Why It's So Incredibly Hard For Moms Accept That Our Best Is Good Enough

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not good enough as a mom
Family, Self

It's exhausting!

Do you ever struggle with beating yourself about all you should be doing as a mother amidst the constant barrage of differing opinions and never-ending options? Some days it feels impossible to trust you are doing your best — especially when there are no guaranteed or measurable outcomes to gauge your success against.

This dynamic was particularly present during my struggle to get pregnant against the odds. It was hard to believe I was doing my best when there was always another remedy, treatment, or procedure that might work.

I constantly ran into conflicting advice about whether it was best to give up dairy or increase my whole fat dairy intake. It was confusing and infuriating. I was tempted to keep going with no measure of when to stop or to trust that I could walk away, knowing I’d given it a valiant effort. 

After months of living like a saint, having given up caffeine, dairy, alcohol, and wheat, I hit my breaking point and launched into a rebellion. I drove to my favorite café and ordered a latte and a cheese pastry and flipped the bird to the natural fertility enhancing world.

This challenge affected me so deeply, I wrote about it in my memoir:

After a few days, while I was out walking my dogs in the nearby redwood forest, these words popped into my mind: I did the best I could to get pregnant. At first, I thought someone else was inhabiting my brain—this was not how I thought.

Throughout my efforts to get pregnant, Chris, my mentor, had counseled me. “Do whatever it takes to feel like you did the best you could. If you can do that, you’ll be able to walk away without regret, if necessary.”

But I had never felt I was doing my best. My internal critic was ever present, ready to call into question the diligence of my efforts, highlighting the moments when I faltered in my determination by cheating on my strict diet or failing to do my daily Qigong practice. When Chris and I had revisited the topic in late October, I scoffed at the notion that anyone feels like they did their best. I couldn’t fathom that some people lived free of this relentless, internal criticism.

“No, truly,” Chris explained, “I can look at almost any aspect of my life and say I did the best I could.”

“That’s just because you’re practically enlightened,” I scoffed. “Normal people don’t feel that way. If I look at any aspect of my life and try to say, ‘I did the best I could,’ I am confronted by utter disbelief and repulsion.”

“I think you will find that many people feel this way,” Chris suggested. “Ask some of your friends and see what they say. You might be surprised.”

Related: The HARD Truth No One Tells You About Trying To Get Pregnant

I set to work asking my friends, “Do you ever feel like you did the best you could?” I was astonished to find out that my friends could say that, in many aspects of their lives, they had done the best they could.

For me, making this claim seemed a far-off, unattainable goal. But three months later, as I stood in the depths of the forest with my dogs, I could say with absolute certainty that I had done the best I could to get pregnant.

With utter earnestness, I had put forward my best effort at pregnancy, and that my effort was the only thing over which I had any control. Instead of hating myself for being broken or not trying hard enough, I could love myself for my valiant effort, my willingness to greet the lessons that had been served to me along the journey, and the life circumstances that had led me to this place.

Suddenly, it was one hundred percent clear to me that my ability to get pregnant didn’t hinge on whether or not I had a glass of wine or practiced Qigong several hours a day.

In fact, I realized I may have very little, if any, control at all over pregnancy. Though the hyper-achieving, independent, lawyer part of my personality was loath to admit it, I could not will a pregnancy into being."

Related: I Was Bullied Into Having A C-Section

The lesson here applies to so many aspects of life. For me now, it’s ever-present as I strive to be the best mother I can be. The world around me tells me that I need to read another book about parenting, enroll in more classes and activities, make more homecooked meals, never lose my patience, find a better pre-school, etc. I could drive myself crazy trying to do all the things the best parents are supposed to do.

Or, I can choose what feels most important and possible to me and do just that while realizing that’s all I can do since I can’t do it all. It requires that I tune into my own intuition and listen to my own internal compass about what’s right for us and leave the rest. The effort and good intentions should be enough if I let it be so. I can rarely control the outcome, but I can control my effort and the value I place on my effort.

So, here’s to trusting what you can do and recognizing you can only control your effort, not the outcome!

Sarah Kowalski, J.D., is a family building coach, doula, and author of Motherhood Reimagined: When Becoming A Mother Doesn't Go As Planned, coming Oct. 17th, 2017. You can find her book anywhere books are sold.

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