( Harlequin 2011 )

Most moms I know don’t even want it all. We just want less stress and enough time to do meaningful work and spend time with our family.  A more-than-worthwhile goal, but how can we achieve it?

A recently released book sheds some light on this question. In “Good Enough is the New Perfect,” Hollee Schwartz Temple and Becky Beaupre Gillespie surveyed 905 working mothers (born between 1965-1980) across the country and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 100 working moms. 

The authors note that they intentionally chose to examine only the portion of mothers who had the privilege of education and a certain amount of choice regarding work including the ability to temporarily scale back hours, switch jobs or take time off. Those polled also possessed a certain amount of financial security.

Data amassed from the survey revealed that 67 percent feel stymied by the constant need to be the best at everything. These responders are described as Never Enoughs. These women report having a harder time delegating responsibility (even to their own spouses), feel obligated to work because of how hard they worked to get where they are, and have less realistic expectations for themselves.

The Good Enoughs, however, are those 33 percent who have somehow found a way to let go of unrealistic expectations.  Feedback from these women includes the following:

“My standards had to change or my sanity and my marriage would be sacrificed.”

“I am comfortable with decisions I have made to give up a little at home and a little at work to make it all work.”

“I do less wanting of things to be different and am more focused on being grateful for the time with our children, which goes so quickly.”

Taking control and accepting that we’re not going to “Have It All” just by working a little harder are other ways to embrace being Good Enough. Also key is knowing that what’s good enough for one woman isn’t necessarily what’s good enough for another.

Recently, I had a chance to catch up with one of the book’s authors, Hollee Schwartz Temple. I took the opportunity to ask more about “the New Perfect” as she sees it.

On Parenting: What advice would you give a young woman who hasn’t had kids yet about how to navigate work and family once she has one?

  Temple: I’d say she needs to be brave and craft her own definition of success. You can’t be happy or balanced if you’re chasing someone else’s dreams. What feels like success for you? It might not be a corner office. For many women, it’s about taking control of their own schedules.

The “Mommy Wars” don’t exist as I see it. Most women I know and work with are too busy balancing to point any fingers. What I do hear a lot about is women wanting to be a “good” mother, which does seem to equate with being perfect. I wholeheartedly agree with you that if we change the goal from perfect to “good enough” that can really make a difference. What else can we do to get this message across to mothers (and future mothers) across the country?

I think we need to keep emphasizing that the woman we are all comparing ourselves to — this perfect mom who has mastered the workplace, her marriage, her children, cooking, crafting, and fitness — is a composite. She’s a myth. None of us can excel in every area and maintain sanity. We’re already enough — even if we’re not perfect.

  And it’s not good for our kids to see us striving for this level of perfection. It’s actually a disservice to our children, as they learn that mistakes are unacceptable. Isn’t the whole point to raise kids who can launch? Good enough is a mindset that takes us a step closer to that goal.

What are your thoughts on the recent Atlantic piece on women and work/life balance?

I think the article put work/life balance front and center — literally on the front page of some of the nation’s biggest publications — and that was a good thing. When someone with the credentials and privileges of Anne-Marie Slaughter admits that she could not find work/life balance in Washington, that speaks volumes. It’s clear that change needs to happen, right now, for the current generation of parents — both moms and dads. We’re not willing to work around the clock and miss our children’s childhoods. It’s not that we’re not ambitious, but we won’t put work before everything else, all of the time. If companies want to retain top talent in the 40-and-under age bracket, they’ll take note.

Guest blogger Jennifer Kogan is a clinical social worker in Northwest Washington who works with parents. More about “The New Perfect” can be found here.