Being Good Enough Is Good Enough

Work-Life Balance on 04.20.11
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Photo credit: Stephen Simpson/Getty Images

"Good enough" just sounds bad. To many, it's the sound of settling, of giving up.

To me, it's the sound of knowing when to pick your battles.

And it's the rallying cry, I think, of my generation — X, the so-called slackers.

Boomers were the first generation of women to declare that they could have it all in the work-life balance: They could be a superstar at home and in the boardroom. They fought the glass ceiling and even shattered it in some cases.

The problem, however, is that there is no true balance when it comes to work and home life. It's very precarious, wobbling back and forth.

Gen X kids grew up in a strange middle period: We were latch-key children with divorced parents (and if we weren't ourselves, all our friends were, it seemed). We walked to and school by ourselves, but our parents worried about it and made us call them when we arrived home.

We graduated from college into a recession and many of us got laid off in the next big recession. When we had children, we didn't want to leave them home alone — even if that were still legal.

So we interviewed nannies, auditioned day cares. Or our men stepped up to the plate (such as in my case) and became stay-at-home fathers so that we could pursue our dreams of ... whatever.

So it was with interest that I started looking at "Good Enough Is the New Perfect," by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple. (Full disclosure: I know both ladies, fellow Northwestern University graduates — I met Hollee first more than 15 years ago when she was an intern at The Miami Herald, where I was on my first post-collegiate job. They were kind enough to send me a review copy.)

Hollee and Becky are emphatic in asserting the book is NOT about settling. They didn't have to convince me.

Let's face it: We were lied to when someone told us we could have it all. That made it sound as if we could have the perfect house and the perfect job and the perfect children, all while perfectly coiffed.

Fact is, there is no perfect house - just wait 'til the furnace dies out on a cold winter night. And what's this with people who clean their houses before the cleaning lady comes?

There's no perfect job - just wait 'til you are stuck at your desk, on a regular basis, until 7, 8, 9 o'clock at night.

There's no such thing as a perfect child — show me one who never spills anything, never pooped in his pants and never gets sick. Just show me. I'm waiting.

And the perfect coif? Not gonna last 5 minutes in a house with children unless you put enough hairspray in there to create an entirely new hole in the ozone.

My perfect is living in a duplex outside of New York City with just the right amount of space for our family of four and a nice little backyard.

My perfect is having a mother-in-law who is like a third parent who helps us out whenever we truly need it and lives on three acres in Pennsylvania so the boys get the experience of the city mouse AND country mouse.

My perfect is working from home as a consultant, which means I'm never really off the clock, but I can almost always take an hour off in the middle of the day to play Wii with my boys.

My perfect is two boys who are extremely energetic, funny, beautiful and trying. The older boy may watch too much TV sometimes, but he's doing math two grade levels above his classmates and has been a Superintendent's Scholar in his school two marking periods in a row. The younger boy may play video games too much sometimes, but he's learning to write his name and is incredibly loving and creative.

My perfect is getting my hair cut once a year. Sometimes, I even run a brush through it more than once.

I'm not one for self-help books or parenting books. I'm not good with owner manuals, either. But this is neither - it's a book about people like me, like many parents out there who have realized they need to choose their battles.

We need to figure out what's important to us — what we need to be "perfect," as it were — and let go of those other things.

We can do anything we want. We just don't have to do everything.

Even stock image houses know the difference. The photo below was representative of the pictures that came up when I searched for "perfect parents" and the one at the top was representative of those I found when I searched for "good enough parents." Neither was specifically tagged exactly that way, but I found it quite telling, no?

"perfect" parents

Photo credit: Stephen Marks/Getty Images

More on the work-life balance:
Can a Mommy Work Without Guilt?
Why Is Work-Life Balance So Hard to Achieve?
I Finally Figured Out What I Needed As Soon As I Lost It