“Good enough mothers are human and imperfect - wholly dedicated and humanly unreliable – this is essential to fostering independence.” Winnacott.
When lockdown happened, our house filled up with our five children. Our eldest two boys returned from university. Our 18 year old daughter was facing up to not being able to see friends and having her A-level results decided by an, at that point, unknown process. My wife and I divided home-schooling responsibilities; she took on our youngest, who is in year five, and I worked with our year eight daughter. Having everyone back home and spending time together, was perhaps the best aspect of the national measures taken to slow the spread of Covid-19. However, we were fortunate to be able to scale back our work to take on the twin role of teaching and running a 24 hour military style kitchen.
I am also aware that Covid-19 has been very difficult for many. Losing loved ones and there are many who had to work and were busier than ever and found it impossible to cope without the normal child care and those who had no work and were facing considerable financial stress and hardship.
I remember thinking, when our daughter was born; after first having two boys, “I can’t do girls.” I still have the two books I was motivated to buy on the topic on my bookshelf. I know that my decision to train as a family therapist, after a corporate career, was partially motivated from similar origins; how can I be a better parent?
Lockdown for me was a chance to reflect and notice my kids in different ways. To pay attention to where their interests were and weren’t. I was also reminded how social media could be both a source of support and stress. Hearing the stories of other parents and how they were coping was inspirational and supportive. And I resisted the temptation of feeling a failure when seeing posts of heroic efforts of parents who seemed to be going well above the ‘maintenance schooling’ expectation of our kids’ schools.
Now as lockdown is easing, and our eldest three have been able to return to their social circles and university cities, I find myself working as a locum psychotherapist in an adolescent inpatient mental health unit, alongside my private practice. I am reminded just how hard it is for some parents, due to their own life difficulties and circumstances, to be that ‘good enough parent’ no matter how much they wish it.
I reflected on how helpful Carl Roger’s ideas of being authentic, empathic, and unconditionally accepting are, as ways we can be towards our children.
As for homeschooling, it became clear to me that although my youngest daughter did the work, I was far more interested than she was, in her school topics such as World War One trench life; deforestation, climate change; and Victorian literature. She mainly wanted to keep in touch with her friendship group via technology. And that’s completely okay.
Photo Credit to Sarah Clarke Photograph