Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Be Good Enough

One of the best things about Cooper's preschool is a group offered to all parents called Parent Growth. It is a weekly meeting lead by the director of the preschool. We cover various topics related to raising young children. It is a cherished time to share ideas, commiserate, and gain wisdom from other parents.

A couple weeks ago we were given a copy of an article called The Good Enough Mother by Elaine Heffner, CSW, EdD. I finally read the article and loved it's conclusion.

"A good enough mother:

  • loves her child but not all of his behavior.
  • isn't always available to her child whenever he wants her.
  • can't possibly prevent all her child's frustrations and moods.
  • has needs of her own which may conflict with those of her child.
  • loses it sometimes.
  • is human and makes mistakes.
  • learns from her mistakes.
  • uses her own best judgment.
There are no perfect mothers and no perfect children. If we accept our own limitations, we are better able to accept those of our children and of life itself. In that way we become good enough mothers. And good enough mothers are real mothers."

I've been an over achiever my entire life. I'm beginning to realize that this is part of what makes motherhood so difficult. As I devour parenting books, attend parenting classes, and read parenting blogs I'm always thinking, "I could do this a little bit better". I see what others are capable of and I think that I can do that too, that I should be doing more, doing better.

Since moving to Columbus, which has also been the locus of becoming a parent to two children instead of one, I've had some of my worst, most detestable parenting moments. I have uttered repugnant words to my children and husband. I've behaved in ways that I'm ashamed of.

But maybe what is the worst thing of all is I never stop beating myself up for doing so.

Maybe instead I can just accept myself as I am, accept that I am achieving everything I can as a mother, as a wife, and as a woman. Maybe I am the good enough mother. And maybe, just maybe, that is the best place to be after all.

It is okay to be imperfect. It is okay to tell Cooper I just need a break from him and he needs to go play in his room for a while, even if he cries and screams his way up the stairs. It is okay for Ellery to fuss in her exersaucer while I put the finishing touches on dinner, throwing a few cheerios her way hoping they will make her a little happier. It is okay that sometimes I scream in frustration, slam doors, mutter exasperated words under my breath.

It is all okay because Cooper and Ellery and I are lucky enough to enjoy everyday moments together, every day. And there is so very much good in our days. So very much.

Please, take a moment and watch Gretchen Rubin's beautiful video The Years Are Short, which really captures how the everyday moments of being a parent lie at the heart of what is really important.

Tomorrow morning, when I spend five minutes helping Cooper decide what he wants for breakfast, when I wrestle Ellery's clothes onto her squirming body, I will remember that those are the moments, the moments I will never get back. The beautiful moments of being a parent. And I will cherish them and hope that they can last a little bit longer.


Anonymous said...

You are the most remarkable mother, the most unselfish and giving wife and mother I have EVER known in my life. It saddens me when you doubt yourself, when you anger yourself and feel so frustrated. If you could just stand back and watch yourself, hear your loving words, you would see what everyone else sees, including Ellery and Cooper..and me! You sure didn't learn your skills from me! You astonish me and make me so proud, Kelly Jane.

granola_girl said...

Thank you for this! Your post is totally what I needed to hear today. It helps to know that we are not alone in our thoughts and feelings. Thanks so much Kelly for the reminder that we are all good enough:) said...

yes, yes, yes. I totally needed this too. Last week, after a day of dragging my kids around on errands all day, all of us tired, skyler and reed were both going nuts with the whining, and finally, in a total loss of my own temper, I screamed (loudly). ENOUGH! So loudly that everyone stopped for one second and then burst into tears. Including me. I actually really scared skyler. I never ever wanted to be a mom who yells, and i felt badly about it all day. It's good to remind ourselves that we are human and even with the very best intentions, we have moments that are imperfect. but i like everything that you said about being "good enough." who are these perfect mothers in our imagination? they don't exist. anyway, i love you and i think you are amazing, and i thank you for this post. xo

vvanhaaf said...

This is a great post Kelly. I can relate to it fully. Have you ever read Kelly Corrigan? It reminds me a lot of her stuff. Mom's don't hear enough how great they are. Thanks for this good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Emilie told me to come to your blog and read this, as I was feeling "not good enough" today. Thank you for your words which have expressed exactly how I feel! There is so much pressure to be perfect, to be your best, and sometimes mother's need to just be... In my ongoing guilt about EVERYTHING, I have to learn that I am not perfect, cannot be everything to everyone and let myself just be.
Thank you, Jenn (Buehler) Ludwig

Kelly Dahl said...

It makes me so happy to know that my words are resonating with everyone. Thank you for the kind words. We as mothers need to remember to support and celebrate each other, even when we do things we think aren't good enough.

Nicole Marie Duclos said...

Beautiful! Yes! Every single day I strive to be a good enough mother because after trying to be a perfect mother, the good enough path is a much more sane, happy-making one. Thank you for writing this.

Kirsten said...

I've thought about this post many times since I first read it a few weeks ago. I don't know if you get comment alerts from posts a long time ago, but I thought I'd let you know.

Elaine Heffner, Ed. said...

I just came across your blog post referring to my article The Good Enough Mother. I very much appreciate what you wrote, and it is good to know that others relate to what I feel so deeply. I hope you will read my blog, I think you will find it interesting.
Elaine Heffner