Thoughts on Perfectionism on Mother’s Day
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about perfectionism in motherhood. It’s so easy to get caught in the perfectionism trap as a mother. The questions about how we are performing as mothers are endless and unyielding: “Am I doing enough for my children?” “Am I doing too much?” “Am I doing it the right way?” “Am I a good mom?” And Facebook and Pinterest certainly don’t make this struggle any easier. We scroll through images of perfectly attuned mothers, perfectly behaved - and dressed - children, perfectly decorated homes, perfectly executed parties, perfectly packed lunchboxes always filled with just the right, healthy foods, laughing families on gorgeous vacations…the list goes on and on. And many mothers compare their raw, messy, imperfect lives to these carefully selected and edited pictures and end up thinking to themselves, “Something is wrong with me. I just don’t measure up. I’m not living up to who I should be as a mom.” The standard that too many mothers are trying to live up to is pure perfection. And as Brené Brown says, “The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting”.
So how do we sidestep this trap? I think Donald Winnicott’s concept of the “good enough mother” offers a great launching pad for realigning our expectations of ourselves as mothers. Winnicott was a British psychoanalyst and pediatrician who coined the phrase “good enough mother” to explain that children actually benefit from the failures of their mothers. When a mother isn’t always perfectly attuned and isn’t meeting his or her child’s every need and whim all the time, the child develops resilience. Within a safe and loving context, our children learn how to cope with disappointment and frustration in a world that will surely fail them many times. Some women hear the phrase “good enough” and dismiss it because it sounds too much like giving up. To some women, it sounds like you’re not trying, not giving 100%. But we all want what’s best for our children, our families, and ourselves, right? It turns out that - in addition to being impossible - being a perfect mom is actually not best. Being a “good enough” mom is the best thing for your children and for you.
So, my hope for all of us moms during this Mother’s Day season, is that we can begin to loosen our grip on the impossible pursuit for perfection and relax into the much kinder, gentler, life-giving journey of being the very best kind of mom—a “good enough” one.
Brown, Brené. (2007). I thought it was just me (But it isn’t): Making the journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough”. New York, New York: Penguin Random House, LLC.
Naumburg, C. (2013). The Gift of the Good Enough Mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 18, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-parenting/2013/09/the-gift-of-the-good-enough-mother/