Being the Good Enough Mother

I had an odd experience yesterday: I had a moment of feeling… oh… what’s the word? I’ve felt it before, but it is rare and fleeting. Ah, yes. That’s it… accomplished! And what  brought me to this strange state of affairs? It was nothing more than what I read about other people doing every day. Taking advantage of the strange yellow thing in the sky, I hung the year’s first load of laundry. I got the carseats reinstalled in a vehicle that has been used by a friend for the last couple of weeks. I cleared out all the things under the seats and found the floors of both cars at the same time. Got the three kids into the van in under an hour without any tears. I picked up a friend in my newly-tidied van, and we took the kids to the wildlife park. We petted deer, saw moose and heard the wolves howling. We went on a ride on a horse-drawn carriage and decided that the horse-drawn carriage is a deeply civilized form of transportation. We came home to a quaff of home brew, and I experimented briefly with making chocolates. The kids had cocoa that we made at home with fair-trade organic sugar and cocoa powder. Then we ordered pizza for supper and did NOT mess up the kitchen any more than it already was. Hung with friends, played with kids, got very little done.

It was profoundly mundane, but it hung together in a way that my days rarely do. In the middle of it all, I read this piece by Sierra Black in which she identifies herself as having Maternal Imposter Syndrome, and I thought, “Yes! That! I have no idea what I’m doing!” Despite the fact that I’ve been at this nearly 12 years, and despite the fact that I write about it occasionally at the Natural Parents Network, I just don’t feel like this is something I can lay claim to. I don’t do ‘activities’ with my kids, I don’t do crafts, I don’t draw them into my baking escapades, I don’t have a well-kept house ready for visitors, our play dates are few, far-between, and long-delayed. I don’t homeschool because I can’t imagine bearing the weight of that responsibility. I don’t think of myself as a SAHM. I’m just not good enough at it. I don’t get paid for my writing, don’t know how to find appropriate contract work, and make no money at my extremely part time spice-and-farm stand, so I don’t think of myself as a WAHM. Actually, I don’t think of myself as much of anything at all. I’m just here, muddling along, trying to figure this all out without doing too much damage along the way.

So I must revel in those moments. Hey, look! I got something done. I had a moment of being The Good Mother. Or at least, the Good Enough Mother. Which is going to have to be… good enough.

7 responses to “Being the Good Enough Mother”

  1. A few years ago I read Bettleheim’s (sp?) work by that name, and came away from it thinking that if his version was “good enough”, then I was sunk. But most of the time I think I’m good enough, or at least, I’m doing the best I can and it’ll have to be “good enough”.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s a conditioned thing, that having my house clean and a good meal on the table is what makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, whereas spending a day busting my head over my physiology and letting the house go makes me feel like a slovenly slackard.

    Anyway, it seems to me that your childrens’ mother is definitely “good enough”. Keep on!

    • Haven’t read Bettleheim’s work; I think I came across this in something to do with developmental psych during the B.Ed. However, it is one of my mantras, to learn to be “good enough” rather than mythically Good. (I have a tag for it and everything.)

      My house is never tidy, but sometimes I wouldn’t be embarrassed if my mother showed up. Then it is good enough, even if BH&G would NEVER NEVER NEVER think so. But yes. There’s something there about keeping up appearances, doing for the other, making sure that what you do is visible. I spent some time with post it notes on my wall, labelled with the activities I claimed to enjoy. At the bottom of each was what it was about that activity that made me enjoy it; I was dismayed to find how many of them, once I considered it seriously, said “People will think I’m a good mother if I do this.”

      Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂

  2. You should read “SuperMom Has Left The Building”, I can’t remember who it’s by but it’s a very good book. You’ll cry loads of tears, but the good kind. Think about this on your less than accomplished days – Are you not good enough because you love your family so much and want them to have the best? If so, then what you’re feeling is misguided love. It is your love that makes you feel inadequate because you can’t live up to the expectations that you want your family to have. Honestly, I bet your family think’s you’re great and doesn’t hardly notice all the things you don’t do 🙂

    • Sometimes it is because my standards are too high… but sometimes, I really don’t make much ‘progress’. I blame Twitter. :p

  3. I just love your blog, because . . . you are exactly like me! Well, exactly like me about 10 years ago, before I made some dramatic changes to my life and became a “working mother” (is Mothers Are Women still around? I loved their slogan: EVERY mother is a WORKING mother). I was a stay-at-home-mother for 8 years, I treasure that time with my children even though much of it was very difficult.

    My oldest is 17, and seems to be turning out quite well, so don’t change a thing: being yourself is the best way to be a mother.

    • Oddly enough, I worked when my children were little, but we needed a move for the sake of my partner’s career, and we moved to a profoundly economically depressed part of the continent… where I now am home, even though my youngest is now 4. Yes. Every mother is a working mother. It is our equation of “work” with “pay” rather than “value in the world” that is problematic. I’m not very worried about my kids (most of the time). I am frequently worried about my Self, though.

  4. Thanks for the blog….just what I needed….I didn’t get fantastic mothering growing up, but I suppose it was good enough… this blog helps me feel let off the hook….I can also be good enough….boy does that feel good to think about…I am good enough just like I am…..and my husband is the one who has to remind me that I’m good enough….Because I’m always wanting to be the best…..and the best is not necessarily good enough…I’m gonna think about being just good enough this weekend….Thanks.