In 1953, David Winnicott coined the term “the good-enough mother.” In short, his work gave mothers permission to be more human and less perfect. We can be great mothers even if we cannot meet our children’s needs 100% of the time.
Winnicott eased the minds and souls of all of us Type-A women. We could be less than perfect, make mistakes and still raise emotionally healthy children. This also subtly leaves room for us to follow our own life paths, while still being in-step with our children’s growth and development. We could be great moms, but also human and imperfect while on our own journeys.
Today, it seems that there is a wave to revert back to the model of perfect parenting. Parents seem to proudly anticipate every need of their child before the child is even aware of his own need. Parents strive to be all things to their children but, conversely, the children become all things to the parent – their best friends, companions, soulmates, and play partners.
Philosophically, I am in turmoil. I also want to be my son’s best friend. But, I’m not! I am indelibly “The Parent.” It is my task to encourage an organic separation, individuation, and independence, while enjoying the benefits of having a close family.
It is hard for me to see my children make mistakes but, mistakes and their reverberations are essential to growth. If the red carpet is metaphorically always rolled out so that mistakes are quickly taken care of and covered up, the parent basically denies the child his right to learn resilience and forge his own path. Hand in hand, the child never stops working to please the parent. And, conversely, the parent never stops working to please the child. Bottom line, we can’t be all things to our children. In order for them to succeed on their own, we all, including myself, have to let go and embrace our imperfections as parents.