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13 February, 2009

The Enemy of the Good

One of the first parenting books I picked up, well before I was actually pregnant, was titled The Good-Enough Parent. I saw the title on the shelf of a used bookstore and grabbed it immediately, without my usual taking time to dither that occupies hours in used bookstores; it was obvious to me that I needed it.

Perfection is bad for me. Believing in it, looking for it, considering it a relevant factor for anything. I'm not nihilistic enough to look for perfection.


I used to be hung up on the perfect. It was clear that "perfect" was what I would have to be to avoid abuse from my mother, so I worked for it. And worked for it.

And I failed. Every damn time. Because "perfect" is unachievable; it is always possible to find something to critique. And every damn time my lack of perfection won me a screaming fit, some howling rage, or a casually poisonous comment that drove me to flee to the dubious safety of my room (where, if I locked the door and anyone noticed, I would be bellowed at some more, because my space existed to be barged into so its imperfections could be catalogued).

Caring about perfection is defining me in terms of utter, absolute failure, reframing me into a universe where, if I cannot be perfect, the least I can do is cease to be, as the nuisances of the flawed should not be inflicted on my betters.

This is why I don't trust theory as a basis for political action. Not just the fact that so many popular theories theorise that in an ideal world I would not exist (which is hard not to take personally) -- so many theories posit an ideal world. Either as a lost Eden, something to which we can only aspire, or as a goalstate, something to be laboring towards.

I can't deal with perfection.

I must focus my attention on what is good enough. I need to know the criteria for satisfaction, and look at what satisfies them; from there I can pick among options that meet the need to select one. It doesn't need to be the best, the ideal, the perfect -- it needs to be sufficient. With sufficiency, there is no need to keep digging, to find a way of improving and aspiring to the perfect -- things can rest, be still, unless there is a clear and obvious improvement to make.

I will not be a perfect mother. There are no perfect mothers; the surrounding culture demands perfection of its mothers and invades them, screaming, when they inevitably fail. I reject the siren song of perfection, the luminous Madonna and Child figurine that I am supposed to embody and will be judged upon when my example does not match up.

I will not be perfect. But I can be good enough.


belledame222 said...


Anonymous said...

Good enough is a watchword to me. For the reasons you so completely out-lined...and finally, I am making peace with good enough being oh-so-much better than perfection!

antiprincess said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing focus to the need to be as good as we can be as mother rather than perfect. I think it is important to keep it real. Our kids will thank us more for this in the long run.