Why being a 'good-enough' mom is best for our kids

I bet you were like me when you saw the faint pink plus sign on the home pregnancy test? You knew exactly where your parents messed up and had already sworn to do things differently.

Long before you held your first newborn in your arms, I have a feeling you had a mile-high collection of books all dedicated to pregnancy, parenting and motherhood.

With your newborn tucked into your arms, as you soaked in the new baby smell, I can almost guarantee you knew the kind of parent you wanted to be. Or at least thought you knew. (Side note: Yankee Candle needs to seriously figure out how to bottle and market that new baby smell!)

If you want to follow the “Good-Enough Parent” podcast by Jeanne Labana at The Metro Parent, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK, you can do so here.

When reality hits…

Thank God there is no test on how to raise a child! I might have failed that one, when my first newborn rolled off the bed the week after bringing him home. (Don’t worry, we were in the process of moving and the mattress was on the floor, so he didn’t roll that far.)

I was very young in my faith walk and only knew I wanted to be what they call a Proverbs 31 woman, wife and mother. I wanted to embody 1 Corinthians 13, patient, loving, kind… I wanted to be easygoing, organized and, above all, fun.

“Hard as we try, we never seem to meet our own expectations!”  — Jeanne Labana

I had no idea just how delusional I was about this whole mothering thing until my bouncing baby boy began moving on his own and talking. That’s when stuff got real, and all my well-meaning intentions went right out the window!

My oldest son was 1 when I realized that none of the books, classes, research or conversations with other mothers meant a thing. When my middle son turned 1, I figured out that what worked for baby No. 1 did not work for baby No. 2. Each child is different.

What they won’t tell you at Lamaze classes

There’s a lot they don’t tell you, like Terrible 2s really aren’t that bad, it’s the Terrifying 3s that will get you.

No one tells you that your world and your schedule revolves around your baby’s eating, sleeping, diapering, entertainment, grooming and emotions. You might as well just start running with the bulls because at least they are more predictable.

Thought you were going to bed early? Guess what, mom? Baby has an upset stomach and decided puking on you all night is just what you needed. (True story.)

Doesn’t matter, dirty walls, messy carpets, you name it — all you want is to be the best mom in the world. Although you might not invite company over nearly as much until they outgrow their little pet-projects phases.

Then you have to throw in some “adulting” into the mix, because bills still need to be paid, the laundry won’t do itself, and do you really think your husband is going to push around a vacuum without nagging?

Mom guilt, regret, failure keep us up at night

#Momguilt it’s real, folks. Yep, go ahead, reach for another glass of wine, I am now too!

Working moms, I feel you! I feel guilty for missing work and I feel guilty for missing my kids’ events and milestones. Someone has to pay for a new uniform when he accidentally cuts through it at school.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I couldn’t afford new things for my kids and I regretted not pursuing things that I enjoyed, such as working. As a woman in the new millennium, I felt like a failure in front of them. Women can do anything men can do, right?

There is no easy path, there is no avoiding mom guilt, and there is absolutely no avoiding the “what if’s,” no matter how hard we try, because we just may never meet our own expectations as a mother. I certainly don’t. I beat myself up over logging in enough reading time with my oldest last year. His teacher kept harping on me about it, and I tried, but I failed.

Moms, you are good enough

I was a photographer first and realized one day, I had hardly any photos of my children and I together. I had millions of them with daddy, grandpa, grandma, etc. But not too many with them.

I was ashamed of the “baby fat” I was having a hard time shaking off. But a very smart friend once told me: They will only see their mother making memories with them when they look back at those photos later in life. A new research has proven that same mentality, a “good-enough mom” is just that… good enough!

Listen to the folks at MetroParent Magazine talk about “good-enough” parents on their podcast, “I’m gonna count to 3.”

The phrase “good-enough mother” was first coined in 1953 by British pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. He said children actually benefit from mothers who fail their kids sometimes. Children can benefit from their moms forgetting a play date, having nothing in mind for dinner at 7 p.m., a slip of the tongue at a vulnerable moment or a too-tired-to-play day.

Winnicott observed that children who experience lapses in perfect parenting learn quickly that the world doesn’t revolve around them. They learn to be resilient, to manage disappointments and how to move on. They learn self-confidence in handling the bumps in the road of life.

And let’s face it, moms, isn’t this all we want for our children? To at least try, to attempt to be the best they can be? How many of you have first-graders? I do too, so you know they can sometimes break down over having to read “harder” books? How many times do you say, “at least try to sound the word out.”

Well… at least try, you don’t have to be perfect!

Perfection is impossible and that’s OK

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out very quickly that kids learn by doing and imitating. So being “just good enough” prepares them better to manage stresses, and messy life situations. They learn to accept flaws and reality.

“Not only does being ‘just good enough’ prepare our kids to manage challenges, it also helps them to avoid being perfectionists.” — Jeanne Labana

Now that we have that sticky situation out of the way, let your hair down and embrace being good enough. We get it, letting go unrealistic expectations and high goals can be hard. But when you do, you just might have a little extra energy to create stronger memories with the tiny humans you are raising.

So what if it’s drive-through dinner in a box for the seventh time this week? Make it a picnic in the living room watching a family movie and whala, no one will know the difference! And try not to beat yourself up too much about it, throw a veggie in and call it good.

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