“Good enough” Parenting

Tessa Burns MartinParenting, Tessa Burns

I am back at work after taking six weeks off following the birth of my second child. We now have a boy and a girl so I am feeling quite complete right now. I am also feeling quite stretched having two children under 2 years old. In the field of psychology and parenting, we often work with our clients to be “good enough” parents. Many women who experience postpartum depression struggle with feelings of inadequacy because they do not feel like the live up to the expectations of being a perfect parent. Mothers see the women who keep a perfectly tidy house, cook gourmet meals, and seem to always be put together and feel low.

When I had my son, I thought I was rocking the parenting thing and felt more than good enough. I was practicing attachment parenting and felt calm and secure in my ability to take care of him. I would even joke with my husband that I did not know what our son would be able to complain to a therapist about when he grew up because we were tending so well to his needs. I will admit that I am not, nor will I ever be, Martha Stewart so I guess I would not appear from the outside as one of those parents who do it all. My laundry sits folded in the laundry basket for days and I am not shy about doing take-out. I will also admit that I had the perfect amount of support. My mother was not working, so she was available whenever I needed someone to look after my son. My sister was newly single and loves children so she would spend every waking moment with her nephew when she was not working. And, aside from occasionally traveling for work, my husband was usually home right after work to cook a meal or let me head out to the gym.

Feeling like a “good enough” parent really came into perspective when my daughter was born. Though my daughter is such a good-natured baby, my perfect attachment parenting style has turned more into a triage parenting style. The attention has to go to the place where there is the greatest need. My daughter may need to be fed, but she has to cry a little longer than I would have let my son, because he is about to jump off the kitchen counter (how he gets up there is beyond me- he may secretly be a ninja). My perfect support system has changed because a perfect storm of events all happened at the same time. My mother decided to get a part-time job, my sister is in a new relationship, and my husband is undertaking a renovation of our home while being the busiest with work he has been in years. So, I am left to hold down the fort on my own at times. It has been my saving grace to remind myself of the principle of “good enough” parenting. And, so far it has helped me keep my sanity and create the most important thing for my children- a happy, calm, loving mother.

So, for all those parents out there, that may not be filling the shoes of the perfect parent, make sure you take a deep breath and realize that as long as you are doing the best you can with what you have, you are more than “good enough.”