We all know there is no such thing as the perfect parent. Yet for some new parents and seasoned parents alike, this urge to get it “right” can overshadow the best of loving intentions. Do you find a sense of looming guilt for never doing enough for your child? Do you beat yourself up for days over parenting mistakes? These could be indications you are trying to be perfect in your role as a mother or father.
For some it is an extension of a personal lifelong battle with perfectionism. For others, the process of becoming a parent stirs up unmet emotional needs from their own childhood and at the surface is an overwhelming urge to make sure their children’s life is “better” than their own. And for others, the sense of constant competition from our culture pushes them to always want to be the best at everything, including parenting.
Letting go of high expectations gives parents a chance to teach children one of life's most important lessons: that to err is human. Children need to learn that people can be both good and bad; but that, ultimately, they are basically good. The irony is that we need to be able to tolerate that we are not perfect in order to be good parents.
Donald Winnicott was a pediatrician and child psychoanalyst who interacted with literally thousands of mothers and their babies. Through these experiences, he came to believe that the way to be a good mother is to be a good enough mother and coined the phrase the “good enough mother”.
We all lose our patience; we all say the wrong things at times; we all need breaks from our children. When we learn to accept our mistakes, our own meltdowns, and our blind spots we are teaching our children how to recover from falling, with grace.
Kids need to learn about life through real experiences. They need to learn to deal with disappointments and frustrations. They need to overcome their greed and their wish to be the center of the universe. They need to learn to respect the needs and limitations of other people, including their parents. If in an effort to protect and shield our children from the pains of life, we are not teaching them how to cope with the inevitable pains of life.
What would it be like for you to step into the idea of being a “good enough parent”? What would it be like to be a good parent but still make space for your flaws, quirks, and epic fails? Our downfalls are our greatest teachers for our children when we can model to them learning experiences on how to cope with being an imperfect human. So the next time you make a mistake in parenting, welcome it as a golden opportunity to teach your kid what it means to be a good enough human.