Not All Jugglers Are Clowns

Posted on Jul 18, 2011

busy_momFor most mothers, juggling is a fact of life that brings angst rather than awe, guilt rather than giggles.  A friend of mine just had her third child.  The baby is a few weeks old, the middle child is 3 and the oldest is 6.  Needless to say, when I asked her how she was, she began by telling me how her older children were handling the new addition to the family.  Then, she described how she was doing in relation to them.  She lamented that the middle child was struggling with the adjustment and felt guilty that she was not able to tend to his needs.  She was really down on herself about it.  I reminded her that in the marathon of motherhood, some days are great, others are good and some are just good enough.  Pediatrician and psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott, introduced the term “good enough mother”. The criterion is subjective but, as far as I am concerned, if your child is fed, clean, clothed and loved, you are a good enough mother.

There is a lot of talk about trying to find balance in motherhood.  Balance between work and home, balance between tending to your children and your marriage, balance between care taking and self-care.  However, it does not seem as easy to talk about balancing each individual child’s needs.  Maybe mothers shy away from the topic because we don’t want seem like we are “playing favorites.” Maybe we can’t tolerate adding shame to the guilt of temporarily “dropping one of the balls” we are juggling.  Moms have the goal of being attuned to each of our children and being able to meet their emotional and physical needs.  Unfortunately, even if you are attuned to your child, that doesn’t mean you can do anything about it right at that moment.

Because I am the mother of twins, I had to face this issue from the moment they were born.  They both needed me simultaneously all the time. While I did figure out some tricks to manage their needs, the stark reality is that there are two of them, one of me, and someone is going to have to wait. Rather than succumb to the guilt, I chose to let myself off the hook and lower my standards.  As long as I am “good enough,” I choose to see myself as a success.  I encourage you to do the same.