Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good Enough Mother

The British physician D. W. Winnicott coined the term “good enough mother” in
part to help mothers who were overly anxious about their parenting skills.
Rather than worry about trying to be perfect (whatever that meant), he urged
them to relax, trust their intuition and realize that their children needed a
mother who was caring, alert and reliable — in other words, good enough.

The author (a psychiatrist) of this article posted in the New York Times used the preceding coined “good enough mother” as an analogy in hopes for helping doctors become “good enough doctor” as far as adopting a better bedside manner was concerned.

I’ve found it interesting that parents of typical kids--and even doctors--can be “good enough,” at their jobs, but what about parents of autistic or special needs kids?

It is clear that mothers (parents) of autistic or special needs kids have been left out of this benefit, because they are forced to be so much more than “good enough.” We simply cannot just relax and be caring, alert, and reliable. We have to go all out and be superhuman, or Herculean as someone had once said to me, smart, stable, determined, independent, advocates and, well ... fighters.

One must wonder why we are not given more credit--as parents of autistic or special needs kids--and be offered the proper acknowledgement for working harder than our typical-parent counterparts have to work. This “credit” can be in the form of offering more supports such as funding for classes, so that we can learn (instead of fight) about how to raise our kids with disorders, and offer affordable health insurance so that these parents can actually pay for medical and therapeutic services and other necessary supports that they may need. Instead of being left to feel alone, work harder and go broke.

It is refreshing reading the terms applied to the “good enough mom” theory and letting go of the notion that parents have to be perfect since there is no such thing as “perfect,” and actually set “attainable goals” of being simply “good enough” is wonderful advice for any mom—as it takes the edge off of what is known to be the hardest and most stressful job.

But I’m afraid that it simply does not apply to all parents …

Parent of autistic or special needs children are not given a real sense of direction when they first learn about their special needs child and/or a real guide or services to use to set “equally fair" and "attainable" goals; instead, there seems to be no desire to actually help these parents--parents who clearly have a much harder job! It’s a form of discrimination and a failure to acknowledge that there is more than one type of parenting going on—the parenting of “typical kids” and “atypical kids.” So where is the justice? I fear that the most troubling part of this issue is that we are being set up to fail (or at least faced with a horrible sense of it) before we can even try—as we are so willing to do.

And if one wonders why there is so much money being paid out to special schools, residential facilities and the like, then understand that it is obvious that these parents are not given the chance to simply be a good enough mother by being offered the supports that they need.

This is so strange to me because we all realize that there is so much more expected of the parent with special needs kids than there is of the “good enough mother,” yet we are often overlooked, if not clearly avoided.

There is another saying that “Raising kids is the hardest job in the world.” This, to me, is incomplete and just another form of discrimination, because it should continue with “And raising special needs kids is even harder...”

“Raising kids is the hardest job in the world … and raising special needs kids is even harder...”

Getting credit where credit is due…


Tanya @ Teenautism said...

You brought up some very valid points. We definitely deserve some recognition!

Christina said...

If you want to keep the "good enough" analogy going, I don't think it's possible to compare to parents of typical kids.

Like you said, our bar for "good enough" is on a completely different playing field.

I've never thought about how overlooked we parents are in the continuum of care for our kids. You're right that organizations and institutions get all sorts of public funding, while the people closest to the problems are left to fend for themselves.

There should be some kind of tax incentive for parents of kids with special needs if we attend a conference or join a membership organization or take a class or even get a massage!

Anonymous said...

Holly... I'm so glad you wrote about this. People and parents of typical kids have no idea how our parenting is at a completely different level of intensity. We don't ever get to relax - even (or especially) when they are in school. Thanks for getting this message out!