Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good Enough Mom

I'll admit it. I'll confess it to myself and others. I'm not an abusive, narcissistic mother. Nor am I a perfect parent, like my father had to convince himself and others he was. I'm somewhere in between, working to get better.

Part of my problem is that I only realized my parents had not been perfect after I had kids. I had few memories of my childhood and basically made myself believe that every early psychology textbook, parenting book, or article on good parenting exemplified their wonderful and loving treatment of me.

When I became a parent, I went through the motions of immaculate parenting, but kept getting more and more desperate. I wasn't measuring up to my father's standards because I didn't take my daughter out for long walks every day and play with her actively all the time, telling her what the right way to use that toy was. And even without measuring up, it was hard. And something didn't feel right. And I didn't trust myself with good feelings, so I only believed those moments of frustration and despair to be true, and discarded tender, loving emotions, because I thought I was faking it. I was convinced I didn't really feel love for my child, the way I was supposed to, the way my father always made it sound it had to be, and I was devastated about that. So I overcompensated with her, never leaving her, co-sleeping and breastfeeding longer than I really felt like, rarely denying her anything, all the while directing all my suppressed anger towards myself. All the while feeling like an utter failure as a mom and convinced my daughter will rightfully hate me as soon as she's old enough to see through me.

Then, lately, I've uncovered my anger and its hidden sources. I've started directing it where it's due - my father (or, rather, his representation in my mind's eye); but, also, where it's not due - I have, while learning to be "assertive", lashed out at my husband and daughter, raised my voice, even hit her. I'm sorry for this and have apologized. It's difficult to find the right measure between being a narcissist's doormat and being abusive, between being a victim and being a tyrant, if you've been raised by a narcissist and don't know how to be simply assertive and authoritative.

Because ACONs think in black and white. This is why parenting feels like such an issue. Because if I'm not a perfect parent all the time, then I'm an utter failure and my kids would be better off without me. There's no in between.

But there is. When I allow myself to understand that I am a "good enough mom" already, it makes me a much better mom here and now, and potentially better in the future.


  1. Wow, I can really relate to this. DH often misdirects his anger - either it goes inward, or else at an undeserving party, rather than at the people who really deserve it.

    He has, at times, shared this sentiment as well:
    "Because if I'm not a perfect parent all the time, then I'm an utter failure and my kids would be better off without me." As his spouse, and the mother of his children, I'm not expecting perfection. I'm expecting that he'll make mistakes and learn from them. That is the key.

  2. +100. No, +10000000.

    It wasn't until I had children that I realized that my influence actually mattered. That's when I started noticing the "problems." Problems that I'm determined to correct, 'cause I'll be damned if I end up fucking my kids up as bad as my folks did me.

    I'm with you all the way, PA. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. I very much can relate.


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