Are You a "Good Enough Mother"?

Self on 07.15.11
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Back when I was anchoring the morning news, every day, during the break between network and local stations, I would call home to make sure everything was on schedule.

That meant checking to see that the babysitter had arrived, kids were up, dressed and fed, and everyone was ready to head out the door. Invariably there would be some crisis that I would have to handle at that very moment. Looking back on it now, it's really quite amazing how many permission slips or favorite pairs of pants I found from the other end of the receiver.

But one day, after putting out yet another fire, a guest who'd been listening to me, turned to me and said, "Wow you do all that yourself? I would have thought you would have people to do that for you." I laughed politely and explained to her that I didn't pop out these two kids so I could abdicate the responsibility of raising them. I was then -- and am now -- a hands-on parent. So how do I do it? By eschewing perfection and embracing "good enough".

I've worked my whole life and prior to that, was a student who took my schooling seriously. So by the time I had my daughter, nearly 15 years ago, I had devoured every baby book I could get my hands on, dog-earing pages and marking them up with yellow highlighter. I was gonna ACE this motherhood thing! Oh yeah, baby.

And then nothing went as planned. Casey was two weeks overdue and after 18 hours of labor, I ended up with an emergency C-section. Nursing, which I dreamed would be an effortlessly wonderful thing, was an arduous and painful experience, ultimately fulfilling but incredibly difficult at the outset. In the first few months with the new baby, it seemed nothing went as planned and I felt like a failure.

Then I remembered the words of the kind, elderly woman who I ran into just before I had given birth. She must have been able to sense my extreme anxiety about becoming a mother, the palpable fear readily evident. That's when she sat me down and said, "You will be the best mother this child could ever have." And she was right. Of course, the fact that I was going to be the ONLY mother to this baby was not lost on me either. But her message came through loud and clear, it was time to trust myself.

And so I did. There are aspects of motherhood that I'm surprisingly good at, like getting down on my kids' level and talking to them. I'm fun and unpredictable. We laugh over stupid YouTube videos and have similar taste in TV shows. But "D" is for for domestic, which is precisely what I would get, were I being graded on things like cooking and cleaning. Oh and organization. And sewing. You get the point. But you take all of these, the things I do well and the ones I'm horrid at, and you get a picture of a woman, wife and mother, who is Perfectly Imperfect.

Should my kids eat more vegetables? Probably. Should we watch less TV and read more. Maybe. But even with my rudimentary culinary skills, the kids are growing; they're healthy, strong and happy.

This is precisely the message and meaning behind Good Enough Mother: You don't have to be perfect to be a good mother. It does not mean you get to phone it in; it does mean you get to cut yourself some slack when you make a mistake (and oh, there are many). It's about measuring yourself by your own yardstick and parenting for the people who actually matter, those living right under your roof.

The way I see it, I'm providing my kids with a far more realistic view of life by showing them that you do your best and your best will have to do. That's very different from being perfect. And it's teaching my kids a very valuable life lesson for now and the future. I hope they go on to become Good Enough Moms (and dads) themselves.

 

For more perfectly imperfect parenting, check out Rene Syler's website, Good Enough Mother.

 

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