Friday, October 12, 2012

trying to be "good enough"


Lately I feel like I'm having trouble shaking this feeling of insecurity as a parent. I swear I dealt with this better a few years ago, when I just had Donovan and he was younger.  I mean, I still felt like an incompetent parent a lot of the time and had no clue what I was doing, but I at least felt good about the toys I chose for him, the sorts of things we did together, our loose and free routine.

But now it seems I keep coming across people and blogs who are doing all these cool activities with their kids and I'll think, "Wow, that's so neat!  And, um... I'm not doing anything like that with my own kids.... Shit, are they totally missing out?" This is my love/hate relationship with Montessori parenting blogs- I'll find them and initially love them for the inspiration, then as I read new posts and see these great ideas that I never get around to implementing they just become a reminder of my perceived failings as a parent.

It also doesn't help that the past few times I've taken Donovan to the doctor I've had to fill out a form asking about his abilities, and a lot of the questions will be about things we've just never done. Can he fasten his own buttons? Draw a person with three complete parts? Copy a cross? Um, my guess is sure but I've never even thought to ask him to do any of that stuff (I'm not sure any of his clothes even have buttons), and he hasn't just done it on his own.  And so then I feel like a crap parent because my kid has never done these things that must be so totally normal and common.  Is it my fault? Am I not encouraging them enough or providing them with enough enriching activities?  Will they miss out on something essential because I didn't think to play the right kind of games with them or try to get them to draw the right kinds of things?

And I know this is all ridiculous.  I laughed at myself just writing that paragraph because it just sounds so silly when I write it out like that.  I know I'm a good mom, I know we do cool things together, I know my kids have SO MUCH and are bright and amazing and wonderful. When I watch them and listen to them and am wowed by them I have no reason whatsoever to think they're "missing out" on anything.

And yet. I know comparing kids or parenting styles or individual strengths vs weaknesses is fruitless. I've always embraced the idea of the "good enough" parent, that perfection is not only unattainable but not even necessarily desirable.  Yet I still find myself bogged down by this nagging insecurity sometimes, this fear that I'm not doing enough.  That I'm failing my kids somehow.

I know I must not be alone in this. How do you deal with that fear?


  1. I can relate to that. I try to tell myself that really what I believe kids need is love, an interesting environment to explore, and lots of time outside. Seems like your kids get all of these!

    I remember feeling bad that I didn't do that thing where you walk around with your kid holding their hands so they can walk when they can't do it themselves, I would see parents of singletons at the park doing it and one learned to walk at like 10 or 11 months. Well wouldn't you know, despite not doing that both of my kids learned to walk! :p

    I also think about the previous generations, I think ours is the first where parenting is made out to be this amazing thing you have to do in a certain way with pinterest and blogs and books and and and. When I think about my parents or my grandparents and their parenting, I know they gave their kids lots of love, and no fancy blog style activities.

    I have to admit it makes me feel better to read this from you, it's true that we always think everyone else has this awesome set of things they do with their kids. But when I look at the pictures of your boys playing out in the mud with their cars, and walking through the woods with you, I have thought to myself numerous times, what lucky guys they are to have such an awesome childhood!

    1. Thank you, Sara. You always leave the best comments. I think this is exactly what I needed to hear.

    2. aw thanks :) your blog has been such a source of insight for me over the years i'm glad i can return a small bit of the favor.

  2. the book "bringing up Bebe" about french parenting culture vs american parenting culture really helped me see how neurotic american parents can be, and really helped me to relax and embrace just letting my kid be a kid without trying to make every moment stimulating in some way. the french culture is much more in favor of mom's who balance parenting with an equally strong priority on just being an adult and in light of that knowledge, i actually see a bit of something to pity in the "hyper-natural-mom" blogs. fascinating book, at any rate.

  3. I'm someone who does a lot of "cool activities" with my kid (I only have one and don't work, so it's much easier): gardening, international traveling, music classes, swim classes, Mandarin classes, weekly museum trips...

    The only reason I do it is because it makes my life easier, because being at home with her all day just kills me (so dull, we both get bored and grumpy). I always liked getting out and doing things, and now that I'm a parent I still do. The really important thing is to be a happy parent, whatever that means to you, because what you are really teaching your kids (especially small kids) is stuff like how to regulate their emotions and foster self-discipline.

    I mean, my daughter is 19 months. To her, washing hands is exciting. Even for bigger kids, that's true: I remember thinking as a kid (maybe 7?) that our backyard was a place of endless wonder and mystery. Snails! Flowers! Leaves!

    Inadequacy is a horrible feeling though. I don't stress out about the activities: my big fear is food (as in, I can't cook and so my baby eats cold beans out of the can). I worry about it all the time!

    1. Oh, the food thing is big here, too. I don't cook much, my husband has always been the cook which has worked out great except now he's in school and not around for dinner a lot. So he'll either make stuff ahead of time so we have leftovers, or we eat a lot of mac & cheese... And then I have all the anxieties about if we're eating healthy enough foods, especially with my 4yo who's gotten so picky lately. Oh, it never ends, does it? Ah well... GOOD ENOUGH, right?

  4. dudette, you are an amazing mom. we all feel this way but kids and moms and dads are all awesome and ahead and behind and super smart and way delayed in a million different ways and no one is better than another. we all yell at our kids and have mountains of dirty laundry and watch movies and eat mac and cheese sometimes (and sometimes every day...)

    i recently read this quote which i love:

    "Guess what? You aren't perfect. You never will be. You're human. But don't worry, the goal is not perfection. The goal is expanding your heart, creating more love in the world. Trying to be perfect doesn't get you closer to perfect. It pushes you away from love." - Laura Markham

    i've also recently discovered greater peace when backing off the blogs. i went a little blog crazy last spring and it didn't help my confidence (or my posture). now if i peek at a cool kid blog, i just write the activity down on a list for ethan on the fridge and try it when we're bored. most of them are NOT as cool as they seem. then some are gems (because the KID likes it, not because it sounds or looks or seems cool). and for the things that are a hit, you can take pictures and show your blog-readers what a "good" mom you are!

    have you read this? it's right on.

    also, your medical student should have a good time playing with D (AKA "doing a developmental exam") to see what he can do. it's our job to see if he can copy that cross!

  5. Anonymous7:36 AM

    I'm a bit late with this Marcy but I think the very fact you are self aware to even worry about this suggests your parenting is likely to be conscientous, considered and most definitely good enough. I think we all feel this way sometimes, I like to remind myself that we are all just doing the best we can with what we have - and that there are a million 'good' ways to raise a child.

  6. I`m still not a mother but I`ve been following your blog and getting inspiration for any future little person that might make her/his way into our life in the future and you are one big inspiration-booster for me! I love that you are not "too strictly" following Montessori- activities because there are too many blogs about that out there. Moreover your kids look so so happy and content! I would say you are doing ALL the right things!



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