What is the “Good Enough Mother”? by Stephanie Kemme

Stephanie and Georgia

I spent my life striving for the best. Striving to be the best student, the best athlete, to go to the best schools, and get the best scholarship. Then it was to get the best degree and obtain the best job, to get the best promotions and raises and on and on. I wanted to feel good and I wanted to be successful. AND I was; for a long time I achieved that goal. Problem was (and is) that striving to be the best and achieving that all the time, is not sustainable. Being perfect is not realistic.

We often choose to look at failure as a bad thing. No one wants to fail. But why? We view failure as a personal reflection of who we are or what we are. When in reality, failure is learning. Failure is growth. We need failure as much as we need success. 

So, why all this talk about being the best, wanting to live a perfect life and not wanting to fail? Because the instant I became a mom, all of this changed for me. My track record of “being successful” suddenly tanked. Gone were the days where I felt confident and secure. Gone was the recognition of a job well done. Things felt harder. I started questioning myself more and more. I felt more vulnerable and also more insecure. I didn’t know how to be “the best” at mothering. Each time I tried, I continued to feel like a failure at what I thought “should” have come easy for me, but it did not. 

What does “the best” mom even look like? No one really knows, because truthfully, they don’t exist. Yes, not even those unicorn moms who baked (from scratch) the gluten free/dairy free/sugar free delicious cookies from the garden they grew at home. Moms fail everyday. We have to learn (over years) how to be a “good mom”. Love might come naturally when you have a child (if you’re struggling with Postpartum Depression this might not be the case – if so, please reach out to a treatment provider). But SKILLS do not come naturally. Skills take time to grow, and there is no growth without failure.

Let me introduce you to Donald Winnicot. He was a pediatrician and psychoanalyst working with newborns and their mothers. He realized that as newborns, mothers need to tend to their babies immediately and consistently for attachment and security to occur. Infants need to feel safe and cared for. Overtime, that immediate attention and care is not sustainable. When children grow into toddlers and tiny humans with big emotions and voices, they actually BENEFIT from having their mother fail them (in small ways). This is how they learn how to handle living in an imperfect world. Your failure is their resilience. 

This failure might look like snapping a little too quickly at (what feels like) the 20th time your kid asked you for a fruit snack after you said “no”. OR it could look like you choosing not to snuggle your toddler to sleep one night, so they cry hysterically because they want you as their comfort item. These small failures happen.  I don’t know about you, but I feel guilty every time these small failures happen. Because as a mother who loves these tiny humans that came from me, I DON’T WANT TO FAIL THEM. Because these “small failures” sometimes can feel big when big emotions are attached. But then I remind myself, growth comes from these moments. Not just for my toddlers, but for me as well. 

The term “Good Enough Mother” doesn’t mean you are NOT ENOUGH. It means that most of the time you try your best, and the times where you fall short, you and your child are actually benefiting. So really, “the best” mother is the mother who is simply good enough. 

Stay tuned for the next blog on how to recover after small (or large) failures!

Be Good,

Stephanie Kemme

Published by annkendig

I am a mental health and addiction therapist in Cincinnati Ohio. Happy exploring and may all beings be well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: