Dear Moms Who Feel Bad, Guilty, or Not Good Enough on Mother's Day,


Dear Moms Who Feel Bad, Guilty, or Not Good Enough on Mother's Day,

As a family therapist and parenting expert for 20+ years I have heard mom after mom after mom tell me how guilty they feel because they didn't do this or that right in their parenting, how they should have done, or should be doing, more, who are stuck in the comparison trap of how other mom's seem to be able to do it all, and on and on and on. 

I have a three words for them and three words for you:

"Knock it off." 

Here's 7 reasons why:

First of all, this type of guilt isn't effective. It doesn't motivate or energize to do better, it just drains and erodes. And it's not even the healthy, appropriate kind of guilt. The "guilt" you're feeliing is actually misapplied shame. 

Secondly, it's mean. Beating yourself for not being good enough, etc. is just plain mean. It's not okay to beat people up, including yourself, because you're also a people ;-).  Besides, you know you. You would NEVER criticize your best girlfriend for "not doing enough" for her kids. That would be cruel and you're not a cruel person. Your friend wouldn't deserve that. Ever. Well, ask your friend. She'll say you don't deserve that either. In fact, no one does. Cruelty as a motivator is THE least effective motivator of all, and that makes cruelty stupid. You're not stupid. You're kind. Well, then be smart and kind to yourself. 

Thirdly, quite frankly I hate it when people preface a comment with "I'm not perfect...". Well, no duh. No one is. I'm not. You're not. In fact, I expect that you're FAR from perfect. Me, too. Big deal. That's normal. That's human. So let's stop having an ridiculous expectation or comparison to that impossible "perfect." It's exhausting and completely unhelpful.

Fourth, somewhere, somehow "good enough" came to be equated with "not good enough" because only "great" or "perfect" is enough. However, literally:

good enough

and good = good

and enough = enough

Some scripture somewhere admonishes, "Don't call good evil and evil good." Good is simply good. When we say the good we do isn't good enough we're basically saying it's bad. That's not cool. 

Truth is somedays we do great parenting, sometimes we stink at it, somedays we even nail it. Most days, though it's good. For example, do your kids have a roof over their head? That's good. Do they have clothes on their back? That's also good. Do they starve? No? That's good. But you guiltily say, "Sometimes they just have cold cereal for dinner." SINNER!!! Might as well just beat them while you're at it. Sheesh. You know what? I had cold cereal for dinner plenty times and never in my mind as a kid did I eat my FAVORITE meal and think, "Man this is tasty, but what a bad mom I have." Did you give life to another human being? That's definitely good. Does this human being now have a world of choices and opportunities available to her or him that she or he will be able to do their best through lots of trial and error to figure out life as well as they can? That's also good. 

Yes, yes, yes, I can hear all the "Yeah, but I don't do this, this, and that...". Yeah, I know. Big deal. No one does it all. I sure don't. My wife sure doesn't. So, please acknowledge the good you do. Give yourself credit for it. Let it good be good. And let it be enough. It is both. You are good. You are enough. Let it be and enjoy it. 

Fifth, take and ENJOY! compliments graciously. When someone says, "You're such a good mom," DON'T say, "Oh, no I'm not, I don't do this or that...". Knock it off! Say, "Thank you," or "Thank you, I really needed to hear that," or "Thank you, I really needed to hear that. I'm actually having a bit of a down day being a mom. Would you mind telling me why you think I'm a good mom?" What a nice think to say back to someone--to let them compliment you makes them feel good and when you take it in it makes you feel good, which also makes them feel good, and it makes you feel good for making them feel good back! Dizzying, but true. Even if you don't see what they are complimenting you about, take it in and ENJOY that this nice and good and smart and sincere person sees something good in you and about you. Again, that's a good thing. Call good good. Take that good in and ENJOY it. Please. For me. 

Sixth, with all this being said, please focus on what you DO and not what you DON'T do. There are many parents who do XYZ way better than I do (like helping kids with homework, gathering family for family prayer, and many, many other things). There are things I do awesome and better than others. It's okay. What I DO is good, sometimes great, and occasionally I even nail it. All that is good. And good is good and enough is enough. So focus on what you DO more than what you DON'T.

Seventh, and last, my take a as a man is fine, but give my wife Kara's blog she wrote on this topic a few years ago a read:

Share your thoughts on being kind to yourself on Mother's Day and allowing yourself to fully enjoy the day and yourself AS YOU ARE.