I never really liked Mother’s Day.
For me, the early years of motherhood felt like one colossal failure. As a former perfectionist and people-pleaser, the pump was certainly primed for me to notice all of my short comings as a mother. I went into parenting already feeling defective and unworthy following years of infertility and neonatal loss.
Not surprisingly, all this “baggage” heightened my feelings of inadequacy as a Mom. And Mother’s Day became the showcase for all this Mom guilt and shame. What should have been a day of joy and gratitude, a day dedicated to the importance of mothers, felt like a contest that I was losing. All those cards and mugs saying “World’s Greatest Mom” seemed to be rubbing it in my face. I thought, “You don’t have to tell me! I’m well aware that I’m not the world’s greatest anything.”
Kids need a “good enough” mother.
I’m not even close to being a perfect mother. I’m just an average mom. You know, the kind that nags a bit too much and is frequently late for school pick-up. I feel overwhelmed and wonder if I’m doing any of this right. I worry about bullying, drugs and overly competitive youth sports. I read bedtime stories, feel guilty for yelling too much, and frequently forget to leave the Tooth Fairy money.
I don’t always feel loving feelings for my kids. That’s not a popular thing to say out loud. But it’s true for me and I think it’s true for every other mother I know. Sometimes my kids are annoying and frustrating. They argue with each other. And if my son says, “Mom! Look at this!” one more time, I may scream. Three kids in the backseat of the car can feel like a living Hell. Let’s be honest. These aren’t my best parenting moments, but we all have them. And it’s not useful to shame moms for having such feelings.
I’m what Donald Winnicott, M.D. called a “good enough” mother. And despite it sounding rather lackluster, this is what kids need, according to Winnicott (and I agree). Kids need us to model screwing up, apologizing, learning and changing. Thankfully, they don’t need us to be perfect. You don’t need to attend to your child’s every whim to be a “good enough” mother. Kids actually need to gradually learn to meet some of their own needs. And it’s not selfish to want to be alone every now and again.
Banish the Mom guilt.
Now that I’ve got 3 “good enough” kids, there’s really no reason to dislike Mother’s Day. But it took a while for me to be able to enjoy motherhood and actually allow my imperfect mom-self be loved.
So, when I get my World’s Greatest Mom card this year, I will embrace it with all the love my children intend. I choose not to use it as a comparison that makes me feel guilty or ashamed. My kids are old enough to know I’m not perfect and they love me anyway. And more importantly, I embrace my imperfections and love myself in spite of them.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of my fellow “good enough” Moms. And a special virtual warm hug to all of you still struggling with Mother’s Day – whether it’s with not feeling worthy, experiencing infertility, the loss of your child or mother (physically or emotionally), having placed a child for adoption, being estranged from your mother or it’s just plain difficult to be together.
Suggested further reading:
To Be Good Enough by S. Ratnapalan and H. Batty
Playing and Reality by D.W. Winnicott
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