I am a 30-something female who wears many hats. I am a business owner, a wife, a friend, and perhaps my most important role… a mother. There are many tasks associated with each of those roles, it can start to feel a bit overwhelming. We want to be better than our parents; we want to give our kids more than we were given. There’s an instinct in every parent to try to give our kids everything but there isn’t a day that goes by that I think I made perfect choices, not a day that passes that I didn’t have to compromise my time somewhere or get everything done on my never ending list of priorities. I swear, I’m f*cking up my kids in some way or another. I swear, my best just isn’t good enough.
A few months ago I noticed that I had been working a lot more, which included the hours after they got home from school. I was becoming increasingly irritated at their constant interruptions when I had already given them tasks to do so I could focus. I was being a grumpy mom, with barely any time. We still had our once a week, one on one times, our evening dinners together, our moments before bedtime, yet when I asked what they wished for, they each said, “More time with you.” A pang of guilt shot through me. How could I possibly give them more time when I didn’t have enough already? I was already staying up late to finish tasks, but I was determined to find a way to make it happen. I mean, what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t try, right?
I immediately started searching Pinterest to find activities to do with my kids. So many great ideas on there, but as I was sorting through these photos of spotless pastel clad children/Gap models in bright, spotless homes, I began to realize that I was overthinking it. Those photos are beautiful, but that’s not me, that’s not my family, that’s not my home.
My carpet has darker “traction” spots near the door where I stop my family to hug them when they get home. My table is a little uneven, my husband crafted it by himself in one evening to give our family of 9 more room when we sit down to eat our meals together. Also, my table is not clean. It’s usually covered with the paperwork they bring home from school every day for me to read through and it’s stained with paint from our art projects that dried before I got a chance to clean them up. My mirrors are usually smeared with foggy streaks from my kids learning how to do chores. They still suck at them, but I praise their efforts because they are still young and learning. I don’t dust everyday and it gathers quickly because I leave my windows open to let fresh air in and keep my eyes on the kids while they play outside. If you ask me for a bandaid, I’m usually out. My kids use them like stickers, covering every minor scrape and bruise they get being the adventurers I’ve brought them up to be.
I recently familiarized myself with the works of the British psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott. Winnicott first coined the term, “good enough mother.” Later, Bruno Bettelheim’s would use Winnicott’s work in his book, A Good Enough Parent, where he would list the characteristics of a good enough parent as the following:
• Good enough parents do not strive to be perfect parents and do not expect perfection from their children.
• Good enough parents respect their children and try to understand them for who they are.
• Good enough parents are more concerned for the child’s experience of childhood than with the child’s future as an adult.
• Good enough parents provide the help that their children need and want, but not more than they need or want.
• The primary tools of good enough parenting are conscious reflection, maturity, and empathy.
• Good enough parents are confident that their good enough parenting is good enough.
I can’t say I don’t try to help the kids plan for their futures, and I can’t say I am confident about my parenting, but most studies indicate those feelings are typical among mothers, especially working mothers. I just have to learn to keep those feeling in check.
My kids want more time with me. It doesn’t mean they aren’t getting enough and it doesn’t mean I am neglectful. My kids get plenty of quality time, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to work in a little extra when I can. Building relationships is more about seizing quality moments of connection with the time you have than it is about the quantity of the time itself.
Breathe mom. You’re doing just fine.