The truth of the words above is never quite realized, I think,
until our mom is no longer alive.
It was none other than the uber-feminist, Gloria Steinem, who wrote about the “good enough” mom in reference to her own mother who suffered with mental illness back in the bad ol’1950s when treatment lagged way behind where we are today. As a child, Ms. Steinem often cared for her mom, as well as for herself, during periods when her mother languished. Yet, even at that, she reports that her mother was “good enough.” Which makes me think about . . .
The “Good Enough” Mom
Recently, I’ve been encountering quite a few women who’re plagued by a sense that they aren’t quite doing enough to be good moms. What is a good mom, exactly, I’ve begun to wonder. I’m pretty sure I’m closing in on what it’s not.
I think it’s not a mom who does all the stuff for her kids. . . those kids end up wondering if they’re capable of doing stuff for themselves.
It’s not a mom who gives kids the stuff they want, when they want it . . .those kids end up shaken when the rest of the world does not capitulate to their demands.
It is not the mom who pads and protects her child from failure . . . those kids lack experience and confidence to pick themselves up and dust themselves off when the setbacks in Life ultimately come.
As one of my Wisdom Sources (aka, my dear pals and advisors) says, our job is not to prepare the road for our kid, but to prepare our kid for the road.
One mom I know struggles with the fact that she can’t be at all the sporting events of all her kids, simultaneously mind you. Will her kids be traumatized, in therapy for years to come, she ponders. My mom, probably your mom, was not at any of my sporting events. . .or hardly any of the choir programs or awards assemblies, etc. And yet. So, I wonder, is it a parent’s presence at the events which matters? Or, is it the parent’s PRESENCE? If it’s PRESENCE, how might that look, sound, feel?
It might LOOK like a mom who isn’t distracted, rushed, checking her watch or cell phone. Her face would be turned to the kid. Her eyes would be taking him in, seeing his expression, hearing his tone of voice, observing his high energy since he got home from his girl friend’s house.
It might SOUND like a mom who laughs, who does NOT ask, “What did you make on your test? Do you have your homework?” (as if that is the sum and substance of their relationship). It might sound like, “Oh wow. So, how will you handle that?” and later, “How’d it go?” GREAT…. attagirl!” It might sound like, “What could you do to make this better? Is there something I can do to help?” instead of jumping in with a solution or advice.
To a kid, it might FEEL like a mom who has confidence in me, in my growing ability to figure things out for myself. It might feel like I can tell my mom important stuff because she won’t just jump in and try to “fix” it her way. It might feel like she’s on my side, my best fan.
I appreciate Ms. Steinem’s reminder that mothers don’t have to be excellent, or even very good for that matter, to be “good enough.” We can relax, breathe a sigh of relief, especially since probably what our kids REALLY NEED from us is our love, our confidence, our willingness to wait and encourage while they grow up, while they learn to do what they need to do for themselves.
For better or for worse, a kid’s home really is where his mom is. . .
that simple, that enduring.
No bells or whistles needed.