Are You a ‘Good Enough’ Mother?
The decision to have a second or third (or fourth…) child can be a tricky one for some mothers.
Although much of early mothering can be seen as instinctive, we learn how to become a mother, and a parent from our own life experiences, and what we have observed, read and heard around us. We deal with our own memories of childhood and our own mothering experience, and we navigate our way through the unchartered (and sometimes messy) waters of this new world we have entered.
And, as time passes, we gain confidence, and strength, and cultivate our own inner ‘mama wisdom’, and learn to trust ourselves day after day. We find our feet, learn more about our amazing little one each day, and know what seems to work, and what definitely doesn’t (for you, and your family, at least).
But what happens when a mother has been a mother for some time, and is suddenly expecting another child?
For some women, this can create much anxiety or worrying, with questions like:
How will I cope with another baby?
How will I be able to split my attention, love and care for both, or all of my children equally?
What if I / we go through the same challenges as last time?
My workload at home will increase – how will I manage to keep our home running smoothly as well as be a good mother (and maintain my work)?
Who can I count on for support, if and when I need it?
It is understandable, if you’ve been through any of the challenges below, that you may have specific worries in mind:
Post-natal depression / anxiety,
Colicky / reflux / sick baby
Ongoing sleep deprivation
Ongoing physical pain after birth
Lack of emotional and/ or family support
With these possible worries in mind, I would like to introduce you to, or remind you of the concept of “The Good Enough Mother”, coined by British Psychoanalyst and Paediatrician, Donald Winnicott.
Winnicott reminds mothers that they do not need to strive for perfection. There is no such thing as the perfect mother. He believed that the way to be a good mother, is to be a good enough mother.
A mother who pays attention to her baby, provides food, comfort, clothing, love and care is a good mother. She is also a real mother – she has her own needs, flaws, even resentments at times. And this is okay – you are okay, as long as you are doing your best each and every day!
Because a real mother is teaching her child about life; it is not always full of roses.
There are challenges, and emotions that aren’t always happy and joyful. Life presents us with awkward or difficult situations, and we must deal with these. Our children must also know that they will experience these one day too.
A real mother is showing her child how to live life – with all its colours and contrasts. A child needs to learn how to stumble at times, so that they can get back up again.
A child needs to learn that they will not always be the centre of the universe, nor can they have everything they wish, all the time. And with these experiences, disappointment is inevitable. And that is okay.
Being a mother of 1, 2, 3, 4 or more, can be both beautiful and challenging in many ways.
Motherhood or parenthood will never be perfect. If you strive for perfection – in either yourself, or your child – you may be setting yourself up for a whole new set of challenging or disappointing times ahead.
Be real, and embrace your journey for what it is.
It might be messy sometimes, exhausting, relentless, or not what you expected… but it can also bring you the most amazing love, joy and learning that you have ever known.
And remember to fill your cup first; be kind to yourself, hold self-compassion and self-care high on your list of priorities.
Mothers who learn how to fill their cup, are happier mothers, and this flows down to their children, partner and home-life in general.
So please remember, strive to be good enough, and not perfect.
Wendy Gilroy is a Mother of 2, and a professional Counsellor for women. Wendy has a degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in Addiction Studies, and a Diploma of Counselling. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and offers secure ONLINE counselling for women around the world, as well as telephone, face-to-face and home visit services for mums.
Disclaimer: This is for information purposes only. If you have any concerns about your physical or mental health, please consult your healthcare practitioner for medical advice.