Part 4 - The good enough parenting
Updated: Mar 17
Welcome back to parenting series, part 4 where we will discuss an amazing concept called good enough parenting.
Now we "know" a lot of information from the previous posts; from child development to attachment theory and parenting styles.
We are ready to tackle all parenting problems and become the parent of the year!
Well, not exactly.
Knowing stuff is one thing and applying some of it to real life is another. We are aiming here for the latter.
I can hear you saying, "How do we do that?"
How do we figure out to use information for unique needs of your child?
How do we approach this challenging and joyful journey, how can we grow as a parent alongside our kid?
The good enough parent to the rescue
Being a parent... means asking a lot of questions, with getting minimal (if any...) answers.
Sometimes being a parent can also feel so overwhelming. A lot of times, actually.
When we become a parent, we have already carried so many other roles.
Daughter, scientist, immigrant, wife, mental health advocate, healthy eater and regular exerciser... to name a few for me.
Once I added the mother to my list, everything fall apart. I felt like lost. Sucked by quick sand truthfully. (Later I learned that there was actually a word for this phenomenon: The matrescence; the identity shift that women face as they become mothers.)
The Mother, I felt as if, was demanding all my time and energy from me. and I was failing miserably.
When we become a parent, especially mothers, we already have so many balls in the air. And society is not helping. Classic gender roles require mothers place to be home. No matter how egalitarian household you have built, you may have find yourself slipping to old gender roles when you have a baby.
No matter how much blessed you are with a supportive understanding partner, you may still find yourselves in THE MOTHER persona, unconsciously trying to be everything for everyone. A Marty.
How can we realize all these theories and make the best choices for our baby/kid everyday while keeping your marriage alive, staying healthy (not eating junk) , thriving on your career (or just surviving for a while)...
Tough one, huh?
And not matter how much and how hard we try, mother shaming is everywhere. Read my post on being a working mother here, to feel the heat. (I am sure every mother out there have their own version of this story. )
So what do we do? How do we become perfect parents?
We basically have to stop trying to become the BEST/PERFECT mother.
The good news is that there is not such thing being the BEST mother. That thing doesn't exist.
We can hopefully find some solace by embracing this revolutionary concept called the good enough parent.
What is good enough parenting and why it is so important?
The good enough parent concept is derived by D. W. Winnicott who describes specifically "good enough mother" as someone who is highly attuned and empathetic of her baby's needs and prioritizing and addressing needs of the infant.
If this sentence "The high attunement and empathetic care of the good enough mother" reminds you some concepts we discussed from Part 3 - Parenting psychoeducation / Attachment Theory and Parenting Styles . You are not imagining. You are indeed a good reader.
These are the characteristics of the good enough mother and necessary skills for building a secure attachment.
In his book, Good enough parent: A Book on Child-Rearing, Bruno Bettelheim also discuss the same concept.
I read this book as I was expecting my daughter and what stuck with me to this date is that Bettelheim did not give parents set of rules for raising children. On the contrary, he suggest that as parents we shall not look for continuous advice* & guidance from other people. He tries to make parents develop their own insights in order to attune to the child's unique needs and understand their children's behavior. (Talk about empowerment!)
He mentions that the most important resources for understanding your child is not your doctor, is not your mother, is not your friend, is not another mother, is not a book out there.
Basically, you have to stop looking for wisdom OUTSIDE.
Its already in you. You are the parent your child needs.
You have to rely on your intuition and capacity to figure things out for you and your child, rather than depending on other people for continuous advice.
He also underlines the importance of embracing the children as he/she is, embracing who they truly are, rather than trying to create the child that one might want to have.
I have read only a handful parenting books that I found so refreshing and empowering. This concept gave me the freedom to have room to make mistakes and learn from them. Grow with my daughter as her parent.
It gave me the understanding that PARENTING IS NOT A TALENT, IT IS A SKILL and it can be improved.
It also gives you resilience when other people (there is a lot of them out there!) who will question your parenting in one way or another.
"She needs a blanket - oh, you will make her sick."
" Is she eating eggs? Oh not yet? himmm.... (a side-eye.)
"Did you give her the medication on time? You will make her sicker."
(saying what kind of a mother are you, in between the lines)
These comments and many more make my blood boil. Still.
I mean, I read every single day on parenting. Books, articles... you name it. I know every single theory out there. I think about child development day and night. Give me a break for heavens sake if sometimes I don't do it "right"!!! (whose right or wrong, really?) and how dare you question my motherhood ?
Even if it is useful advice, in case it was unsolicited - I do not appreciate it. Thank you.
At these times, when I feel like someone questions my motherhood -- I breathe in and out. Rinse and repeat. Couple more times.
If a person find the audacity to question my motherhood through these questions, give me the side eye for some trivial parenting moment - I remind myself I am not going for the MOTHER OF THE YEAR on someone else's terms.
I am not trying to be PERFECT on their eyes and they are NO ONE to judge my parenting skills.
If some random person judges me that I am not doing x,y,z for someone else's criteria.
I let them judge.
I wake up, every single day. and I try my best to understand my daughter. Her needs, her unique self. I try to show up for her, for myself, for my family. I try to balance my needs with her. Every single day.
The only person who I answer to is my daughter as her parent. No one else.
How to be a good enough parent?
Sorry for the bad news but there are no magic wands or fast-forward rules.
Becoming a parent and a good enough parent; it is a continuous and conscious process. It requires a lot of work.
Let go of what you used to say or what others say
First of all, we have to let go of this illusion of perfect parent. Inside and outside.
You remember the phrase, "I was a great parent before I had kids". Absolutely. We were all great because we had NO idea!!!
Becoming a parent is a very humbling act. We slowly come to this awareness that we ARE NOT perfect. and we can not control many things. Hence, we need to be comfortable with being IMPERFECT.
Life is not perfect. So are we. And that's okay.
We must get better at not letting other people get under our skin. Let's be comfortable with not being the perfect mother on someone else's terms.
This is your life, your kid. You call the shots here. If they think, they are doing a not-so-good job - well, let them think.
That's a thought. Out there. You can perhaps appreciate that it was shared with you and move on.
Time for some internal work
More importantly, to realize good enough parenting concept, we need get down to some deep psychological work. Aside from the physical work (feeding, changing, playing with our baby or toddler) and emotional work (responding to their needs and connecting with them) I believe parenting skill also requires an additional layer of work - internal work on our side.
Healing our own childhood trauma and reparenting ourselves.
Being a good enough parent requires us to be brave and looking into our own past and healing our own traumas with professional mental health support, understanding our unconscious motivations and behaviors and start changing them consciously.
To prevent the perpetuating family trauma, to stop the cycle.
To stop making our children fit to a mold and let them embrace who they are.
Cherish them as they are.
Every woman says at some point "I won't be a mother like my mother" but it takes true courage strength and years long support to actually do that.
To revisit what was done in the past, the childhood we might have never got, recognize the pain, do some grief work, forgive and accept hopefully. So that we can move on to create your own way of parenting.
Putting your own mask before your child's.
A crucial part of being a good enough parent lies in the self-care.
I am not talking about retail therapy or mani-pedi kind of self care. Self-care meaning that you fulfill your own needs as a person (other than The Mother or The Father) (Remember that you were a person before becoming a parent, right?)
We all know that you can not pour from an empty cup. You can only show up for your kid if you are feeling calm and in control as a parent.
It is very important that we listen to ourselves, take time to recharge and show up for the most important job we have, aka parenting, every single day for the foreseeable future.
It can be a real challenge to balance the self-care and needs of a child as a parent and I definitely feel the struggle.
I talked about vulnerability here and how I have a love & hate relationship with this messy beauty. Being a good enough parent also requires us to be vulnerable. It requires us to say things like "hey you know what, it is true that I did a mistake/what I did was wrong. I don't get it right sometimes. I am sorry. Tell me more so I can do this right."
It requires empathy and compassion. It requires us to consciously be present with our kid.
and it is goddamn hard.
It needs us parents to remember what it was to be like a child. Hear our child out. Most importantly respect and value them as a person. Listen to their feelings, acknowledge them and share our feelings purposefully with them.
Takeaways from this post
Theories goes only so far and knowing stuff is almost worthless if we can put into practice.
We need to think and create unique syntheses of the knowledge and our child's unique needs with constant re-assessment along the way. It is a life long process.
The art and science of parenting is hard and complex and one can only strive for being good enough as the perfect parent is a myth.
I know the difficulty of dealing with childhood traumas as an adult and unlearning unhealthy ways of thinking and functioning.
I know the hardship of and balancing one’s needs with child’s needs, parenting them as well as re-parenting yourself.
and I know no parent our there want any harm for their child, no one wants to inflict pain or pass down these traumas consciously, knowingly to their child.
Therefore, as parents we have a big responsibility to become better version of ourselves and rise up to the challenge. when it comes to parenting. We must work hard (psychologically as well as physically...)
Having good intentions may not be enough to be a good enough parent.. You know what they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We need more than good intentions as a parent.
We have to be intentional and consciously learning to improve. It is our job to tune into our children's needs and help them grow until they can find their unique place and way in this world.
What a delight it must be to see that moment of time...and the person we become through raising them.
What a big gift they give to us as our biggest teachers.
March 14, 2021
Some of the great parenting resources out there,
Based on the latest research on brain development and extensive clinical experience with parents, Dr. Laura Markham’s approach is as simple as it is effective. Her message: Fostering emotional connection with your child creates real and lasting change. When you have that vital connection, you don’t need to threaten, nag, plead, bribe—or even punish.
This remarkable guide will help parents better understand their own emotions—and get them in check—so they can parent with healthy limits, empathy, and clear communication to raise a self-disciplined child. Step-by-step examples give solutions and kid-tested phrasing for parents of toddlers right through the elementary years.
We all know that perfect parenting does not exist, yet we still struggle with the social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. These messages are powerful and we end up spending precious time and energy managing perception and the carefully edited versions of the families we show to the world. On The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, Dr. Brené Brown invites us on a journey to transform the lives of parents and children alike.
Internationally acclaimed experts on communication between parents and children, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish “are doing for parenting today what Dr. Spock did for our generation” (ParentMagazine). Now, this bestselling classic includes fresh insights and suggestions as well as the author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships,
*As a parent, I agree with Bettelheim that we do not need continuous advice from other people on how to raise out kids yet I want to acknowledge that it takes a village. Getting practical advice on how to do things, especially for the first year from people who have been there is very helpful for new parents. I also acknowledge the necessity of following the medical advice of pediatricians regarding health of our children. I am grateful to my tribe who I consult once in a while terms of educational facilities such as daycares, schools..., resources and products once in a while.
Note: While I was writing this post, I was about to concentrate and sit down. It was around 10pm. That’s kind of a precious time for me as I can get to deep concentration in a quiet house and get to my writing.
Then I heard Eleanor crying in her room. I admit I was a bit annoyed. Its not her typical to cry at this time. I walked intro her room and asked her what is going on, hugged her.
I tried soothing her but she didn’t want to go down cried again when I put her in her bed
I let her out and she led me to kitchen
She was thirsty… The she drank 10oz milk! at once and And slept back happily...
The moral of this story is that, yes parents are always on call. ALWAYS. Yes I lost my precious quiet time for writing but hey, where am I racing to? I gained some precious connection with her. That moment when she sleeps on my chest.
That is the time that I live for. Those moments make this parenting thing worthwhile.