I’m pretty sure every mother, while holding her infant in her arms, declares, “Baby, I will protect you at all costs. Your life will be different than mine. I’ll make sure you never have to experience the devastating wounds I’ve had to endure. I will keep you safe. I will be a perfect mother”.
I was no exception. I would make sure my darlings never experienced the pain of a missing piece from their hearts. They would never have to endure the loneliness a missing father brings. Their childhood memories would be filled with love and respect in a two-parent family. I would make sure of it.
So, when Matt made the decision to leave, I didn’t have a theology for that. It didn’t make sense. I had tried so hard to create a home life different than the one I had grown up in. I worked hard to create a better life, a perfect life for my children. They deserved it.
I began to sink under the blanket of guilt, because I couldn’t hide the disaster that was taking place in their lives. They watched their parents divide. They witnessed their mother breakdown, and possibly never come back. They waved to their daddy as he walked out the door, and they didn’t know why.
Everything was happening exactly how I prayed it never would. I had failed to make it better for my children. I failed to give my children the perfect Christian home they deserved. I broke my promise to protect them from evil.
That’s when I began to face a hard universal truth — I’m can’t control life. Evil is too invasive. It lurks everywhere, even in the darkest corners of our own hearts. It’s impossible to guard my children from the invasion of evil, and the pain, wounds and scars he leaves in his wake. I have no control over any of it.
So, what’s a mother to do? If I can’t keep them from harm, if I can’t guard them, if I can’t protect them, then what should I do? Hide them away? Find better fortresses to keep them in?
Standing at this junction, I felt so helpless. I felt like I just discovered I was the butt of some cruel joke set up by the universe. I had tried so hard to be a perfect mother. I had tried so hard to do everything right, only to discover it can still all go wrong.
I sat in my counselor’s office, perplexed.
That’s when she introduced me to a psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott. His study of real life mothers brought him to a candid observation. Children actually adapt better in life when they are raised by a real-life, not-so-perfect mother. In 1957, he coined the phrase, “Good Enough Mother”, meaning “her failure to adapt to every need of the child helps them adapt to external realities”.
Basically, my children don’t need a mother who can protect them from the wounds, they need a mother who can show them how to apply ointment and bandage it up. My kids don’t need me to kill myself meeting their every desire, they need a mother who’s willing show them how to wait and recover from life’s disappointments.
They need a mother who’s willing to take off her perfect and say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong”. Or “I don’t have this all figured out”. They need to see their parents work to make a beautiful mosaic with all of Life’s broken pieces. They need a mother who’s willing to embrace her broken story and show her children how to embrace theirs.
It’s not about being a perfect mom. It’s about being a #GoodEnoughMom.