As Mother’s Day approaches, moms can look forward to receiving gifts and cards from their kids and perhaps jewelry or the day off from a spouse, but what gift should a mom get herself? While a day at the spa or a manicure may be enticing, my Mother’s Day suggestion is that moms be gentle in the way they evaluate themselves as a mom.

Being a mom today is difficult. The pressure to keep our kids ahead in schools, happy at home and active outside of those areas is like a juggling act where new balls are added on a daily basis. Is it any wonder that some moms feel like their best efforts are never enough?    

One of my favorite theories in psychology is the “Good-Enough Mother,” a term coined by English psychologist Donald Winnicott. Winnicott’s theory was that kids need a “good-enough” mother, not a “perfect” mother. A perfect mother– one so in tune with her child’s needs that she meets those needs before they even enter awareness– would undermine a child’s ability to develop frustration tolerance and coping.  As every mother knows, those are two pretty important skills for a child to learn in order to survive and thrive in the world. More importantly, he noted that a perfect mother doesn’t exist!

So, now that you know you don’t have to be “perfect”, here are some behaviors to avoid:

  • Stop comparing yourself!  In my practice, I often find that people compare themselves with others. However, they only focus on the other person’s strongest points.  It can be pretty painful to compare your body to your trainer’s or your ability to support homework to your friend who is a teacher or your nightly meal to a stay-at-home mom’s when you’ve been at work all day.  I think it is clear how this sets you up to feel bad for yourself. 
  • Stop comparing your kids!  Every child has strengths and weaknesses and every child develops differently.  To raise a well-balanced child who grows into a well-functioning adult, you have to help your child recognize their strengths and work within their limits.  If you have a gifted and a typical learner within your household, you shouldn’t have the same grade expectations of them.  If one child is athletic and the other is artistic, you support each individual’s interests instead of trying to make them someone else.
  • Stop judging each other!  When women are hard on themselves, they tend to be hard on others as well.  This leads to feelings of isolation.  Wouldn’t it be great to find a community of women who could give and receive support without feeling like their struggles were being judged?  It exists, but it definitely requires searching.

Here are some behaviors to engage in:

  • Be kind to yourself:  What does this actually look like?  It means that when you make a mistake or something doesn’t go well, you respond to yourself the same way you would respond to your best friend if she went through the same thing—with kindness and empathy.  It’s accepting your limits and struggles and recognizing that we all have limits and struggles.
  • Let go of the guilt:  You don’t need to be all things to all people.  Work, family, and community obligations can be endless.  You have a finite amount of time and energy and you need to set limits in order to avoid burning out.  Say no or step back from things or relationships that don’t add to your life.

I hope you enjoy your Mother’s Day and your role as mom now that you know you don’t need to be perfect, only “good-enough”.