"Good Enough" is Just Right

Article from the Post Register

By our Grants Manager, Taryn Yates


Posted July 12, 2017

Three months ago, my family and I welcomed our second child: A bright-eyed boy with several cowlicks, the most noticeable of which causes a tuft of hair in the back of his head to stand up distinctively. It's adorable and I do adore him. However, I must admit that having a second child has been challenging. Fortunately, I don't stress anymore about rigidly keeping a feeding or sleeping schedule, making sure no one touches him with unwashed hands, and a lot of the other big standard worries I had when I was a new mom. I learned with my firstborn to just feed my baby when he's hungry, that sleep patterns usually emerge when they are ready, that the baby will be exposed to germs whether I like it or not (his germ-ridden brother keeps kissing him), and life will carry on.

However, since I had the logistics under semi-control, I was caught off guard by a familiar foe: Guilt. I didn't feel like I was enjoying my baby. I didn't have time to. I was trying so hard to just keep my toddler alive and cared for, not to mention all the feeding, holding, burping, diaper changing, and bathing required to keep a newborn happy, that I didn't have any time to simply stop and smell the baby powder. I felt like I was mentally hunkering down and pushing through the hard part until my baby was a little older and life got more "manageable". That started me to worry: if I wasn't enthusiastically embracing every single mothering moment- was I hurting my children? Would they notice? Would letting my toddler watch too much television so I could take care of the baby or throw in a load of laundry ruin his brain development?

Somewhere in the midst of worrying, I was reminded of the concept of "good enough parenting". Good enough parenting comes from the research of Donald Winnicott and was expanded upon by several others. There is a lot of information out there on good enough parenting and attachment (google it, you'll see what I mean), but the basic idea is that parents have an insider's knowledge of their child that experts don't, so a well-meaning mother who is "fond of her baby" and tries her best will have good outcomes for their child. In Psychology Today, Dr. Peter Gray used Goldilocks as a metaphor for good enough parenting. Children need a parent who doesn't parent too much or parent too little. There is a sweet spot of good enough parenting right in the middle. So I decided to reflect upon my parenting with a more positive "good enough" lens. Am I fond of my children? Absolutely yes! Am I trying? Yes, I'm trying very hard, actually.

Through this lens, my guilt began to fade. Yes, I am rushed much of the time, but when I'm not worried about making every moment meaningful, I noticed that I do, in fact, put meaning into the little moments. I quickly tousle my toddler's hair as I'm getting him to brush his teeth. I coo at my baby while changing his diaper. I sing silly songs as I'm putting their clothes on. And I kiss each child as I'm putting them into their car seats. Sure, I offer my iPad for a much-needed distraction, and it's not unheard of for me to either rush through breakfast or offer a children's protein shake to my toddler in the car in lieu of scrambled eggs. It's not perfect. But it is good enough. In fact, one could say it's just right.

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