Being a ‘Good Enough’ Mum
There is so much pressure on us to be a ‘perfect mum’ – the Supermum ideal is something that hovers over us perpetually like a helicopter in pursuit of a runaway criminal. The first step in releasing your Supermum ideal is to discover what it means to you to be a ‘Good Mum’. What if “good enough” was the more healthy goal? By identifying your personal ‘mummy goals’ – rather than comparing yourself to someone on social media – you can better understand the triggers which make you feel ‘not good enough’, and hopefully start to soften your gaze on yourself and realise just how much you ARE doing as opposed to being hyper aware of what you feel you’re not.
Many – most…all? – mums worry at some point if they’re doing an OK job. This constant questioning of your efficacy can have a huge impact on how you are feeling.Many of us have strong ideas about what being a ‘good mum’ means, and there are so many societal expectations and clashing opinions that often you simply can’t win, there are too many avenues to ‘failure’. There’s so much information out there about how to parent, it can be overwhelming. It’s so important therefore to pause and get a picture of about your own ideas about being a mum. Building your own resilience will enable you to find a sense of clarity about your intuition, a confidence not to be so easily knocked by events or a careless comment.
Take a moment to write down what kind of mum you want to be, how you want to feel, how you want your children to feel. If it’s hard to think of this, try to think of what kind of mum your baby might like to have.
The mum I’d like to be…
Journal just a few sentences. Bring to mind what you had imagined and how you want to feel. Then see if you can align that to what you’re doing day to day in caring for your baby or children.
Is there anything you would like to change about what you’re doing now?
Expectation vs reality
Perhaps you had pictured yourself as a patient, calm, unflappable mother – always thoughtful about what your child needed and wanted and ‘putting them first’, and delivering what they need with patience and kindness. I personally felt that I would be serene and great at craft-based activities. And so to discover that in reality I was often frazzled, feeling out of my depth and occasionally sweary under my breath came as a bit of a shock to my expected ideal.
Parenting is loving and joyful, yes, but also exhausting and often unpredictable. So any controlling methods that we usually use in our daily life pre-children are hard to employ once babies and children are in the mix. We have to ‘go with the flow’ a lot more, and worse…there are no appraisals or feedback for how well we’re doing. No promotions. No ‘mum of the week!’. It’s in these approval gaps that mental health issues can develop and flourish.
What challenges do you experience in trying to be the kind of mum you’d like to be? For me, it’s patience. I assumed I would be calm and patient. And I am often frustrated and stressed. I never used to lose things or be late, and since becoming a mum I now excel at both of these, and this makes me question my identity and feelings of competence. It’s these feelings that manifest as thoughts of not being even a ‘good enough mum’ let alone a Supermum, and makes me feel I’m not doing the job I could be doing.
When these thoughts proliferate, however, I now realise that I have to look at the wider picture of resilience and challenge. How much sleep have I been getting over the past few weeks? How many deadlines do I have looming? How much illness have we had in the family over the past few weeks? How much water have I been drinking every day – or downtime, breathing space have I had? Inevitably, there is a strong link between my coping well and the amount of space or time I have had to process the adventures of daily life.
The Supermum Myth
Often, as mums we don’t take the time to view the external factors, we just pick up on our internal feeling of ‘I’m not doing a good job here so I’m obviously a crap mum’. And this negative thought loop can inform our emotional resilience and affect our mood day to day.
If you’re struggling with your baby or older child, know that human relationships are beautifully malleable in their changing flow. Nothing is ever fixed in stone. We can always view things from a different perspective and shift negative energy.
Even if you are not ‘enjoying every moment’, as long as you are sensitively responding to baby’s needs then you are doing what it takes to be a ‘good mum’. There is no perfect: perfect does not exist and it’s healthy for your baby to know that. It can be helpful to know that being a good enough mum is about making sure your baby is clean, has a full tummy, cuddles and connection.
It is also important to remember that depression, anxiety and self doubt can get in the way of feeling enjoyment or pleasure, and this can affect the way we feel about being a mum. Young babies are often not that fun – It can be relentlessly hard work and initially without much feedback.
It’s so important to take things one step at a time, one day at a time – and you will get through it. It will get better, you get better at it, as you build your skills and resilience. Things that used to be difficult suddenly become automatic, as you tune into your baby’s needs and know their personal triggers for stress such as being in an overstimulating environment, and understand the tiny detail of when they need to rest/be fed. This attunement is a skill we rarely give ourselves much credit for, but it’s a sign of real Mum Superpower.
There is no single, correct way to parent. What’s more important is that you and your baby get to know each other, and that you find ways of being with your baby that work for you both. Even if you are not always ‘enjoying it’, or ‘cherishing every moment’ – as long as you’re sensitively responding to your baby’s needs then you are doing what it takes to be a good – great, wonderful – mum.
When you’re feeling low it’s easy to catastrophise, for example:
‘I feel really guilty that I don’t know how to play with my baby. I am worrying I am not bonding with him and that he won’t develop properly if I don’t play with him. I am a terrible mother.’
In these moments of catastrophic thought, it can be helpful to anchor yourself in the present moment with taking 5 deep breaths. Connect with your physical body, your mindful awareness of the here and now. Your baby is safe, and cared for. Zoom in on a physical detail of your baby: their tiny toes, their dimpled cheeks, their eyelashes. Fix this moment in your heart to lift your consciousness away from your whirring brain. Bringing your senses back into the NOW can lift the tension of expectations of the future or anxieties of your abilities, and enable you to access calmer feelings of gratitude and contentment. If your baby is little – know that it takes time to get to know this new human you have created. You are unfurling as a mother just as they are unfurling as a new baby.
Remember that even if you’re not enjoying it, or you’re finding it hard, this does not mean you are not a good mum. You’re doing a brilliant job.
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