I want to share a simple message this mother’s day:
Let go of perfection, self-criticism and guilt –
Instead embrace being a ‘good enough’ mother.
As mother’s we typically have an ideal mother in our minds that we want to be. Yet this is an ideal we create through our experience as we grow up, so whilst it might have positive and realistic aspects of a role model and help us, it is as likely to include elements of impossible, perfect fantasy that leave us feeling wanting. Inevitably we will not be that mother all the time, possibly only for hours or in moments, and the associated self-criticism and guilt can hit us hard. The key is to ‘mother’ our inner self, showing compassion as we would for a child doing their best, by not allowing the internal criticism and judgement and instead focusing on and reminding ourselves of the positive mothering we bring.
The good news is that as mothers we have the support of many child development experts and psychotherapists, to aim at ‘good enough’, dating back to Winnicott in the 1950s who first coined the phrase and concept. Odd and perhaps harder for us to get our heads around in our culture of superlatives!
Winnicott believed that as ‘good enough mothers’ we naturally and intuitively create a ‘facilitating environment’ that supports and allows our child(ren) to gradually mature over time, protecting them from feelings that would overwhelm them until they are ready to integrate them. It makes me think of a mother bird digesting food first, before feeding a chick a little at a time.
We live in a time where there are so many opportunities for children and therefore choices as parents. It’s hardly surprising as parents that we can feel overwhelmed or confused. Whatever age our child(ren) are we are bombarded by advice and information about what could help or harm them, about education, additional activities, the essential ‘toys’ and ‘things’ for a ‘happy childhood’. We hear what family, friends and those around us or on TV believe in and their choices for their children. I want to emphasise the word ‘believe’ in this last sentence, as little of what we hear people talk about is fact, it is just there opinion from their view of the world.
- As parents, how do we hold onto our own truths and beliefs?
- As mothers, how do we trust our inner voice and knowing, sometimes over the cultural beliefs and norms around us?
I think most people would agree that the core needs children have are to feel loved and safe. Yet, much of the focus in the outer world today is on their development and the things they are given or have access to. This is not wrong, but it’s important that we stay tuned in to their deeper level of needs beneath this. We are relational beings who need connection and who thrive and learn in relationship with others, not in isolation. So it is usually the simple things that we do as parents that mean most to our children.
Our presence, our listening, our hugs. And as we give them to our children, we can also give them to ourselves.