My mothering is good enough

This week on the blog I'm talking about parenting and homeschooling.

The topic of parenting specifically is not an arena I enter lightly. I am very comfortable sharing my thoughts about "motherhood" as a calling, profession, and institution. But talking about parenting, answering the "how do you...?" type questions on the blog always makes me nervous.

You risk stepping on someone's toes, or having someone misunderstand or judge.

I don't offer advice, or answer your questions because I'm perfect and have it all together, in parenting, homeschooling or anything else. But I do have strong opinions, which I am fairly confident expressing, and successful strategies that have worked in our home, for our family. I will be sharing some of those this week. So I guess you can consider yourself warned (smile).

As much as I truly believe I am the best mother for my children there are many moments when I am not my best. There are many situations even where I choose good enough over "best" because the best in one area would mean too much sacrifice from another area.

I am not the best vegan cook for example because I'm not all that interested in cooking. I'd rather do other things - organize, clean, read, write (not necessarily in that order) - so I am good enough.

The same goes for many areas of parenting and homeschooling. I am good enough.

And the best part is "good enough" really is good enough.

I am a good enough homeschooler, a good enough mom, a good enough homemaker. Good. Enough.

The freedom of good enough has been a mantra in my mothering circles. I think the first time I really encountered the phrase was through photographer Tracey Clark, founder of the collaborative photo blog Shutter Sisters.

That's also where I first encountered the name Brené Brown who writes and speaks on this theme. (I haven't yet read Daring Greatly.)

I like to think I give my best to my kids, but that's not even true.

I can't give my best to them all the time. What does that even mean?

Like when I largely ignore them for the first couple hours of the day and tell them to eat the oatmeal I've cooked or fend for themselves while I write this blog - is that my best?

From their "can't you make pancakes?" perspective, probably not. But it is good enough because they don't need my undivided attention 24/7. Nor do they need all that maple syrup.

Readers have asked me to write more about parenting. They have questions.

Do my kids fight? No, not really but I think that is largely due to the personalities of their birth order more than anything.

They do have disagreements and as their teenage hormones all start to kick into gear (oh help me God) there is a lot more "discussion" in our house about how we treat each other, how the tone of our voice and our body language communicates as much as the words we speak.

My kids are currently in the selective hearing phase of growth and development. My theory is that after years of spending all their time with me they're just tired of my voice.

I'm going through a bit of a challenging spell right now as I try to pull back from micro-managing and let our kids show more responsibility for their decisions, wondering will I ever be able to stop asking, "did you brush your teeth?"

Do I get tired of being with my kids all day? (This is usually in the context of homeschooling). No, but that's only because I get breaks from them and Damien is home all day too. (Then there's that whole extroverted thing and being quite comfortable with telling my kids, from the time they were little, "mommy needs a break, go play.")

How did I teach them to eat all kinds of veggies? How did they get so crafty? Do our kids always want to go hiking with us? How do they feel about thru-hiking the AT?

We went to a very large Christian music festival this summer. The festival is very family friendly but the focus is definitely teens. Something about rock music and teens...

Each evening we sat under the stars (and sometimes in the rain) listening to performers and speakers shining truth and light into the dark places of people's hearts - their hurts, fears, and loneliness.

The message for the teens was basically this - you matter, you are not anonymous, you are important. This message was delivered so many times I started to think there was something to this.

A teen festival is probably clued into the heartbeat of teen culture, I assume. And what I came away from that experience with, falling asleep past midnight with ears still ringing, while Celine was at late-night dance parties with her dad, was that I'm not "the best" mom, but without a doubt I'm good enough.

I don't have all the answers but I do know there are a few key pieces to parenting well. Love, trust, respect, boundaries, fun, friendship, and more love...

Some days it's complicated and messy but many days it's actually fairly simple.

I believe in you, and I'm in your corner completely. I am responsible for your health and wellbeing, though not your happiness. I will parent and educate you according to our family values with utmost respect for your individuality. My lifelong goal is to build relationship with you. I love you.

Ultimately though my freedom in mothering comes not from offering my kids unconditional love or setting the right boundaries. It doesn't come from knowing I'm good enough. My freedom comes from knowing I'm not their savior.

My mothering is not my kids' salvation. My mothering is not my salvation. I am not my kids' Jesus, even though my highest mothering aim is to reflect Jesus to my children.

Ironically then, the underlying message I believe about mothering is not "I'm good enough" but "I'm not enough" but someone else is. And that is the wellspring of my parenting (and homeschooling) joy and freedom.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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Training in the Early Years ~ A Foundation for Self-Discipline »
  • Natasha

    Natasha on Dec. 3, 2013, 1 p.m.

    Renee, I have been a long time reader, but have not commented here before. I love what you write and this post rang especially true to me. After homeschooling my kids for many years, they all started in the local highschool and I have had to let go of the idea that I have to be their everything. Teacher, friend, playmate, mother, etc.  It is a freeing feeling to know that I don't have to be enough..I never will be. But that HE is enough!  Love that.  Thanks for sharing your heart. 

    From a fellow Canadian, outside Ottawa, Natasha :)


  • Amylynn

    Amylynn on Dec. 3, 2013, 2:28 p.m.

     Thank You for sharing this!  As a fellow mother and a future homeschooler, we as Mom's tend to question our abilities and compare ourselves to others. I guess it's just true human nature to do this. I just want to be the best for my son, and maybe go to far or tend to be too hard on myself. Thank You!




  • Sandi

    Sandi on Dec. 3, 2013, 2:32 p.m.

    Keep talking about this, Renee. This has been so key for me in finding peace in parenting. I still struggle at times. I spent many years over compensating due to a very poor childhood of my own and fear created by some teaching out there. I cannot save them nor am I meant I need to go into my day living like I believe that. :) Relationship covers so much. The one thing I remember as a kid is wondering if my parents really loved me or liked me. I can say my kids never wonder that.....I am enough!

    I am with you on the kitchen. I do not enjoy cooking all that much though the way we choose to eat requires it. I'd rather read, write and organize as well.


  • Angela

    Angela on Dec. 3, 2013, 4:40 p.m.

    Good grief.  You've made me all weepy!  "My mothering is not my salvation".  For those of us who experienced neglect from our own mothers, it's hard not to fret over our own role as mother now...  Not only have you spoken to my fears for my own children, but to my need to truly forgive and set free the one who hurt me as I formed into the person I am today.  It's good to hear how a healthfully-mothered person approaches her own motherhood.  Thank you.


  • Mystie

    Mystie on Dec. 3, 2013, 5:48 p.m.

    This is one of the best parenting articles I've read. I will be sharing it. That parenting is neither our children's salvation nor our own is a much-needed message. Thank you, Renee.


  • amber

    amber on Dec. 3, 2013, 7:43 p.m.

    Thank you, Renee!  Give us more on this topic.  As a mom with little ones, I love all you have to say and am so looking forward to your input in future posts!


  • Johanna Hanson

    Johanna Hanson on Dec. 4, 2013, 12:18 p.m.

    OH this is GOOD. Thank you. And I'm very much looking forward to your other posts as someone further behind in the parenting journey. I so enjoy learning from more experienced moms. I know it isn't easy to write, but thank you for doing it. :-)


  • beth lehman

    beth lehman on Dec. 4, 2013, 12:38 p.m.

    renee, this is so good....  for women who always struggle with 'i'm not __ enough" or "i should have...".  i been thinking so much lately about relationship.  yes, my goal is to have a lifelong relationship with each of my kids.  


  • leah

    leah on Dec. 4, 2013, 10:41 p.m.

    This is just what I needed to hear today. So often, I feel inadequate as a somehow I am going to miss some big, important part of mothering and my children are going to grow up warped and not able to function in life! My current mantra is, "I am capable. I am adequate." :-)


  • Maria Cordner

    Maria Cordner on Dec. 7, 2013, 7:28 p.m.

    l love this post! I love the fact that you try to express yourself honestly and succed at it, in my view! I was blessed with two children, both teens now! My boy is severely autistic with DS, a well of tenderness and  joy in need of constant girl is a teen inloved with reading, musical theatre, playing guitar and trying to do the best she can in school. She wants to enjoy and experiment things rather than work too hard at anything. I feel they are both persons on their own and I am here to nurture not mold...I red once that every teen needs to have someone "crazy in love" with them...That I am with both of my kids. I do not covered all their needs and many of their wants but I feel that leaves them space enough to "breathe" and grow. It resonates with me that you feel your mothering good enough because you know you are not their savior. I find peace in that too! Thanks for your post!


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