Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Good Enough Mother

Perhaps you, like I, have been caught in the trap of trying to be the ideal mother. I tried to read all the right books, buy (or more specifically NOT buy) all the right baby accessories, sign up for all the right classes, and be present every time my baby needed me. And I trusted that all of these decisions would create the ideal environment for my child to grow and develop into a healthy, happy adult. I was convinced that if I failed to meet any need, that child would grow up permanently damaged. So, you can imagine how exhausted I became.


This isn't really me, but it could be! I was so exhausted and so discouraged that I wanted to give up, since I had probably already ruined my kids for life. Then, My therapist told me about the 'Good Enough Mother". He asked me one day "What if Good Enough was really the Ideal?" It sounded like a paradox to me. I have never aspired to be "Good Enough" at anything. You might as well aim for last place in a marathon or the night crew at McDonalds. Good Enough is lame. Or so I thought. 

The Good Enough Mother was a term coined by a pediatrician turned psychoanalyst named Charles Winnicot in England in the 1950's. He spent his career studying what would be the ideal setting for a child to be raised in. He divided mothers into three groups- Ideal Mothers, Neglectful Mothers, and what he termed the "Good Enough Mother". 

Ideal Mothers need no explanation. They are perfect, They do everything right. They are present 24/7, they never raise their voices, they are 100% happy to meet their baby's needs anytime day or night.

The neglectful Mother is also easy to identify. She never holds her baby, regularly ignores his cries, and provides inadequate food. 

The Good Enough mother is in between the two. The good enough mother provides "holding place" for the child. She is loving and attentive as much as she can be. She bathes and feeds and talks to her baby. She also sometimes hates the baby. She becomes frustrated and sometimes resentful. As the baby matures, (4-6 months), she responds to baby's cries less and less readily. She allows him a few minutes here and there to learn to self soothe. She allows him to gain confidence in the knowledge that he is "other" from her. She may provide a security blanket so he can comfort himself when she is otherwise engaged. She is perfectly imperfect. And she is the ideal mother. 

Isn't that liberating? You don't have to be perfect! You just have to be Good Enough! Once I decided that my aim was to be Good Enough, life became so much more do-able. I felt like I could breathe. The birthday doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough. Their education doesn't have to be excellent, just good enough. My home doesn't have to be perfect. Just good enough. I don't have to be perect. just good enough.

This is such a juicy topic that I would love to hear from you in the comments. What do you think constitute "Good Enough" in your life? 

 Maybe today you are not feeling like you are enough. Here is an oil blend just for you... 

Blend 2 drops each bergamot, fennel, frankincense, geranium and ylang-ylang 
Apply to the core of the body of the bottoms of the feet 
Repeat the affirmation: I love and accept Myself. I am enough.

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