Good Enough is Good Enough

The horrors of FOMO

On social media we flip through hundreds of images on a daily basis. They all depict other people with their ‘perfect’ moments. We can find ourselves actually believing that fake image of the charmed lives of our friends, family or peers live. It’s called FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, and it’s kind of a modern plague.

As the name would suggest, the basic thought process of FOMO is, “hey, they’re having a lot of fun without me on that beach!”

But FOMO can take on another form – “I made a really bad decision”. It can be as superficial as what clothes you bought, but can also run as deep as a life course that you took or a career you chose. If others are so happy with their lives, then the life I chose must be horribly, horribly wrong.

The contrast between these perfect images and our actual life leads us to mistrust our parenting skills

Buzfeed did a good job explaining the mechanics of FOMO –

Parenting FOMO

This thought process can also be relevant when we think of our parenting and family skills. We look around us and see ‘perfect’ looking families. We watch in movies or read in books about deep relationships and heartfelt moments, that for some reason we don’t always share with our kids.

We fear that we made bad parenting decisions – perhaps we messed up our kids by doing something very wrong. Maybe our family just isn’t as happy as the others. Maybe our relationships don’t run as deep. And the big question is constantly looming – “Where did we go wrong?”

One should be a good enough parent

The contrast between these perfect images and our actual life leads us to mistrust our parenting skills and instincts and feel that our choices and decisions were all misguided.

Perfectionism and parenting

What’s worse is that this may extend further to our expectations of our children. We may think to ourselves – why is my son so disorganized, or hyper, or bad at math? Look at these other perfect kids who seem rather perfect… why can’t he be more like that?

I think this is where Donald Winnicott’s work and its later interpretations can help us a lot. Winnicott believed that one should be a good enough parent. He believed that striving for perfection, both from ourselves as parents, and from our children, turns us into commanding and demanding parents, who are trying to shape an imperfect world into a perfect one, while turning our children into a hollow shell instead of spontaneous and joyful kids. As a parent who strives for perfection, your child’s smallest mistakes will be grossly amplified. You own parenting shortcomings will be blown out of proportion and your life will be less fun, and eventually less perfect.

Being good enough

This may sound a bit overly dramatic, and I’m sure there’s a spectrum of behaviors that can classified as perfectionism that won’t turn kids into robots who are dead inside, but nevertheless, we should try to take the core of what Winnicott is saying, which is the absolute opposite of our modern heightened feelings of FOMO. Winnicott is saying to us – “You’re doing just fine the way you are”. Our belief that the grass is greener on the other person’s Facebook feed is far from true. No one’s life is perfect, no child is perfect and expecting perfection will only bring us pain. Making do with being just a good enough parent is healthy. We should always strive to improve, but slowly, moderately and without pressure.

The video below (created by The School of Life) gives some great insight into how Winnicott believed we can improve as parents, and within society as a whole.