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Are You a 'Good Enough' Mother?

That really depends on your definition of what a good enough mother really is? Is it based on what you hear from your friends, your mother, your mother-in-law or what about what you tell yourself? Depending on the expectation around these words it can place an awful lot of pressure on mothers. For many being a good enough mother means trying to be the perfect mother. Do you feel like you are always falling short of being good enough? Let’s face it there is so much advice and information being given to new mothers to help them raise their children the ‘right’ way so that they will be emotionally, intellectually and physically well rounded that one can almost feel like there is a way to be a ‘perfect’ mother. Well, there is no such thing and striving for this is sure to set you up to struggle with feelings of guilt and feeling like a failure which will cause issues, not only for yourself, but for your child too. What children really need, is not a perfect mother, but a good enough mother without the need to live up to anyone’s expectations including your own if they include anything near perfection.

The work of paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott introduced the idea that trying to be the “perfect” mother can cause problems for both you and your child. He coined the phrase “good enough mother” in 1953. His message is that you don’t need to be “the best” mother to raise a psychologically healthy child who feels loved and nurtured. You simply need to be a “good enough” mother who takes care of your baby’s basic physical and emotional needs. If your baby feels overall safe and loved, he/she will be able to tolerate and forgive your imperfections. This is an important foundation as over time it becomes difficult to meet all their needs as these needs become more complex and diverse. There may be instances where you don’t buy them the chocolate bar at the checkout counter or the toy they picked up when you are buying a birthday gift for their friend. These times of disappointment for children are teaching them that, in life, they will not always get what they want and in so doing it teaches them qualities like resilience, tolerance, determination and self-soothing. What’s important is to show your children how to handle these situations such as when you don’t get the job you wanted or can’t buy the top you would really like so that they learn from you. If you make a mistake with them, be open in admitting this to your child by apologising that you messed up and explaining that even adults don’t get it right all the time. Explain how you will try and do better next time. Children appreciate and learn from this behaviour.

If you are struggling to let go of the need to be ‘perfect’, life counselling can help you to accept that you are doing the best you can. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong, that’s okay. When you notice your mind telling you you’re a failure remind yourself it’s okay to get it wrong sometimes, you’re human and you’ll learn from that for next time. Show yourself some kindness, some compassion and let it go. Teaching your child to try and be perfect is unrealistic but teaching them that we all get it wrong sometimes is teaching them what it’s like to be human and make mistakes, how to pick themselves back up and keep going. Remember that children are entering a world which is imperfect, so it is important for your child to learn how to deal with imperfection.

Take some time today to reflect on the type of mother you are and what you would like to change. How would your life be different if you accepted the fact that you are in fact ‘good enough’.

In celebration of Sunday, 9th May...


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