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The Good Enough Mother

The Good Enough Mother
George turned nine last month. It was a gorgeous day on Nantucket. I had ideas that I would spend the whole day doting on him, making sure his every need and desire were accounted for. In our culture of social media and compulsive comparisons, celebratory occasions (particularly children's birthdays) give me anxiety. Did I cut the watermelon into fun animal shapes? Did I create a treasure hunt map to find his birthday gift?

This year was a vision of laughing and holding hands while biking, shopping and boogie boarding. Instead, I spent the day picking legos out of the washing machine, zoning out on instagram and putting my three kids in front of the TV while I escaped for a nap. And in the shower that afternoon, the voice in my head reminded me of how selfish and lazy I was. It was George's birthday. How did I miss the boat on making it the special, magical day that I wanted it to be? And after a few moments of self loathing, I had a subsequent realization.

I am not my thoughts.

And aside from my thoughts about who I am...I am, in fact, good enough.

I made pancakes with M&Ms in them for George today. I swam in the ocean with him and let him pinch my legs pretending he was a shark. I told him how much I loved him, and how it's my greatest joy to be his mom.

Motherhood has given me an opportunity to reflect on a lifelong pattern of what I would call critical and judgemental perfectionism. Thankfully, I was introduced to the work of pediatrician and psychologist Donald Winnicott. Winnicott suggests the idea that aiming to be the "perfect" mother can actually cause some unintended problems for moms and their kids. Children need their mother (or primary caretaker) to fail them in manageable ways on a regular basis so they can learn to live in an imperfect world. "Every time we don't hear them calling us right away, every time we don't give them our undivided attention, every time we feed them a dinner they don't want to eat, every time we make them share when they don't want to, we are getting them ready to function in a society that will frustrate and disappoint them on a regular basis."

And this, my fellow moms, is real life at it's finest.

In so many areas of our lives, we get caught in the trance of not enough. I am working to look at these thoughts when they come up (daily!) with curiosity and care, not with judgement. Just noticing as a witness.

I realized on my son's precious birthday that my barrier to love was not a self-proclaimed laziness, but rather my own critical self-judgement.

You are good enough.