Psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud, co-author of the life-changing Boundaries books and The Mom Factor, says that today’s moms will do more good for their families by giving up “the Supermom model of motherhood, which never worked anyway,” and instead relaxing into being a “good-enough mom.”
Why would a psychologist suggest that just being a “good-enough mom” is a healthy idea?
“Perfectionistic mothers,” Cloud says, “tend to either go crazy or make their spouse, their kids, or their kids’ spouses crazy. Stop trying to be the perfect mom, and be content with being a ‘good-enough’ mom.”
What is a “good-enough mom”?
According to Cloud, the “good-enough mom” (the one who’s most likely to raise healthy kids and teens) has these characteristics:
1. She’s adequate, but human and fallible. That’s OK. She’s still growing. She isn’t thrown for a loop when she messes up. She humbly apologizes, corrects course, learns everything she can from her mistakes, and moves on.
2. She’s emotionally present whenever possible. She doesn’t make absence and detachment an ongoing habit.
3. Understanding that all human beings struggle with some degree of “badness,” she does this. She expresses acceptance and love for her whole, entire child—not just the shiny, admirable, award-winning, high-performing aspects of her child.
4. She doesn’t micromanage her children’s decisions and choices, but…. She does provide her children with structure and containment that they can operate within. Put another way, she gives her kids freedom to make their own decisions within healthy limits and boundaries. When the child crosses the healthy limit line, she sadly, with empathy, allows the child to experience the consequences of his or her actions. This pattern of providing freedom along with containment is one of her most powerful teaching tools.
5. She demonstrates confident strength, self-control, and resilience. She’s not a fragile, brittle china doll, easily shattered and falling to pieces when her child experiences panic, rage, sadness, fear, or staggering pain from making bad choices.
6. She’s enthusiastically supportive of her teen’s growing sense of separateness, rather than resisting it.
7. She enthusiastically promotes the happy goal of responsible adulthood, and she actively trains her child for it. She doesn’t consciously or unconsciously do things that keep her kids dependent on her.
8. She equips her child for adult life, and then actively helps her son or daughter to leave the nest.
9. When she realizes that she has weakness in one or more of the above areas, she gets good help, from safe people.
If you’re a mom, here’s a challenge for you. Set a timer for five minutes, and write down the parts of mothering that are currently causing you the most stress.
If they’re not on this list, consider letting them go—and just being a “good-enough mom.”
Dr. Cloud would say, “Way to go! That’s perfect.”
If you’re trying to promote independence for your kids, but you’re stressed about upcoming college costs and future college debt—please don’t worry. I can help.
Just turn to the chapter labeled with your kid’s current month and year in school in my book:
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Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, author, speaker, and podcast host. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.