The “Good Enough” Parent: Kicking the Martha Stewart Syndrome in the pants.
In an age where so many of us are twisting ourselves into balloon animals over everything concerning our children, I’m feeling an intervention is in order. I know I am not the only Mother who, after tucking the kids in at night does battle in her head; lamenting about how much we failed our children that day over such pressing issues like hair elastics, or even better, reviewing how everyone else is a parenting Martha Stewart and how much we suck.
Parenting these days has turned into an Olympic sport. We are on-on-on and go-go-go. Endlessly available, making their little worlds stay on axis. Little Suzie is in 50 different activities a day- music, soccer, Girl Scouts, swim team. We need to feed them a certain way (organic, free range-grow the veg yourself!) Homework needs to be completed ahead of schedule (shows initiative) and it’s never too early to start planting the seed about the charity they can start at 10. Now, is there anything wrong in and of itself with any of these wonderful intentions for our cherubs? No. But something has become increasingly off kilter and like deli meat past it’s due date, it stinks and should be thrown out.
Granted, there are many reasons why this frantic behavior is bad for us Mommies but has anyone really investigated what kind of example the Supermommy syndrome is giving our kids? Perfect Mommy. Does 10,000 things at once Mommy. Shaking in the corner, drinking at noon Mommy. And the inevitable- “I will never be able to do it all like Mommy.” Next thing you know they will be applying red lipstick to cover their scream or rearranging throw pillows on the couch for hours.
I say we must paint our way out of this corner and see the disservice we are doing to our kids. It’s time to embrace the glory of being “good enough!”
Here is a nifty starter kit for letting go of the perfect and ushering in the good enough:
1) It’s OK to let them go to school with toothpaste caked to the side of their mouth, mismatched socks and bedhead.
I know how much you want to spit in your hand and wipe down that cowlick but resist the urge. It’s good for them to feel that their day does not hinge on their appearance. And no, your teacher will not think you are a neglectful Mother. Try it for a day, Girls. Keep the spit in your mouth!
2) Don’t think ahead-don’t think ahead-don’t think ahead!
College can wait. They are only seven. Or fifteen. Perspective is vital. They are going make mistakes. Lots of them. These imaginary people that often rule our days (“no one will hire them if___, no roommate will put up with___, no college will take___”) are just that, imaginary. Sure, it’s great to give motivation for what’s to come but don’t get consumed by it. And remember, those important people in our kids lives are gonna love to hear a good life’s tale over an SAT score any day!
3) Let them see you struggle.
Out of everything on this list, this is a must do. I’m not talking about pulling a Sally Fields “Steel Magnolia’s” moment, I’m talking about letting the veil down. Set the example of saying “no” when you have too many things piled on the plate. Tell them you are going to bed early because you are tired and it is important to listen to what your body needs. Teach them to care for themselves in a tangible way– by example.
4) It’s never too late to say you are sorry.
Ali Macgraw can shove it. Love does mean saying you are sorry. Especially when you lose it in the grocery store line. You must embrace that you are human and are going to make mistakes, yell, say something you regret (cue teenage years) and not know what to do sometimes. The good news is that there is always a chance to regroup, admit and apologize. What a powerful lesson for the kiddo’s to learn. And you, the awesome “good enough” parent is teaching it!
5) Resist the urge to make everything right, fair and just.
Oooh, this is a hard one. Today’s parents (me) really struggle with this. Society is telling us of late that we are raising a bunch of bratty, entitled know it all’s. Maybe it’s the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ philosophy, or trying to right the injustices of our own upbringing. Whatever the reason, I am fairly certain we do not want to bring forth into the world a bunch of narcissists. But we will. Especially if we try to make everything comfy-cozy and perfect all the time. Repeat after me: disappointment is good. Natural consequences teach. Now don’t go tie them to railroad tracks but do let them fall when you can. It’s the only way they can find their footing to get back up.
We want our kids to be happy in their lives to come and we want to be an intrical part of having that happen. Think back to what life circumstances made you the well rounded, kick-ass person that you are. Somehow I don’t think it was Mom cutting the crusts off your PB&J that made that happen for you, or a shiny-perfect existence. Banish the bad Mommy mantra and give yourself a much needed break. Lower the expectations. You kept them alive today! You are doing great!!
Andrea Ardito is a writer and Mother of three who learned the hard way that shaking through your kid’s third Birthday party is not such a good thing. She fully embraces “good enough parenting” and is considering a tattoo stating such. You may view her blog at www.negativityisnotforannieoakley.blogspot.com.