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'Good Enough' During a Crisis

Leaning into what we are doing right.

Anna Shvets/Pexels
Source: Anna Shvets/Pexels

When the world closed due to COVID-19, many of us were forced to pivot quickly, with schools and colleges shutting their doors on a dime's notice, unforeseen job furloughs, working remotely, and instant overwhelming change on the homefront with no space or time to call our own. Students have struggled with the challenges of online learning, a loss of independence, routine, and connection with friends.

Many of us have given this everything we've got. We feel like we're running out of juice and wondering when this nightmare will be over. It's like we're running a marathon and some joker keeps moving the finish line back.

We've done our best, and still many of us have been left feeling depleted and not enough—that somehow we've come up short as parents and partners, as well as in school and the workplace. These are not the messages we want to send to ourselves or others, especially during a crisis.

And, here we go again.

Many elementary and middle schools are opening only two days a week, with the remaining three being virtual. Lots of high schools across the country have already committed to virtual learning. Many colleges have decided to cancel F2F (face-to-face) classes, sending out mass emails to students eager to get their young adult lives back that it won’t be this year, not happening.

Parents who now have their young adult children home again have also needed to pivot, as this has brought a new shift in dynamics. Our young adults have already been out there spreading their wings and now need to be spoken to and interacted with differently, especially as their wings have been clipped in many ways. Their newly found freedom and independence have been ripped right out from under them, with imposed restrictions at college, and severe consequences for those on campus who violate any of these mandated rules and guidelines for health and social behavior. With the ultimate punishment being sent home to live with Mom and Dad.

Add to the mix the source of all this, COVID-19, and we must also acknowledge the subconscious and often conscious slow-burn of fear ... we could get sick and even die.

Just as there has been so much talk about “flipping the classroom,” this is where we need to flip our thinking. We need to shift out of the many ways we are not enough and lean into everything we are doing right.

In fact, pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, came up with a theory back in the 1950s that was referred to as the “Good Enough Mother.” This was originally intended to explain the importance of balancing the needs of infants—devotion and meeting her needs, while also allowing for gradual exposure to the frustration and challenge that the world naturally brings. Of course, in 2020, this theory would morph into the “Good Enough Parent.”

We could perhaps even take this a step further to the good enough student, the good enough employee, the good enough partner, the good enough caretaker of an aging parent, etc. Winnicott’s main theme was that if the baby’s needs were met the majority of the time that they would wind up as happy and well-adjusted adults. We adults could really use a refresher on this message, as well as to role model this for our own kids and young adults, especially during a pandemic crisis. If there were ever a time to cut ourselves some slack, it’s now.

This has me thinking of a Melissa Estridge concert I attended years ago, and toward the end she let it out there to her audience that she “does her very best every day and in every way.” This is the bar I have set for myself as it is one I can always reach.