Let me introduce you to a concept that is a complete game changer to how you can navigate the wows of motherhood. I talk a lot about the perfect mother not being real but the drive to be her is real, really real. I was her once (not the perfect mother but the wannabe one) and I know you have struggled with this too but what if we changed the way that we dialogue with ourselves and embraced the ‘good enough mother concept’? This was a study carried out by Donald Winnicott and he came to the conclusion that even if we were to achieve the perfect mother status, it would be detrimental to our child’s development.
So let’s explore this further, how do we see this perfect mother status? Well, it’s the mother that is presented impeccably at the school gate, while we only can manage some dry shampoo and a quick tooth brush. It’s the mother who puts on the best parties and has done all the catering herself, decor is spot on and she oozes a sense of calm that makes anyone feel horizontal zen, while we can just about manage to get our kids to an indoor play party in one piece serving just a cocktail sausage and a piece of soggy cucumber. She is the woman who juggles work and motherhood seamlessly and shuns mother guilt like a machine, while we are wrapped with an all consuming, endless tirade of feeling bad for dropping our kid off at nursery with nits and a mild dose of hooping cough. She is the woman who puts out to her husband multiple times a week, leg behind head, swinging from the chandeliers, while we can barely manage once a month and event that’s a stretch. She is the mother that is on hand picking her child up when he falls, when he drops food, when he winces, winges, cries, grunts or farts, while we are too busy trying to book a gym class on our phone as our kid rolls in mud and thinks the freshly made dog poop is a toffee. Oh and by the way, the perfect mother has a grade A body, pert breasts and fits in 4 workouts a week, plus a yoga class and makes her own fresh smoothies or twelve – while we, dare I say it, can’t even go there with doing exercise, booking the class is hard enough!
All of these things that we deem to be good parenting and show that motherhood is nailed, make up the perfect mother’s protocol but if we are functioning as that, responding to every call, every need and every murmur how can our kids build resilience, independence and a sense of self? The good news is that Willicott’s study showed that actually if you can admit to yourself that you are doing ‘enough’ then your kid is going to grow up feeling more secure and comfortable in themselves than the child that has every single need met by the perfect mother. It makes complete sense doesn’t it? Children need to learn what frustration feels like and how to navigate through it because if they don’t, as an adult they are going to experience this and not know how to cope with it. Bottom line is, you don’t have to attend to every need that is vocalised, it’s finding the balance of tending and caring and allowing the flow of natural life to wash over your child so that they can grow a sense of self and a set of tools to calm, soothe and experience the world of emotions. Here’s to the good enough mother, I’m one, I bet you are too.