The Good Enough Mom

Early on in my studies in graduate school, I learned about a concept that hit home for me. Without over-intellectualizing the concept, were simply learning about the “true self” and “false self” in the research of Donald Winnicott. Basically the true self is the “un-forced” part of you — the creative, alive, and true. The false self is the part of you that conforms to the desires of others — sort of a defense mechanism in times of self-consciousness or insecurity.

The Good Enough Mom

The concept of the good enough mother came from Winnicott and his research in the true and false selves. [Are you still following? I hope so.] The true self is developed during infancy and childhood. The way that a child develops a healthy true self that is not dominated by a false self is based on the relationship with their caregiver [in this sense, the mother].

What he found was that all a child needed to develop this true self is a welcoming and assuring mother. If mom provides this warm and safe environment, the child develops confidence and a sense that her feelings are safe — that she is a real and valuable human being.

This hit home for me because his research didn’t say a child who never watches tv, a child who always has a balanced meal served at precise times every day, a child whose mother never raises her voice, etc. He simply said a warm and reassuring environment is what helped a child to thrive. And that the mother who is “ordinarily devoted” or “good enough” is all a child needs to develop and feel secure. Not the mom who is crazy overwhelmed with providing envy-worthy crafts, a Pinterest-pinnable home, GQ fashionable clothing for her kids, etc. Its the mom who is good-enough.

I feel like as a society we have created this motherhood monster where we are striving for this Pinterest super-mom status. Where we are feeding our kids all organic, play on the floor with them every free second, never yelling, always kind, perfect from scratch dinner…yada-yada. And then on the other hand, we are feeling insecure because we don’t do all the things, all the time, and we are feeling like we need to justify our level of parenting.

At least I do this. Or at least I don’t do that. And in our minds and hearts, we justify where we are because we don’t feel like we’ve reached that super-mom par. We feel like our “mom-ness” isn’t good enough, so we have to give reason why we missed the mark.

Can I just be honest for a sec? Mama, you’re good. This concept of good enough?? That’s us. The glorious mundane. The divine “I did my best.” When I read about this concept of the good enough mom and realistically what my children need from me to be secure, emotionally healthy individuals, I wanted to cry in class. My daughter doesn’t need me to sacrifice my sanity to be on point every second of every day. My son doesn’t need organic everything if that isn’t what I can afford. I am doing my best. We all are. And that is simply all our kids need.

They need our love, support, and assurance that they are valued individuals. They need a mom who knows she is loved, supported, and valued. They don’t need to see a harried mom in pursuit of the best impression. Don’t teach them that the bar is set by others. Teach them the bar the Lord sets for us…which our sweet Jesus hung on so that we didn’t have to strive so hard anymore. Teach your babies to be confident in themselves…even if their singing voices are way off-key and their fashion sense is non-existent. Let them sing loud and wear their plastic princess heels and jewelry to the store. Teach them to love well — themselves and others.

That, my dear friend, is good enough.


  1. says

    Oh I love this post. Thanks for much needed encouragement. I am very hard on myself and often feel like a complete failure if I yell or get impatient or just want time to myself…. This is so helpful to hear again.

    • Erin Lauray says

      Its good to hear it now and then. I’ve written and read my fair share of “give yourself some slack” posts, but I felt that this “scholarly” point of view would help moms to see that even research shows we need to relax. :) So glad this encouraged you. :)

  2. Karen says

    Yes! This is so good. A great reminder and a hard lesson to learn sometimes. Thank you!