The Good Enough Parent👩👦
This week, I found myself talking a lot about the concept of the "good enough parent." Many of the moms I work with experience extreme guilt or anxiety when they feel they fail in some area or when they spend a moment of their day focused on something other than their child.
One client I spoke with earlier this week is not a parent (by choice), and talked about the fear of "messing a child up" or never getting it right as a parent.
I briefly got on my soap box and talked about how there's no such thing as a perfect parent. My personal motto is, "I'm gonna #&$% them up somehow; let me just strive for minimal damage."
In the 50's, pediatrician & pscyhoanalyst Dr. Donald Winnicott coined the phrase "the good-enough mother" and cautioned that aiming to be a "perfect parent" can actually create some unintended problems for your child--such as unrealistic expectations, the inability to self-soothe or tolerate frustration, and a lifetime of their own struggles with perfectionism and feeling good enough.
Despite Dr. Winnicott's research, almost 7 decades later, so many parents are still struggling with parenting perfectionism. Dr. Winnicott said:
"A mother is neither good nor bad nor the product of illusion but is a separate and independent entity: The good-enough mother ... starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant’s needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure. Her failure to adapt to every need of the child helps them adapt to external realities."
I love Dr. Winnicott's quote, but I'd prefer not to use the word "failure."
The inability to respond to every single need of a child in the moment is not a failure, but a reality, and one that we'd do well to embrace.
This week, try to remember that being a perfect parent is an unrealistic and impossible goal, and one that isn't even healthy for your children in the long-run.
Instead, strive to be "good enough," giving your children the love, attention, and nurturing they need, while also recognizing that nobody is perfect and you will inevitably drop some balls or get things wrong at times. It's okay. You are doing a great job.