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I saw a muga few years ago that said “World’s Okayest Mom” and I immediately sent apicture to my daughters and wrote, “This is perfect for me.” Their replies wereboth “Yes, true.” The truth is I am okay with that title (no pun attended). Iremember a quote I read a few years ago, “I was the perfect parent…until I hadkids.” Yes, exactly. Before, I had children I had this fantasy about how itwould go. There would be quality time every day, enrichment activities, and healthyfood at every meal. Then, reality hit. Within a span of 16 months, we went froma two-parent family with one child to a single parent family with two children.Well, that was more than enough to put the brakes on the fantasy of the“perfect parent.” Heck, just having children usually puts the brakes on thatfantasy anyway.
As we startanother school year, I want to let all parents, but especially grieving parents,that “okay” is good enough. I remember as my daughters were growing up being sorelieved at the end of the school year …and then being so relieved when itstarted again. We would have high expectations for the new school year. We weregoing to be up and out of the house on time, homework would be done in a timelyfashion while I cooked a nice home cooked meal, and we would be organized withall extracurricular activities. Those “perfect” parent ideals again. Well,needless to say it rarely worked out like the plans or if it did at first itwas hard to sustain.
It turns outbeing the “good enough parent” is good enough. In his book The Group, about a widowed fathers’ group, Donald Rosenstein and JustinYopp write about the “good enough father.” They base it on research done yearsago by Donald Winnicott who wrote about the “good enough mother.” In a nutshell,Winnicott proposed that perfect parenting was neither possible nor mostbeneficial for children. Children will not learn to self sooth or cope withdifficulties if parents meet their every want. Rosenstein and Yopp proposed to the group ofwidowed fathers that children can thrive with imperfect parents. He helped themen realize children need a warm, thoughtful, and loving parent, not a perfectone. In addition, recent research with widowed mothers shows that it is theconnection and warmth of the interaction with the child that matters the most.
In my ownjourney, I realized that I could not be in two places at one time. Sometimes, Ihad to miss a soccer game to go to another game at another place. Bedtimes didnot always go as planned and sometimes we missed reading time or even bathtime. I realized that it was okay if my 7-year-old toasted a Pop Tart in thetoaster and even made one for her 4-year-old sister as I got ready for work. Wehad to negotiate about what extracurricular we could fit in during the schoolyear. It was also fine that in high school my daughters had to find rides toand from some activities on their own. They learned to keep their own schedulesand many times reminded me when I need to be somewhere for them. I also learnedto lean on friends and family. There were many times I had to ask for help.Yes, there were sometimes tear and shouting, but we were okay.
I talk toparents everyday who have either lost a spouse, partner, co-parent, or child.Sometimes it is a grandmother or aunt in new role as primary parent. They areso worried about their children and want to do everything right. They feel theneed to be as “perfect” as possible. They feel their children have been throughenough. However, the drive to perfection only creates more stress for thefamily. I advise parents to take a deep breath and look at priorities,communicate with their children, and most of all give themselves a break!
I would like to dedicate this pieceto Zelda and Lucy who, almost 19 years later, are thriving young adults. They alsoknow how to take care of themselves pretty darn well and I am sure still make agreat Pop Tart.