As parents, we always try to do better. What if I told you the best way to do better is to just be good enough? Recently my husband and I met with my daughter’s therapist. When we work with our child’s therapist, we find that it helps our child. Right off the bat, our therapist provided us with encouraging words by saying we were good parents. He may have even said we were great! Then, he continued with a statement that made me tilt my head and ponder. He said, “Instead of trying to be the best parents, just focus on being good enough.”
Say what? Just be good enough? Why would I ever settle for being good enough. That’s a tall order, especially since I am a long-standing, recovering perfectionist. But even more than that, my children have been impacted by severe anxiety, OCD, depression and even Lyme disease. Ours is a complex and serious situation that amps up my tendencies for “best practices.”
Our therapist further explained and clarified his instructions, but the advice was the same. “You need to shift your focus from being the best mom to simply being good enough.”
After digesting his upside-down mindset, I started to put his words into practice. It’s been four weeks since parenting with our therapist’s motto and here are three things I have learned from leaning back and practicing “good enough” parenting.
1. Being good enough eliminates the cycle of perfectionism.
Most of us already know that perfection does not exist. Yet over the years, I have still stepped into patterns of perfectionism by urgently seeking remedies for the ailments of my kids. I’ve felt the need to find the best doctors, the best care, the best programs and the best resources. This urgency for perfection stems from my own desire for relief because their pain has become my pain. Yet, this formula has continuously backfired on me. It has only brought us short term relief, which has then stretched out our discomfort.
More than that, when I slip into perfectionism there are simply no boundaries for me to abide by. And parenting without boundaries leaves me exhausted, stressed and unstable. When I first practiced the good enough motto, I immediately felt relief because I let go of the unattainable finish line. Now, I utilize my energy in better ways – like staying grounded, being present and remaining neutral and more regulated.
2. Being good enough decreases everyone’s anxiety.
Have you ever noticed how your anxiety affects your kids’ anxiety and vice versa? When this happens, the next thing you know, my entire family has entered “the swirl.” Anxiety is contagious and the swirl happens when everyone else’s energy starts bouncing off of each other. Someone needs to start the de-escalating process and that person is you. When I stopped striving for being the best mom, I energetically gave my children the permission to ease up on being perfect too. There are less boxes to check off. The tension just de-escalated over the next few weeks. The expectations to be a good human are still there, don’t get me wrong. Chores, manners, and foundations are still an on-going practice. However, when I loosened the reigns to just be good enough, I released the invisible tension in my home and gave way for a reset and more relaxation. I didn’t even know we needed these things until I experienced it.
3. Being a good enough mom gives my children more space to grow.
Even before my therapist suggested the “good enough” motto, I had already stepped away from trying to make my children happy. I learned this the hard way when I continuously failed to make them happy. But through the struggles of my children, I did come to the realization that they work hard to try to please me. Even when life is hard, they still try, for me. Yet, a better motivation in life is self-motivation. And by leaning into the practice of being a good enough parent (as opposed to being the best parent), I have seen my own children, particularly the younger one, express the genuine desire to be happy for himself. I had never seen him express this previously. My son had actually wanted to be happy for himself. This was a great place for him to start to do the work.
When I let their lives be messier, more uncomfortable, and imperfect, I provided space for them to have a different life experience. One where they can learn what their individual needs are, while they are still living with me to coach them, without defining them.
One month later, I have to admit it, striving for good enough works for me. When our therapist asked us to stop trying to be the best parents and lean into being good enough, I thought the request was rather lazy. It sounded counterintuitive to be good enough, when we have always been asked to do our best. But the truth is, practicing good enough parenting is an act of real parental love. It eliminates the harmful model of perfectionism and gives our children the safe space to grow, learn and develop into the people they will become. Best of all, I believe it loosened the tension in my own home, which created more space for the good stuff…healing. It’s a very subtle shift, but the vibration feels more positive and more doable. Turns out good enough is better than best for me and my children. Would you try being good enough?