She tells us about a mom we all recognize, one who throws a splendid birthday party for her little girl but worries that an earlier "snappy" moment ruined her child's special day. JCK asks when we mommies are gonna start cutting ourselves some slack.
Jen at Rants & Raves replies that guilt in moderation can be a good thing. It serves as a vestige of "the enormity of the job" of being in charge of a little person's life. It helps steer us in the right direction.
Here are two additional thoughts on this mommy-guilt stuff: Think caves and "good enough."
First, the caves. It helps me to remember that we 21st century moms are decendants of cave dwellers. By this I refer to the fact that the first mothers raised their children in caves. On dirt floors. Wearing lice infested wooly mammoth jackets. With dinosaur bones used as paddle boards. No central heating or AC or indoor plumbing. And no, no antibacterial soaps or disinfectant wipes or toilet paper, even.
Those kids raised in caves? They survived. And hundreds of thousands of generations later decendants of cave kids grew up to have children of their own who grew up to become mommies like us who compare parenting notes over the internets.
And if those kids raised in caves can survive, so can our kids raised in framed stucco houses with sculpted landscapes survive crabby mommy moments.
Second: Think of these three words: Good Enough Mothering. It's a term coined by psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott.
I don't pretend to understand most of Winnicott's psychoanalytic (mumbo-jumbo) writings. I'm a cognitive behavioral psychologist, afterall.
But I've read a good enough amount of parenting books in which good enough mothering is used as a reference point. I have used this reference point in teaching parenting classes. And I have developed my own personal understanding that guides me toward a better appreciation for that which I provide my kids.
I love my kids, to the point where it nearly hurts. I feed them three meals a day, provide shelter for them, referee their squabbles, wipe their tears, make them do their homework (sometimes all in one sittting) and yes, I lose my cool every now and then. Spit nails and breathe fire, even.
I don't advocate angry outbursts, but hey, I'm a work in progress, I have my limits, and I'm trying. Really hard.
I think its fairly accurate to guesstimate that for every lousy mommy moment, I have provided one hundred nurturing ones. And that's good enough to raise up a healthy kid.
So good enough mothering has become my personal mommy mantra, my self soothing, self-calming, stop-guilt-in-it's-tracks meditation phrase. On those days when I fear I am a lousy mom because I didn't talk my kids through a hurt feeling or a missed opportunity. On those days when I lose my temper and look more like Joan Crawford than Carol Brady. Because continual second-guessing and wearing-my-guilt-on-my-sleeves drains me of the now moments I need to be as good of a parent as I can be.
So it is, on those days, that I remember that kids are sturdy and resilient by design. They are genetically endowed with the ability to thrive despite emotional nicks and scrapes. They know they are loved even when they learn the hard way that mommy has a boiling point and brother, you'd better step lightly on those mornings when she was up blogging way past her bedtime. And it's that love as a constant that raises up good enough kids.
Cave momma illustration by Peggy Maceo. Can be found here.