Mother Guilt/Mother Shame: Stop the Madness

Good enough Mom with her daughters

On a weekly basis, I meet with women in my therapy practice who feel like they are not good moms. When I explore this with them, I find that in contrast to their feelings of failure, they are doing a really good job. Their children are thriving: They do well in school, they have friends, and participate in lots of different activities. And when their children have struggles (a part of thriving), they verbalize the thoughtful way they approached the situation.

I thinks it’s important to admit that I, a psychologist and a mom who should know better (notice the unhelpful, negative thought), struggle with not feeling like a good enough mom, too. Parenting is the most humbling job no matter how well prepared you think you are.

Many things contribute to creating and sustaining moms’ feelings of not being good enough. Many of us are struggling to balance our mommy roles with other roles in our lives and are feeling stressed about not doing everything perfectly. So, in this first entry, let’s look at the concept of being a good enough mom.

The concept of the good enough mother was first coined by Donald Winnicott in 1953. In his work as a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst he observed thousands of babies and mothers and came to realize that babies and children actually benefit when their mothers fail them in manageable ways. They need their primary caretakers to fail them in tolerable ways on a consistent basis to learn to live in an imperfect world. Like trees blown around by wind, children grow stronger by managing challenging events in their lives. The good enough mother is cognizant of her child’s development stage and supports her child’s learning and growth.

60 years later and good enough mothering hasn’t made its way into mainstream thinking. That is terrible. We need to change how we define parenting and celebrate it. Good enough is not mediocre. Good enough is thoughtful. Good enough is making rational choices. Good enough is supporting each other to be the best mom we can be. Good enough frees us and our children to be imperfectly perfect. Let’s start with getting the word out. #goodenoughmom

 

Article by Cathy Walls