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I'm a "good-enough" parent - and that's OK
Being a dad has been the hardest thing I've had to do and trying to be a perfect parent was...admirable but a mistake
👋 Hola, I’m Ani and welcome to the free version of my newsletter. I am a product leader (currently at a unicorn scale-up) and a father of two young un's. I cover topics related to the PM career, do deep dives on successful products and I also write about being a father.
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In November 2022, I had the privilege of becoming a father for the second time. We welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our family. Overnight, the ratio of adults to children became 1:1 in our house. If you’re a parent with at least 2 children, you might remember how significant this ratio shift was. Before, with our 3 year old toddler, my partner and I could tag team and tackle his needs and meltdowns together. Now, it’s one parent per child, and seemingly overnight, I lost the safety net of being able to tag in my spouse when I’m overwhelmed or over stimulated.
The last three years of being a millennial parent have been the most tiring, frustrating, scary and fulfilling years of my life. My son was born in December 2019, and we went into lockdown just a couple of months later. Being first time parents, holed up in a tiny 1 bedroom condo with a newborn was…not ideal. It stress-tested our marriage, and it made me second guess if I was cut out to be a father. It really did. Having to care and nurture a goddamn human was so surreal (still is). There’s a deluge of information about parenting available out there today - Instagram, blogs, Substack, Medium and it’s so hard to figure out what advice is “right” and keep up with every trend. I know that staying calm and coaching my toddler’s feelings through a meltdown is the right thing to do, but holy cow it’s easier said than done. As with anything, practice makes perfect. Over the last 12 months, with a lot of help from my spouse and Dr. Siggie, I’ve been getting better with modelling good behaviour and helping my 3 year old regulate his emotions, but I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. The reality is that being a parent is extremely demanding and we experience the imposter syndrome and feel inadequate most of the time. Thankfully I discovered good-enough parenting.
The reality is that being a parent is extremely demanding and we experience the imposter syndrome and feel inadequate most of the time.
Good Enough Parenting
Raise your hand if you’ve looked forward to bathroom breaks so that you can get the two minutes of solitude during your day. Raise your other hand if you felt like your parenting standards took a hit during the pandemic. Parenting is chaos. My wife introduced me to the concept of “good-enough” parenting recently and it sparked my curiosity.
Turns out, this has been around since the early 50s and coined by a paediatrician— Dr. Donald Winnicott. He used the term to describe the process whereby a mom naturally relaxes her responsiveness to her infant in healthy ways as the child grows and develops. Winnicott, however, realized that constantly adapting to a child’s evolving needs is really hard In fact, he recognized that it was a fool’s errand to try and be the “perfect mom”. He postulated that as long as the mother is usually reliable and the child is well-cared for, the small parenting “failures” are par for the course. Being “good enough”, he championed, fosters independence and autonomy in a child. This is because the mother’s failure to adapt to the child’s every need helps them adapt to external realities. He writes - “Her imperfections better prepare them for an imperfect world.”
As long as the mother is usually reliable and the child is well-cared for, the small parenting “failures” are par for the course. — Dr. Donald Winnicott
Older literature typically refers to the caregiver as the woman, and in that time it often was. Today, a lot of this literature resonates with me, hopefully showing that caregivers are taking a more balanced approach to childrearing. In any case, it was refreshing to read that I did not have to be a perfect dad. We all know that no human, parent or child is perfect, but somehow that doesn’t stop our primitive brains from trying. We constantly try to be the perfect parent and take on stress-inducing roles in our children's lives - like trying to be the gatekeepers of their distress or executive assistants of their life. I started to become the very thing I swore against - A HELICOPTER PARENT. I have yet to find any damning evidence against good-enough parenting and that’s good enough for me. I mean, if I do not pass on at least some trauma to my kids, am I really a parent 😜?
Then it hit me, I was raised by a good-enough parenting style
I don’t think any of us would be able to fathom letting our kids grow up the way we did, right? I grew up in the heartlands of Singapore. Almost every evening, I was outside, riding my bike or hanging out with kids in my neighourhood without a phone or ability for my mom to track me. Then it hit me, I was raised by a good-enough parenting style. And I’d like to think I turned out ok.
To the parents and aspiring parents reading this, it’s okay to be imperfect. Parenting is already a tremendous responsibility to shoulder. I’m going to see how I fare with the good-enough parenting style. It’ll be a chance for me to show my children that we’re all flawed, but we can adapt ourselves to those flaws and still become decent human beings. Check back with me in about 18 years to see how we made out.
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Who am I?
I’m a product leader and dad with almost a decade of experience across startups, scale-ups and consulting for large enterprises. I’ve led the go-to-market for successful digital products in multiple verticals (manufacturing, B2B SaaS, fintech, ecommerce) and have consulted for some of the largest brands.
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