The child-care guru D.W. Winnicott wrote about “the ordinary devoted mother.” He coined the term “the good enough Mother.”
It seemed that for quite a few years, after Winnicott’s time, Mothers were let at least a little bit off the hook. They were no longer considered responsible for every little thing that went wrong with a child. Mom was given a break and Dad was expected to become increasingly involved.
In the last few years has the pendulum swung back to extraordinarily high expectations for Mom? I think it has and believe this to be a phenomenon fraught with danger for both Mom and child.
Psychology is a social science. There is often hard data supporting its suppositions but there are many times when accepted ideas haven’t left the theoretical realm. An example of this would be the idea, held for many years, that autism was created by a mother called the “refrigerator Mom.” Imagine how much the mother of an autistic child suffered when this belief was held to be accurate.
While psychology has always touted the premier importance of mothering for child adjustment, current scientific data coming to us from psychoneuroimmunology and other areas of scientific inquiry is also telling us how pivotal is the connection between mother and child. As this information reaches the mainstream mothers are having new pressures put upon them.
Science is becoming increasingly aware of how the connections between us as human beings affect us at a cellular level. Nowhere is this connection more powerful than that between mother and child. For instance, science tells mom not to be tense around baby or baby will feel the tenseness and become an uptight baby. This is enough to make a new mom tense if she interprets the information to mean that she has to always be relaxed when she is with baby. But, it can be helpful information if mom interprets it to mean that she has to take care of herself and focus on her needs in order to enjoy baby. Yes, a tense Mom makes for a tense baby but baby cannot make Mom tense. Mom makes herself tense by the pressures she puts on herself and by not taking proper care of her own physiological needs.
Of course mothering is exceedingly important for the well being of the child. But, Mom let’s go back to Winnicott’s time and remember that being good enough is good enough! After all, you are not a perfect person and so no task you undertake will be done perfectly. Rule number one for parenting must be to take pressure off of Mom! I don’t think this happens very often though. Actually I think many mothers are experiencing parenting as a pressure cooker.
Go to any gathering of young women and you will find them chatting about their kids and their parenting styles. There is, I think, an underlying feeling of competiveness in the conversation, who does more for their child, who does it better? I wish they’d talk about nuclear war—–there would be less anxiety!
Is how the kids turn out mom’s report card on herself? Wow! If so that is a lot of pressure on both mother and child, and don’t think for one second that the kids don’t know that their grades, their popularity, their success in sports or the arts is how you evaluate yourself. Once they know that they begin to act for you instead of taking pleasure in their own successes. This, in the long run creates an internal feeling of emptiness and it diminishes a desire to achieve.
Children need happy, loving mothers; not martyrs
How can you be a good enough mother?
Growing up is a difficult process. There will always be problems. Each child will have some problems during their growing years. Parents are the best equipped to help their kids overcome difficulties. They are the ones best equipped to help their kids out of problematic dilemmas. It may seem ironic, but the pressure filled mother often has great difficulty realizing that she may be the best one to help her child overcome a problem. She has put so much pressure on herself to be perfect that she has trouble acknowledging that she might need to make some changes in her own style to help her child.
The ability to be flexible and to make changes is an important aspect of parenting. Flexibility and change-making come from a relaxed and happy person; not from a Mom in a pressure cooker. Guilt can also get in the way of making appropriate changes. When parents truly believe a problem is their fault and feel guilty about it they can be resistant to making helpful changes.
There is not a recipe for rearing perfect children. But if there were, the first line would read, “remove parental pressure and anxiety.”
Children are amazing creatures. They see the world with fresh eyes, alert awareness and an open heart. They need respect for their way of being, love, kindness and firm but loving boundaries. They will grow up to reach their full potential if they receive positive messages.
We reinforce what we talk about. If a child is sloppy, note the times they pick up their clothes. “I notice you were very tidy when you made your bed today” is a powerful message for change. “Why are you always so sloppy” is a powerful message for status quo. Telling a child that she is happy, healthy, and smart will go a long way to helping her to turn out that way.
Love the children but love yourself first and in this way insure that you do a good job for everyone: child and mother!
Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way is about the creation of health and its by-product, happiness. The healthy and happy person is grounded and operates from a well of stability and flexibility. The maintenance of health and happiness through Ayurveda and meditation is the best insurance for the creation of competent, happy children. Sandra and I suggest that you put on your oxygen mask first and that you focus on enjoying the small creatures God has placed in your care. Enjoyment, love, positivity are the antidotes for pressure and guilt!
As always, we wish you perfect health and happiness.