When You Don’t Feel Good Enough as a Mom
Credit line: Excerpted from Breathe, Mama, Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms © Shonda Moralis, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com
Letting good enough be good enough. Letting go of perfection. This one is so hard for most of us, and, well, why wouldn’t it be? Raising our children is often the most important endeavor we will ever undertake, so of course we take it seriously. I think this is especially hard for first-time moms.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I read everything under the sun about parenting, wanting to feel prepared and in control as much as possible. As we all know, nothing can completely prepare us for parenthood. I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself to make the right decisions that I ultimately realized were inconsequential. The self-imposed pressure made me more anxious than I needed to be and less able to simply enjoy her.
Busy moms are notorious for taking on too much. The pressure we place on ourselves is enormous. Whether working outside the home or within, most women believe they should be able to offer their children plentiful opportunities, entertain them much of the time, keep the house in order, maintain strong relationships with partners and friends, prepare the best snacks (read creative and healthy—thanks for that, Pinterest) for the classroom party, and volunteer, all while looking fit and young, with beatific smiles plastered permanently on their faces.
Reinforced by social media and our fast-paced society, it’s easy to buy into the illusion that everyone else has it all together. Many busy moms suffer from a form of the “imposter syndrome,” a false belief that others are more competent and that our gross ineptitude will eventually be discovered. The truth is we all have times when we feel capable of juggling our many roles and times when it feels as if it could all come crashing down at any given moment. In Maxed Out, Katrina Alcorn quotes a friend: “The line between ‘Everything’s okay’ and ‘I’m on the verge of total collapse’ is so thin. . . . All it takes is one thing too many. . . . One nudge in the wrong direction, and everything comes tumbling down.” Attempting to maintain the ideal façade ultimately leads to one or more of the following: burnout, apathy, depression, anxiety, and struggling with consistent feelings of never-quite-good-enough.
When we realize that despite outward appearances no one is doing it all alone, without help or without eventually crashing and burning at some point, we can work toward liberation from our society-reinforced, unrealistic expectations. I have lightened up over the last fourteen years as I see my daughter is turning out (so far) just fine, but I still struggle with this one occasionally. I often tell moms who are so tough on themselves that good enough is great. Perfectionism and unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our spouses, and our children get us nowhere fast.
The Good Enough Mindful Break: Notice when those perfectionistic thoughts arise, attempting to convince you that you, your perceived performance, or your kids on their own are not enough.
Perfectionism is often accompanied by tense muscles and an overall lack of enjoyment. Can you let go of those expectations just a bit? Test it out when possible. Often we come to see that those stressful details really didn’t matter and that we were able to enjoy and be more present because of that bit of letting go. With compassion, remind yourself that for much of the time good enough is great. Keep working at it. It takes practice and patience, but it’s so worth the effort. From one recovering perfectionist to (perhaps) another, trust me on this one.
Free guided meditations http://shondamoralis.net/free-audio-1/
Shonda Moralis, MSW, LCSW
Shonda is a psychotherapist in private practice with over twenty years of clinical experience. Trained as a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher in 2006, she has co-developed various mindfulness group curricula, presents workshops and keynotes in numerous settings, and writes an ongoing column for PsychologyToday.com. Her award-winning first book, Breathe, Mama, Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms, is a Parents Magazine “Mom Must-Read.” Shonda is also mom to a six- and sixteen-year-old, and, therefore, has endless opportunities to practice what she preaches.
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