It’s Okay Not Being a Perfect Mom
As mothers, we have many dreams for our children. There is much pressure from society about how to be the perfect mother, and despite the best of intentions, the reality is that the challenges of motherhood can, at times, be overwhelming. The great news is we only have to be “good enough” according to the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott.
By Rebecca Berg, LMFT,
Motherhood is hard. And, yes, many times it can be overwhelming. But, it is important not to make it needlessly harder by setting our expectations too high for both our children and ourselves.
Our children look to us for guidance, containment, safety, and comfort. Our role as mothers is to help our children grow and understand themselves so that they can grow up to become happy, healthy, productive members of society. In the journey of motherhood, there are daily challenges – some more manageable than others.
In the introduction of Parenting from the Inside Out, authors Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. state, “As we grow and understand ourselves, we can offer a foundation of emotional well-being and security that enables our children to thrive.” Indeed, part of being a good mother is taking care of our own mental health, so that we can bring that emotional wellness to our family life and parenting techniques. For some mothers, this can be challenging. We all make mistakes, getting overly frustrated, forgetting that it was picture day at school, running late, feeling like there is never enough time in the day. It is simply not easy with hectic schedules and juggling numerous priorities in our daily lives. We are often excellent caregivers but not so great at taking care of ourselves.
Some things to be mindful of:
- One of the ways we can care for ourselves is by giving ourselves grace. Sometimes just looking at all that we are managing puts it all in perspective
- I’m a big fan of Mommy time-outs. Sometimes we just need 5 minutes to decompress, breathe, and think. Don’t feel guilty for putting the TV on just so you can have a few minutes of quiet or alone time.
- When we are present enough to notice how we react to our children, we become more aware of the triggers and can work toward offsetting negative emotions or reactions. Recognizing what we need in those moments and being able to ask for help is incredibly important.
- Do things that help you to feel replenished. Sometimes a walk outside, coffee with a girlfriend, a date night, or a playdate to break up the monotony can provide a new perspective, distraction, or much needed decompression.
- It is also important to have your identity established apart from being a mother. Who were your before you became a mother? What goals do you have for yourself?
- If you still find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out, it might be time to seek out professional help. A good therapist can give you the space you need to process your feelings and understand how your past is affecting your present.
We all know that no one is perfect, yet somehow many of us strive for this unrealistic expectation of ourselves. We have to be extremely careful not to do this so that it becomes unhealthy or distracting to what’s most important in our lives. Remember: do not measure your weaknesses by someone else’s strengths. Know what you are capable of and celebrate the things which make you uniquely you. Motherhood is a journey of ups and downs, thrilling joys and excruciating lows. If we can take this all in stride, it makes for a much more peaceful family life.
To illustrate this, here is a great example of a recent encounter I had with my eldest daughter. A few weeks ago, we were driving in the car to pick up her younger sister from preschool, and I realized I had forgotten about a deadline I had later that day. Unknowingly, I must have muttered aloud because my daughter calmly said from the backseat, “It’s okay to make mistakes, Mom, because that’s how we learn.” I cried tears of joy knowing that even though I still struggle with perfectionism, I have helped my daughter to know it is okay and even beneficial to sometimes fail to learn from our mistakes.
Mothering is not a single event or a snapshot in time but a journey. There is a dance that we do with our children, sometimes quickly, sometimes from a distance, and sometimes in an intimate embrace. We will all make mistakes, but it is how to handle those mistakes with grace and dignity both for ourselves and our children that makes all the difference.
More than anything, I want my girls to be real people who know they are loved, cherished, and known. In order to do this, I have to know myself and really dig into those deep, dark places of my soul to find peace, forgiveness and happiness — and to remember to try to make time for myself every day…because good enough is all I really need to be.
Rebecca Berg is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Brea, Ca. With over 16 years of experience in the mental health field, she is passionate about helping women, mothers of young children, and teens. She enjoys helping her clients heal from the painful effects of trauma, sexual abuse, grief, loss, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. She holds a M.A. from Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University. When not working, Rebecca is trying to keep up with her energetic and lively two young girls and make time for her husband of 11 years. To learn more about Rebecca, please visit www.rebeccabergmft.com