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Good Enough Mother

May 2007

There was a time in my youth when I romanticized motherhood.  Obviously, I had no clue what it was about.  During my late teens I lived abroad and had hands-on experience caring for my nephew.  It was then I caught a glimpse of what parenting might mean.  I realize now it was a sliver of a glimpse.  Raising your children 24/7 is a daunting task that one learns only through experience.  Nothing prepares you for the heights of joy and depths of sorrow that motherhood brings.

I have been a mom for close to ten years. You would think I’d have a handle on it by now, but everyday is still a struggle to be the right kind of mother.  I wanted to be all hugs and fluff but it turns out you can’t raise a child on that – at least not an upright one.  I didn’t know I had it in me to be firm and, much to the joy of my well-fed guilt, stern and angry.  I didn’t know I would be the kind of mother who could lose it with her children, either, but I’ve been there, too, despite everything I know and feel.

No, motherhood is not a walk in the park, not if you’re keen on raising your children consciously and have decided to parent via the road less traveled.  The decision to keep my children away from television means I have to find ways to make sure the kids are creatively engaged.  I sometimes imagine how much easier my life would be if I could just plop my boys in front of the tube for a few hours while I went about doing whatever it was I wanted without interruption.  But I can’t.  Knowing what I know about the effects of television on the developing child, I simply cannot do it.  I could easily not think about the quality of food they eat and ply them with junk, sugar, preservatives and antibiotic and hormone-laced meat.  Instead, I go food shopping all around town to make sure I serve them healthy fare.

It would be easier to go with the flow and not pay attention to the kinds of words I use, my tone of voice, thoughts, behavior not just in front of them but all the time, because I know that who you are is what it’s about. I sometimes wish I didn’t have to keep checking myself to determine if I am living in a truthful and integrated way because I know these things cannot be taught except by authentic example. Yes, there are days when I wish I could just drop the ball, but the responsibility of raising loving, compassionate, productive human beings is a Herculean task that presents itself daily and any temptation to slack-off is very quickly extinguished by the thought of the little innocent beings whose lives are in your hands.

No, there is never a day of rest for mothers.  You can find a way to have vacations without the children but your heart is always with them.  You feel free and thankful for the time away from the kids for about a minute before you start missing them.  They are the backdrop to your every thought and decision and though we try our best to be good mothers all the time, it just isn’t possible.  That’s why the phrase “good enough mother” brings me comfort and today I hope that many other mothers are soothed by it.

Mothers are often plagued with guilt or serious feelings of inadequacy because we all feel the enormity of our task.  There are days we wonder how we can possibly be up for it.  I have had moments of looking up at the sky, asking how I could have been entrusted with these two little boys.  Could there have been a mistake?  Of course not.  Just like all the mothers in the world, I know I simply have to step up. There is no way around it.

All mothers try their best and give much more than they think they can.  We do this nonstop, and we will until our last breath, so we need to know that perfection is not the aim and that the very act of striving –daily — to be worthy of our children is good enough.  As long as we strive, our children will feel it, too.  They will feel that even if we screw-up, lose it, yell and crumble, there is a part of us that loves them so fiercely that we can pull through and try even harder to become better human beings—all so that we may offer them the greatest possibilities.

Today, I’d like to remind all good enough mothers to take a deep breath and celebrate every effort we continue to exert to be better parents for the sake of our children. I’d also like to remind all mothers to fill our hearts with gratitude for our children who continue to stretch and shape our hearts in unimaginable ways. They teach us love and selflessness in ways no other human being can.

We will never be perfect but everyday we can certainly try to be good enough. Happy Mother’s Day, mommies!

4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Monica / Jun 14 2008 10:03 pm

    I love reading your insights on parenting. You have, indeed, taken the road less traveled. Hats off to you! You truly are an inspiration to young moms like me 🙂

  2. anne café / Aug 9 2010 9:56 pm

    I loved this post. I’ve been feeling inadequate and sad lately and you made me feel much better about my motherhood.

    • panjeetapales / Aug 10 2010 7:43 am

      Hi Anne,

      I think every mother feels inadequate more times than she feels adequate. I wish it were easy to just believe we’re great, so gentle self-reminders are needed. You are good enough!

      Warm hug,
      Panjee

  3. Mom-Friday / Jun 7 2011 5:26 pm

    wow, i salute you! NO TV?! 🙂 I can’t escape TV since I married into a family of TV addicts 😦 so it’s always monitored viewing for them.
    I also feel inadequate, but it comforts me to know that many moms feel that way too. Thanks for this very insightful post!

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