I suggested (and am forcing on you) focusing on gratitude this month. We choose what we are thankful for, absolutely. Sometimes, though, I feel like we overlook one of the most obvious places in which we might focus our gratitude: on our own efforts. I want to talk for a minute about being grateful for effort and for showing up. Being grateful for caring and for doing our best. Being grateful for investing everything we have, even if it isn’t what me might consider to be perfect.
I get tired of trying to meet the (probably unrealistic) expectations I create for myself. Or that my kids 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 amazing craft abilities, or the perfect hairdo you make for yourself or for the kids. Sometimes, it isn't about your coloring abilities or the high-brow-ness of the books you read 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 is about being good enough. And that's okay. Let’s be grateful we can give our best effort, be good enough.
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 (perhaps most importantly) to mean it. Oh, the effort it takes to cook and clean and pack lunches and participate in bake sales. Sometimes, good enough is good enough, and that is completely okay.
Please don't think I am a proponent of mediocrity. I am not suggesting that one should do things half-assed or without completion. I am not saying to slap things together. What I am saying is that it is okay that you are not number one because a) the people that 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 which means more than not, and you ALWAYS show up; and d) you, my friend, are worth taking some of that time that you invest into others and gift it to yourself. 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 doing two or three other things. Or just sitting, and enjoying it. No guilt. Let’s be grateful for the effort we contribute, and give ourselves a break if it isn’t award-winning.
I have news for you: you ARE imperfect. You are not actually going to be able to Do.It.All. Why not, you ask? Well, don’t forget, you ARE human. Besides, remember that letting your kids see you not be perfect allows them compassion for themselves when they 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), 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 giving up when things don’t go your way. In every ‘oops’ there is an ‘a-ha’ to be found. By not being perfect, we start seeing possibilities for change, for improvement. Being ‘good enough’ does not mean you are not nurturing. Beyond that, letting your kid not have Perfect Mom there to fix everything 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, he’ll learn not to pack that for himself next time. These are as important life lessons as are those like tying shoes, ABCs, and favorite Christmas traditions. Being a ‘good enough’ mom actually helps your kid develop their own individual skills that will 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. Let’s be grateful for our kids gaining independence. That is, after all, the point of parenthood.
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, and they remember my being there more than if I make every shot I take when 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 than if I can amaze them with my athletic prowess. I show up. I don’t do it especially well (i.e. basketball. I can do other sports much better!), but 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, make every basket and can out-frost Betty Crocker. Show up, be present, be real.
‘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) and sitting there beside your kid watching the YouTube video guy do it over and over until you understand, too. ‘Good enough’ means taking a Me day from work when you just need it. ‘Good enough’ means taking the time for a mani/pedi because you need the down time. ‘Good enough’ means using a mix for the cake or brownies. And ‘good enough’ means being grateful for all you have, and making sure the ones who matter the most know how much they matter to you.
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 wrapping job on the gift for the birthday party doesn’t look like something Martha Stewart created. Be good enough. Be grateful for it, 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; they appreciate and are grateful for it. Especially those people who matter the most.