How Embracing “Good Enough” Can Help You Be a Better Mom

How Embracing Good Enough Can Help You Be A Better Mom // jessconnell.com

Wanna know what my kids have for lunch these days?

It’s pretty much the same thing every day: homemade lunchables. Thin deli-sliced ham or turkey, and cheese, with Ritz. Sometimes I have fresh fruit on hand to go with it. Other times, it’s canned fruit, nuts, or packaged cookies.

It’s not in cute Bento boxes. It doesn’t include kale, whole-grain-anything, or almond butter. (Except on accident.) But you know what it is?

It’s good enough.

And you know what that lets me do?

It lets me be sane.

I’m kidding.

Kind of.

Truth is, there are seasons where aiming for perfect is going to do one or all of the following:

  • steal your time
  • steal your joy
  • push you into the emotional “red zone”
  • make you feel incompetent (when, really, you’re just being a normal weak human person)
  • use up your precious energy and precious time on things that really don’t matter that much

In this postpartum season, homemade lunchables are an easy, inexpensive lunch I don’t have to think about. Heck, I don’t even have to be present at the table. If I’m nursing, or sitting on the couch, or tidying something, or laying the baby down, they can still manage lunch. It’s filling. It includes most of the food groups.

It’s good enough. 

That same-thing-most-every-day lunch helps me be a better mom. I’m a better mom to Luke, because I can keep sitting and nursing or snuggling him longer. I’m a better mom to all of them because I have more time and mental energy to devote to the things that matter more than lunch– math lessons, reading practice, character training, and enough mental space left over to admire the Lego creations brought to me.

I’m also a better wife because I’m not crazy-ville-stressed by the time Doug walks through the door. (At least, not most days.)

You might be sitting there thinking one of the following:

  • “BUT FOOD MATTERS TO ME; I love cooking!”
  • “I *want* my kids to eat kale in cheery-toned bento boxes.”
  • “We have kids with allergies.”
  • “Lunch meat is the worst ever and I wouldn’t feed it to my worst enemy.”
  • “My kids are too little to get lunch for themselves.”

Here’s the thing:

Food is one of MY “good enoughs.” Every now and then there’s something I care about and want to make (vanilla-rum pecan pie with shortbread crust, I’m looking at you right now), but for the most part, when it comes to cooking & menu-making, good enough is the address where I live.

But food may not be your “good enough.”

Your “good enough” might be:

  • Throwing all the dishrags in the drawer, unfolded
  • Using paper plates for a season, instead of dishes, guilt-free
  • Throwing all the kids in the same bath, twice a week, rather than more often
  • Opting to invest in a backyard play structure to simplify your life by providing outdoor playtime without running to several practices and games each week
  • Tossing all flatware in a drawer rather than sorting it, to save a few minutes here and there (that’s how my awesome friend Katie rolls) 
  • Reading through a chapter of Proverbs aloud over breakfast, rather than feeling guilty and ashamed because you never seem to manage “family worship” time like the preacher talks about

Sometimes, “GOOD ENOUGH” is:

  • what separates stress and sanity
  • the thin line between emotional breakdowns and emotional margin
  • the difference between getting it done or not
  • the thing that enables GREAT things to happen in other areas

and sometimes… sometimes… there really are times when “good enough” is “awesome.” 

When you embrace “good enough” in some areas of your life, it can free you up, mentally, emotionally, physically… and create just enough space in your SOUL… for you to stay sane, do some (other) things GREAT, and live life with joy & delight.

 

What’s one area where you need to STOP feeling guilty and START embracing “good enough?”

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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19 Responses

  1. Madelyn says:

    Thank you–so many women need to hear this! I used to put so much pressure on myself to maintain unimportant things which made me stressed when I was dealing with the eternal things.
    Keep your eyes on your real job–the eternal people you’ve been given, and make the most and best of your time with them.
    My several kids are almost all adults now, and I DO NOT regret the unsorted utensil drawer, the unsorted, unfolded wash, the unmade beds.
    But you do have to be honest with yourself and decide which things you DO want to try to maintain. For me, it was having a basically clean, though very lived in, house; having a “public” space that was easily made orderly when necessary. It is the living space we all share together, and where guests may pop in. But it also took long years of mental effort to devise a system so that could happen.
    So if you’re in a season where you need to let everything go but the basic necessities, and tend to small children…don’t beat yourself up! You’re doing your real job just great!

    • Jessica says:

      It helps so much to hear women share that this is normal! Because I think we need to remember it’s hard for all of us with young children and a “lived in house” is life! So we can accept it and realize it’s ok!! :)

      • Madelyn says:

        Ye, also helps to remember that, if you have pre-school children, or if you homeschool, people are home all the time (making messes)! We should not compare our messy lived-in-ness with homes where nobody’s home for most of the day. We can never keep up with the cleaning if everyone is home!

        • Jess Connell says:

          EXCELLENT point, Madelyn! So very true.

          We’re in our home, almost 24/7, with 9 people. It’s most certainly going to look different here, even on a “clean” day” than it would if we had two parents going to work all day and two kids going to school all day with extracurriculars and such making it so that we had about 3-5 hours home each day. It definitely makes for a different level of mess & lived-in-edness. :)

  2. Jessica says:

    Yes, in fact we live almost every week like all those suggestions because of my chronic fatigue and how if I push myself by doing all the extra things even going to the park or things like that I end up in bed sicker than normal with even LESS energy. We live very, very, very simply and my three young kids watch a lot of the best quality educational dvd’s we can find because I have to lay down a lot. Mr. Rogers, scholastic DVD’s etc. After my youngest was born I went almost no where including church for over a year because it was so hard. It was lonely but I learned to draw near to God. I do think mom’s put way too much stuff and guilt on their plate that doesn’t matter! Who cares if your towels are folded or if your sliver ware is sorted. As long as you are loving your family as best as you can then you are honoring God. Do your best, pray cast your burdens on the Lord and love your family. I have to cast a lot of burdens on the Lord all the time but living out of rest in Jesus and living at peace in our hearts can enable us to be kind in the midst of trials and challenging times.

  3. Laura says:

    Love this!! And I so totally agree. Food is definitely one of my ‘good-enoughs’ partly because of a very strict budget, but also because I don’t have the energy to expend on it. I have more than one ‘good-enough’ though… A lot of my good-enoughs happened when I had three kids four and under and I’ve just never let go of the easiness of letting some things go. I fold no one’s underwear (except hubby’s 😀 ) but everyone’s get tossed in their underwear drawer… who on earth has time (or want-to) to fold underwear?! Also, bath time for kids only happens twice a week around here (more in summer, and more often now that they’re older and can do it themselves more or less)… I’m a very tidy person by nature, so it’s important to me to have a very tidy home – NO clutter – but I am not clean. I mean, my house is clean, but cleaning my house is definitely one of my good-enoughs… I sweep regularly, keep my kitchen clean and my laundry is always done but everything else is on an as-needed basis. Basically when I can’t stand the grime anymore I get down to it 😀 Not a good way to be, but honestly with homeschooling and everything else I truly don’t always have the energy to scour. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement in realizing that all of this ‘good-enough’ is more than okay.

    • Jess Connell says:

      YES Laura. Like you, I have a number of “good-enoughs.” Homemade lunchables is just the one that prompted the article.

      As you said, homeschooling adds a load that many moms don’t have, and even if some homeschooling moms can manage to do it all perfect like Mary Poppins AND homeschool at the same time, I need to know my own limits and need to embrace “good enough.”

  4. Christy says:

    I embraced “good-enough” a while ago now. I remember something that someone shared saying that her bathroom didn’t have to be sterile like an OR, just good enough. And I instantly felt the relief in that. It’s been my motto ever since. Give it a quick swipe when it looks dirty. :-)

    We’ve got our house on the market right now and just did a lot of work to get it ready, and I don’t know how many times I said, “Yeah, well, it’s good enough.” There’s only so much you can do, whether it’s house work, cleaning, school, or cooking, etc. It reminds me of the jar and the rocks going into it – big rocks/important stuff needs to go first or they’ll never fit. Major on the majors.

    I guess I struggle with the food thing and feel the most guilt over that. I know that there is better food available to us, and I can cook more healthily than I’ve been doing. But it’s been kind of a seasonal thing for me. When I have more time available and more mental energy to do it, I do. When things are crazy because we’re living apart from hubby and trying to sell a house and homeschool at the same time, I don’t. I just have to get over feeling bad about it.

  5. Kari says:

    exactly what the 9 year old asked for lunch today! We do this at least twice a week, and then peanut butter on bread or crackers twice a week.

    great article!

  6. Emily Jensen says:

    Thank you for writing this and putting words to something I’ve been feeling and realizing for some time now. We have 3 kids under 3 and I’m 20 weeks pregnant, so it’s been crucial to budget my energy! My “good enough” right now is definitely food, but my other one is screen time. In my perfect mom world, our kids wouldn’t watch anything on TV and would play educational activities all day…but sometimes I just need 30min-1hour to catch up on things around the house or not have a child crying at my knees. Letting them watch something age appropriate has allowed me to catch my breath, remember my eternal goals as a mom, and re-engage with energy and joy! The only thing I have to watch out for is that I don’t let screen time become a crutch or an escape. So as long as I do a little heart check with myself first, allowing some guilt-free screen time has helped me a lot!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Good example.

      I find that I operate most healthily if I avoid extremes like “we’re never watching any TV of any sort” OR… on the flip side… watching TV non-stop, having standards go out the window and my kids turn into zombie couch potatoes.

      Instead, a goal of moderation helps keep things in check. Some TV, sometimes… still judiciously meted out… still not standard-less viewing… but yes, totally, I’ve been in your shoes & finding that place of balance has helped me, like you say, catch my breath, and then reengage.

      To me, this kind of takes the place of what it would’ve been like to have “grandma” live with you 150 years ago, or a household servant 2,000 years ago. It’s the little gasps of fresh air that let you plunge back down into the stream with vigor.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts!
      Jess

  7. Laura says:

    This is so true! Thank you for this post and reminder. Unfortunately, I don’t embrace it enough. I get stressed out way to easily focusing on little things that seem like big things. With six, soon to be seven, kids, I’m running myself ragged!

  8. Valerie says:

    Totally agree with you; finding our good enoughs helps us be better moms. One of mine has always been lunch. I do big healthy breakfasts and satisfying dinners, but they are on their own for lunch! I always say, pick a protein, pick something with live enzymes, then snack on all the carbs you want. And DON’T wake up Mama and baby!

  9. Bethany says:

    We all have to pick our battles, that’s for sure! Sometimes I pick wisely and accept “good enough” in some areas. Other days, not so much. :)

  10. Kristin says:

    This is a great post with many good reminders. It’s so easy to have a kind of ridiculous ideal in mind and subconsciously hold ourselves to that standard with guilty feelings if we don’t achieve it daily.

    I think there’s another aspect to this that is worth exploring. Sometimes when we don’t feel like we’re in survival mode and things are mostly the way we want them, our “good” may not even be up to the standard of someone else’s “good enough”. And that’s OK! For instance, in the “good enough” examples you posted, there’s “throw the kids in the same bath twice a week instead of more often”. Well, a bath twice a week is more than our boys get- for us, just once a week is “good”. I’m OK knowing that my “good” or even “best” doesn’t measure up to someone else’s “good enough”. The truth is that there is ALWAYS going to be some mom doing something “better” than me- making healthy lunches, educating, being patient, doing crafts, living the gospel, not relying on tv…even stewarding finances and cleaning and decorating, and on and on. But this is not a contest. There is a drive in many of us, certainly in me, to basically “win” at this whole mom business. However, we have been freed from the bondage of striving. And we are not called to compare ourselves to others, not even to other Christians, but ONLY to follow Christ’s example and look to him (not the world) for wisdom in how we spend our time and energy and resources.

    One more thing- I think there’s also a tendency to say “such-and-such is ‘good enough’ for now, but as soon as x, y, or z, I’ll get things back under control and then I can really feel good about myself again.”

  11. Myrielle says:

    This article was exactly what I needed right now. Mom of two sons (almost 4 years old and 20 months) and being 18 weeks pregnant I just feel overwhelmed. There is so much to do in a day and not that much time to do it… it will help to let go, “good enough” is enough. It’s not necessary to be perfect. It’s necessary to be present, loving and happy. If that means I have crumbs (and worse) under my dining table, well lets be it. Thanks for all your comments, that makes feel “normal” and not alone.

  1. April 6, 2015

    […] Simplify & do what’s “good enough.” […]

  2. October 12, 2016

    […] How Embracing “Good Enough” Can Help You Be a Better Mom– Jess Connell […]

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