Lori Gottlieb & Being A Good-Enough Mom

Did you just hear that?

It was my huge sigh of relief caused by an article by Lori Gottlieb called “How to Land Your Kid In Therapy, which was brought to my attention this week by Naptime Writing and Brenna in her comments at Suburban Snapshots.

Gottlieb discusses, in short, how you only have to be a “good-enough” mother to raise happy, successful kids.

You see, all those lovely supportive parents who coddle their children and sacrifice everything to keep them incandescently happy their whole lives are actually screwing them up.

This gives me hope.

I have recounted many times how I feel unqualified to be a SAHM, despite that this job is a deliberate choice.

I have admitted having a hard time not looking at my kids like a couple of drunken clubbers who have invaded (and trashed) my home.

I can’t stop from laughing at them when they walk into walls.  I can’t stop refusing to tell them every scribble is a work of art.  Especially when I know they are capable of not walking into walls and drawing really cool pictures.

On a daily basis, my kids point at me declaring great injustices have been served when I follow through on my threats, dole out Time-Outs and remind them that You Don’t Always Get What You Want.  They are not always thrilled with me*.

PS: The feeling is mutual.

I don’t feel much guilt over not being SuperMom, but I do worry about being so far from it. I wonder at times if working on my own goals of writing, thus calling in a babysitter or turning on a movie while I hide out in my office, is going to affect them negatively.

I know being an example of a motivated and passionate human being is important.  But what if what it takes for me to succeed in making that example, is moving me too far away from that already-distant SuperMom status?

I have worried about how other moms are sweeter, more generous with their time, less cranky than I am.  Are their kids going to be happier because the moms aren’t a sarcastic-humored, sleep-deprived woman who refuses to spend every waking moment enriching her children with flash cards and phonics lessons during organic snack time?

This article tells me No.  They will be just fine with you, Kim.

As bad as I am at this whole homemaker business, this Staying-Home-With-The-Kids as a job situation I’m in, I’m not actually Bad.

Yes, I step back from my kids a lot.

But I am always close enough to hear them if they need my help.

Yes, I joke around about wanting to ship them off to Siberia when they are being particularly annoying, and flip them off behind their backs at times.

But I’ll cut the 1st S.O.B. who tries to mess with them.

Yes, I am honest with them when they can do better.

But I’ll work with them to get better.

Yes, I let them know I am mad at them or disappointed.

But I will let them earn my smile again.

I grew up in a crazy household and somehow came out okay.  I am very resilient, I am very aware of everything around me.  But it took a long time for me to learn how to be able to ask for help, to know I don’t always have to go it alone.  To trust.  I have met people who came from super-supportive households, people you think would have every single advantage in life.  Yet, when things got tough they didn’t know how to pad their own falls or get back up without someone reaching out a hand.  They lacked certain survival skills, because they were never alone during a trial.  They panic when making decisions, improvements, adjustments because they weren’t left to their own devices before, told to do better before, had to prove themselves before.

I see myself who wasn’t coddled and I see those other adults who were.

Lori Gottlieb says that somewhere in the middle might be a good place to try to land my kids.

As long as I am not Bad, I don’t have to worry about trying to be better than I can be.

It would be nice to be a Great Mom, but I don’t want to cripple my kids with a saccharine life.  Also?  Being great is elusive for me.  I’m not great at much of anything, but good?  I can totally do Good Mom.

It looks like, once again, finding a balance of who I really am and how I want my kids to be, rather than trying to over-achieve for the both of us, is the right solution to parenting these days.

Which is a relief, because this being “good-enough” is kind of what I’ve been doing all along.

And so?  I exhale.

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If you are new to Let Me Start By Saying…welcome!  Check out the About Kim page, read some of the short Memoir Posts to get a peek into my past, or for some funny, see my Favorite Posts page.  Thanks for visiting!

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  1. says

    Did my subconscious write this while I was sleeping on the couch and my kids were tearing my house apart??? I agree with you 100%. Working from home is the best AND the worst of both worlds. I make myself feel better by reminding myself that if I worked a regular job my kids would be in daycare. At least this way they are home with me and I’m always available when they need me, they just aren’t the center of my universe. I don’t think that’s a bad thing!!

  2. says

    Firstly, I need to know how Robin works at home and gets a damned thing done with the kids around. The few time’s Anna’s been home while I’m working she’s managed to either pick up the extension while I’m on a 30-person conference call, “MAMA! You forgot to WIPE ME!” or barged in to photocopy her body parts.

    Kim, I like to think I’m mothering this way. I can’t be sure, but my kid is happy, she handles challenges pretty well, and so far hasn’t yet turned the sarcasm back on me. So far. Thanks for the holla.

    • says

      WELLL, I am a freelance writer and author. So I work my own hours and pick my own deadlines AND I am not the primary bread winner in my house. My husband’s job allows me to pick and choose what I want to do. That I said I work anywhere from 20-40 hours a week, there are MAJOR fluctuations in my work load, and I have no idea how I get anything done. Seriously. It probably helps because I write about parenting and kids and how obnoxious they are… I mean, uh, how precious they are. If I was having to write about molecular biology or quantum physics, we’d all be screwed.

      • says

        What a coincidence, Robin! I get paid exactly nothing for writing about the same thing! 😉 I’ll admit that writing a blog post with kids around can be done with bursts of “STOP BANGING ON THE DOOR”, but when I’m working on my book their distractions are too much for me.

    • says

      I would love to stick this article under the noses of the Over Achieving Moms Brigade, telling them to quit over-scheduling their kids and trying to pressure us normal mothers into being something we’re not. Like, well-dressed for the 8am school drop-off.

  3. says

    I’m not a mom yet, but I have a feeling I will be an overachiever SuperMom wannabe. And I also have a feeling I won’t succeed. So reading a post like this reminds me that I don’t need to be perfect. And when I am eventually blessed with little ones, I will remember that it’s okay to flip them off behind their backs once in awhile… 😉

    • says

      I flip them off behind their backs on a regular basis, and they still totally love me. They are happy even though I hide from them, eating their cookies in the hallway. I always knew Perfect was out of reach for me, so hearing that Good-Enough is good enough? Awesome.

  4. Julie says

    Whew. Thanks for this one! It’s a good reminder. Sometimes I feel like such a slacker mom. Yet at the same time, my kids get so much more of me than I ever got of my parents.

    • says

      It is bananas the pressure we feel, when we are doing so much better than many of our own parents did (no offense to other people’s parents, but you know what I mean).

      Happy kids? Check! Done.

  5. says

    “Are their kids going to be happier because the moms aren’t a sarcastic-humored, sleep-deprived woman who refuses to spend every waking moment enriching her children with flash cards and phonics lessons during organic snack time?” — It’s good to know that I won’t be ruining my kids. I am that sarcastic mom.

    The pressure for greatness is overwhelming for mothers. I don’t know if we just put that pressure on ourselves, or if society (other women), put that expectations on other mothers. You know, the ones who say, “Well, I did it this way and it was sooo much better than what you’re doing now.”

    • says

      It is so annoying how it builds up and builds up and so many people question and doubt and comment and then WE start to wonder “oh man am I…doing it all wrong?”
      I’m happy that finally someone is saying – on paper! – that it is okay if we’re not great at this, and other people are spreading that word.

  6. says

    You just voiced every thought that’s been going through my head for the last several months – I work very minimally part time at a gym where my kids can be in the same facility as me, and also very minimally part time as a photographer, where I take my (5 and 4 year old) boys along with me for shoots and do editing while they play in the sandbox or watch movies or destroy the house….it’s good to know they’ll grow up and turn out okay even though they are left to their own devices more often than not. That being here to kiss their owies and snuggle them at naptime and help them spell “no brothers allowed” (yes, seriously) on purple construction paper is showing them love and also showing them that I (usually) trust their independence to grow into the people they want and need to be without being a helicopter-mom presence in their lives.

    • says

      I tell my kids all the time (4 & 6yo) “I know you can figure this out/work it out on your own”. I don’t want to intervene in every fight. I don’t want to have to tell them what they did wrong. I want THEM to recognize, tell, and figure things out or resolve problems/conflicts on their own.

      Plus? I don’t have the patience to police every single thing both of them say every moment of their lives. I’m very tired.

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