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It’s okay not to be a “good mom” all the time

Do you worry you’re not being a good mom all the time? Here’s why you’re actually benefitting your kids by sometimes just being good enough.
mom on computer while kids play

As a (sometimes) recovering perfectionist, I think a lot about whether I’m a good mom. Do you do it too? I feel like it’s so common for moms to fall into the comparison trap that social media and the world around us provide and question their own success as a mom. But before I get down to the heart of this post, what even is a “good mom”? Is there a definition or a checklist somewhere that defines that concept and spells it out for us? Because if it exists, I haven’t found it.

But to that point, you should know that you’re actually benefitting your child if you’re sometimes a “good enough mom”. Maybe it sounds bad to you. Why wouldn’t you try all the time to be a good mom? Doesn’t good enough denote a term that means you stopped before you were finished?

The “good enough mom” is a real psychological concept with research to back it. I learned about it form a therapist that I talked to when I had post-partum anxiety after Maddie was born. I spent so much time worrying that I wasn’t being a “good mom” to Olivia and wasn’t being a “good mom” to Maddie for a variety of reasons, and she introduced this concept to me to help me understand that in fact I was helping my kids by sometimes not being a good mom.

What’s a “good enough mom”?

The term “good enough mom” was introduced in 1953 by British pediatrician Donald Winnicott, and he essentially explained that by making manageable mistakes for your kids, your kids will learn to be resilient and more easily tolerate frustration. He’s not saying to neglect your kids. What he’s saying is that if you spend a few minutes sending an important email and your kids have to wait for you for a little bit then they learn that life isn’t perfect, and neither is their mother.

This should reassure you that the times you let your kids struggle in a developmentally appropriate way because you’re not perfect will actually benefit them in the long run. Let that sink in a little and reduce your mom guilt. And remind yourself of it again the next time you feel like you’ve failed your child. If you’ve made their day a little tough because you forgot to do something or weren’t able to be somewhere, you’re only helping them in the long run.

Find balance between being a good mom and a good enough mom

Don’t get hung up on the balance of when to fail and when to succeed. Family therapist Marilyn Wedge says it best when she explains that, “with good enough mothering, a child has the ability to live in two worlds: the world of illusion, fantasy, and magic, on the one hand, and on the other hand, a world that does not always conform to his wishes.”

Keep planning your fun experiences and setting up magical holiday activities. Keep doing your best to make connections with your kids during the week. Just don’t be so hard on yourself when you make the mistakes in mothering that you’ll inevitably make. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. Be graceful with yourself.

Be a “good enough mom” during the week!

As a working mom, balancing it all during the week is nearly impossible. With good planning you can connect with your kids during the week, but there’s only so much that planning ahead can curb life’s responsibilities. There will be times when your kids need to do things on their own. You aren’t failing them by not having time to make meaningful connections and tend to their every need every single day. You’re building resiliency.

What can you do to balance the mom guilt with giving yourself grace? Come up with activities ahead of time that your kids would like to do on their own. You’ll feel good that you put thought into the activities they’re doing knowing they aren’t on the screens. Some really easy ones are low-prep and no-prep activities, and I have a whole post about them. Sign up for my email list below to get more emailed straight to your inbox, or subscribe to the monthly membership for guidance in setting all of this up.

    Tell me what you think!

    Had you heard of the term good enough mother before? Does this concept resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below.

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