; that time spent means so much more than if I were to amaze them with my athletic prowess. I show up. And I laugh and giggle just like they do. In real life with the people who love you best, this is what matters more than if you ace every contest and can out-frost Betty Crocker. Show up, be present, be real. Belly laugh and get sweaty. Create those inside jokes. And seriously, leave the phone behind.
Good enough means being there when you can. Good enough means ordering in when you need to. Good enough means googling the darn long division (there are about a dozen methods, anyway). Good enough means taking a Me day from work when you need it. Good enough means taking the time for a mani/pedi or a hair appointment because you need the down time. Good enough means using a mix for the cake or brownies, and making the batch together with your kid(s). Good enough means making sure the ones who matter know how much they matter each and every day.
So you don’t wear high heels to pick up your kids from preschool. So you wear the same exercise pants two days in a row. Sometimes your gift wrapping job on the birthday gift isn’t going win any Martha Stewart awards. Be good enough. And accept that it is, indeed, good enough. This is the truth, my friends: people do not see your flaws as vividly as you do. (Okay, admittedly, nor will they see your accomplishments as clearly, either.) What they do see is you trying, showing up, doing your best, and they appreciate it. Especially the people who matter the most.
For further reading: