For many of us, Mother’s Day stirs something deeply loving.  For others, ambivalent feelings abide.  You see, after thirty-three years in the counseling field and drying the tears off many faces, I can accurately say that not every woman feels she had, was or is the “good-enough mother.”

So, exactly what is the “good-enough mother”?  English pediatrician, Donald Winnicott, M.D. – an influential object-relations psychoanalyst – believed this type of mother was a different kind of mom because she didn’t hold perfectionism as her model.  Good on you, Doc Winnicott; that’s “a like” button over here for sure.  Honestly, I never realized that perfectionism in motherhood was even a possibility.  Maybe it’s a new app.

I loved being a “good-enough mother.”  I use the past tense now because the needs of my children have changed: my precious daughter, Katie, is in heaven with her Creator and my ever-humorous son, Richard, is happily raising his own sweet family. Each would laugh at my memories, my deep thoughts, my recollections.

For instance, in those first weeks of motherhood, if anyone even mentioned my new baby daughter’s name, my breasts would gush like the Trevi Fountain.  Thank you, Mother Nature.

And we all know that babies need things like diapers – lots of them.  No designer Pampers for this mother either; both children were allergic to the plastic coating.  Plus, my mindset was allergic to the idea of doing something easy when I could do it the hard way. The folding was nothing, but the trip to the Laundromat?  Now that was an outing because we had no washer or dryer and owned one car.

Besides, somebody had to make a living.  (Yes, my husband’s name was “Somebody.”)  Oh, the things we women do to economize saving for a house. And I really did work within a budget – absolutely resisted the purchase of a stackable washer/dryer combo for the apartment – even though “Somebody” thinks I only scrunched my nose up at the word “budget.”

~ I smile remembering days in the sun watching my toddlers splash around in a plastic pool with pictures of fish and waves on the side or pointing to my cheek for a kiss whenever the urge fell upon me.

~ I smile remembering pre-adolescence when buying a dozen donuts after Mass and eating three because “the kids like donuts.”

~ I smile remembering all those checkups and my favorite pediatrician (who happened to look like Antonio Banderas) saying to me on one I can barely stand I’m so tired mornings, “I can’t understand why your son isn’t sleeping through the night at four months.”  Then he narrowed his eyes and leaned in, “You’re not playing with him when he wakes up are you?”  When I didn’t immediately respond he tilted his head, pursed his lips and continued in a considerably louder voice, “Who wouldn’t want to wake up, have a little nuzzle and play?  Next time, just give that baby boy water and he’ll never wake up again in the middle of the night!” Ladies, I think there’s a lesson for us in there somewhere!

So to the young moms out there, don’t worry so much about how things look or who has what.  Don’t worry about making every kid’s game, every practice, while hurrying to work, cleaning up after the dog, cooking from scratch for your mate -Yikes!  It’s simply too much for any woman, any mother!  Instead, take a deep breath, book a facial for yourself and just do the best you can being the loving and devoted, dare I say it, “good-enough mother.”

Happy Mother’s Day, dear moms.


Mary Jane Hurley Brant

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S.,CGP, is a practicing psychotherapist for 37 years who specializes in grief. She is author of the book, When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss and Life. In this first person narrative M.J. addresses the suicide of her father when she was 13 and the life and death of her daughter, Katie, of a brain tumor. She is the founder of Mothers Finding Meaning Again. MJ can be reached through her website

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