The concept of good enough

Post written by Orsolya Hernold

I learned this from Bruno Bettelheim who wrote “A good enough parent”. As a woman, a partner, a mother, a child and a worker I have many roles I perform and juggle with them within a day. I try to excel in all of my roles – maybe it comes from my parents’ role models, or messages received as a small girl, it does not really matter whether I know the real stem where it all started. What I know that it is damn hard to even try to be perfect as a woman, a partner, a mother, a child, and a worker, let alone do it simultaneously. My pursuit of doing any of my jobs better the next day than today leaves me exhausted and dissatisfied all the time. And these are feelings I do not want to feed and nurture.

So I adopted the “good enough” mindset. How does it work for me? As a mother I love my children, pay attention to them, spend a lot of time with them – and still there are days when I am frustrated, tired or just want to be left alone. And children are well aware of those times and can give you even a harder time as usual. I end up yelling at them which I am not particularly proud of, but it happens from time to time. Being a yelling parent is not an awfully good feeling even if I have apologized for my misbehavior. This could leave me in this state of feeling bad about myself – but do my children need a parent full of self-hatred and self-blame?

I looked at the instances where I lost my temper (from diary notes on conflicts with my children) and found that it happens roughly every two weeks. That leaves the 344 days of being a “good” (loving, patient) parent and 21 days of a “not good” (yelling, impatient) parent. If I add up the two I came up with the “good enough” mother. Yes, there are times when I do not live up to my high expectations of myself as a mother (or as a partner, a child, a worker), but most of the time I manage.

My aspiration can (and is) still be making that number 365 – but I do not start a circle of self-blame when I cannot, rather I concentrate on the learning points: what are those moments, situations when I lose my temper? What are my methods of calming down? How can I communicate to my children what happened? I am sure they are hurt when I yell at them, but they also learn a lot from my struggle to overcome my temper and my ways of making up for it. I concentrate on talking about these situations frankly and listening to their side of the story as well. From this point of view, this is a communication skills training for both sides. I do not want to paint pink the situation, rather I would like to emphasize that everything I do will have a mark on my children: my yelling, my coping with my feelings, my disappointment with myself.

What are those areas of your life where you are or can or want to be “good enough”? Write down a situation and look at it objectively.


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