Are you feeling nervous and incompetent? Do you lose your temper sometimes? Are you troubled by frequent feelings of guilt that you are not a good mother and maybe your child deserves more?
Take a deep breath and relax – many mothers feel the same, but, in fact, these feelings have no real basis in reality. Parents can’t and mustn’t fulfil all their children’s demands. No matter where you go, you will never find “the perfect mother” and if anyone tells you a mother like that exists, then he is a liar.
This is exactly what the famous psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott meant when he dubbed the term “The good enough mother” back in the 1950’s. He believed that a mother shouldn’t be 100% devoted to her child’s needs. A mother should be loving and caring, but she must let her child feel some frustration, and in that sense, she is not perfect but good enough – not 100% but 90%.
This is the only way a baby can gradually experience a physical and mental separation between himself and his mother and develop his own personality as an individual person.
Give yourself a break
Today, society expects women to develop themselves, acquire education and build a career that will help support the family side by side with their husbands. A woman should lead a healthy life style, exercise regularly, eat properly and, of course, look good, always smile and be happy. At the same time, as a mother, a woman is responsible of the maintenance of the house including cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc. She needs to be fully involved in her children’s life, manage all their social and educational activities and support them emotionally.
In light of these conflicting demands, striving to be 100% is neither possible nor is it desirable. Being a 90% mother and even 85% is absolutely alright. You should be at peace with yourself and not look for unrealistic perfection.
6 main characteristics that define a good (enough) mother
Although there is no fixed formula for a good mother, there are 5 guidelines you should follow that, we believe, will help you be a better mother.
1) A good mother knows how to combine love and abundant care with clear boundaries. The importance of boundaries to a child can’t be overestimated. They make the world around him fixed and understandable, which gives him a sense of continuity and security. Children who grow up with boundaries tend to be more emotionally stable and confident as teenagers and adults.
2) A good mother accepts her children for what they are. She always prefers to guide rather than criticize. This is essential for building self-esteem in children. Giving up criticism is not easy. People around us tend to look at what is wrong and what needs to be improved and not always pay attention to what is good.
3) A good mother tries to understand what her child is going through; why he behaves the way he does and what he tries to convey with his behavior. It doesn’t mean that you should give legitimacy to bad behavior; instead, you should give legitimacy to the child’s emotions that led to his behavior.
4) A good mother never forgets that her child, no matter how young he is, is a human being just like her with desires and needs, fears, changing moods, disappointments and frustrations. She should respect him the way she wants herself to be respected and speak to him at eye level.
5) A good mother can make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes here and there. This applies to mothers as well. Don’t be hard on yourself. It OK to make a mistake as long as you acknowledge it and learn from it. It’s also OK to apologize to your child (On condition that he is old enough to understand it). It will teach him an important lesson: adults are not always right. A child who knows that will grow up to be a person with a healthy sense of skepticism.
6) A good mother follows her instincts. The moment you become a mother, you start getting countless pieces of advice and tips from family and friends. True, some of these tips can be useful, but at the end of the day, no one knows your children as well as you do and only you know what is really best for them. Do what you think even if it contradicts others’ advice.