The Mathematics of Being a Good (Enough) Mother


I have a confession to make: today, I am a terrible mother.

When my daughter was born, I bought in to the idea that breast was best. I loved the suggestion that there was something I could do from day one that could give her the best start. I loved how that made me feel. And, fortunately for me, I found it easy.

As she grew older I could be found pulping and puréeing first thing in the morning. I found myself shopping everyday for yet more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and foods free from artificial colours or preservatives. I have never been much of a cook but, even to me, it seemed pretty straight forward.

In that first year I also became a familiar face at various mother and baby groups. Something that didn’t come quite so easily. I despised the prospect of singing in pubic and was pretty terrified of socialising with people I didn’t know. But I did it anyway. And survived.

And I filled the days with every manner of enriching activities! From swimming to baby signing, museums and visits to the library, arts and crafts, flash cards, singing and dancing, days at the farm, fresh air and exercise and everything in between. And the reading! Endless hours of reading! Repeated reading to the point where I can recite a whole host of children’s classics from memory alone. Because how could I ever refuse her requests to sit down together and devour a book?!


And, possibly harder than finding the time to fit in all of the above, I found the faith to tell myself that everything I did for her, every choice I made, held her best interests at its heart.

But I didn’t do it because I am perfect.

I did it because I know I am not.

I have been worried about today for a long time. If I am honest, I cannot believe it didn’t come sooner. I never thought I would survive this long.

Because I had already been a statistic. 1 in 4 people this year with suffer with a mental health issue. Depression, anxiety, paranoia…the spectrum is wide and the term encompasses so many different things but, having been there more than once before, I know the symptoms are often the same.

Put simply, it can become hard to cope.

I am reluctant to label the feelings that have been growing inside me for the past few months. I hope that I won’t find myself forced to as I sit opposite the doctor and ask for their help. But these feelings are familiar.

And, for me, the worst part is how they fool me in to thinking I am a failure.

So today, after spending the morning sat on the sofa whilst my daughter watched too much television, feeding her lunch of fish fingers and baked beans for the third time in a week and then driving her to her grandparents to spend the rest of the day and night, I returned home and got in bed.

And now I lay here doing the maths. Will all my efforts count in my favour? Have I done enough to make my workings add up? Or will my weakness cancel out anything I had going in my favour?

What does it take to be good enough?


19 thoughts on “The Mathematics of Being a Good (Enough) Mother

  1. OK, you and I are apparently very alike. I also struggle with insecurity in my parenting as you know from having read my post today, but I also suffer from anxiety. I have had many days like this. I feel the guilt as well on these days. I think that I am failing her. I did all the same things as you. I took classes with her, read to her constantly, we craft together and do tons of activities and I still don’t think it makes up for my off days. As mothers sometimes we have to do what we have to to take care of ourselves as well. To be a good and nurturing parent, we need to nurture ourselves. Not every mom is super mom 100% if the time. Those extra few hours of Bubble Guppies are not going to ruin them. It sounds like you are doing your best to be the best mommy you can be. You will falter as we all do. It is human. Hang in there and good luck. I did a post on my battle with anxiety a while back. Check it out if you like. You will see that you are certainly not alone.

  2. You are enough. You don’t need to earn it, I promise, you already are everything you need to be. You have such a light inside, I can feel it every time I come to read your words. You are exquisite.

    Surrender that doubt and fear, girl, it’s ok. Let the angels come and wrap you in their gorgeous wings and hold you and heal you. I have been there myself many times! Especially when my son was young. It’s really tough. I totally know – toughest job in the whole world and half the battle is all the shit we dump on oursleves in our own minds. Trust me, we all do it! You are brave for being honest about it.

    Sending you vibes of love and light today, friend. 🙂 xo

  3. I can remember how I felt guilty the first time when my Marianna (I think she was a bit more older than 2) woke me up at 6.30 am on a Saturday morning because she wasn’t able to sleep anymore, and in despite of all my principles I turned the TV on telling her to sit and watch while dad would try to sleep another hour or so. I did sleep, in facts, because I was destroyed, but as soon as I woke up I felt terribly guilty and my consciousness was shrieking. Of course, Marianna was rather happy and thanked me with a kiss, and this became a sort of routine in the rare cases when she couldn’t sleep. So, Rebecca, you really shouldn’t worry.

  4. What does it take to be a good enough mother? Caring enough to ask the question. Caring enough to go to the doctor and ask for help. Caring enough to get help from your daughter’s grandparents. You care. You are doing what it takes to be a good enough mother.

      1. We all have our bad days. I send you my love. I know what it feels like to wonder whether you are a good enough mother. When I received a diagnosis of bipolar type II, I put my son in day care and went back to work, thinking that my son was better off in someone else’s care. Painful to internalize stigma so much. Eventually I ended up hospitalized and found that I was unable to work outside the home while taking care of myself and my son. I have reframed that breakdown as God’s way of making me stay home with my son. My son needed me. Your daughter needs you. We are good enough. We are more than good enough, for we care enough to question our own competency and to reach out for help in order to be the best mother we can be. I will keep you and your daughter in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. This all sounds very familiar… Except I didn’t quite manage to do all those things! So you are clearly a top mum! Turns out I had PND..but I got through it and now feel stronger than ever!

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