A friend recently confessed to me he felt like a failure in almost every area of his life. The pressure of balancing his job, his marriage, and role as a father exposed how he felt like he continually came up short. He felt raw, exhausted and so far from the person he wanted to be. No matter how hard he worked to do right by all his growing responsibilities, he always felt like he was leaving someone disappointed at the end of the day— even if it was just himself. Everywhere he turned, he felt like he got the same message, you’re just not enough.
That’s a hard place to live. Soul crushing hard. If you’ve found yourself here before or are here now, you’re not alone. All young parents have found themselves to be here at one point or another.
If you’re in the first five years of parenthood, survival comes first. There’s really no way around it. You’re underwater for a long time just getting the basics down. It takes everything you’ve got just keeping another human being alive, clothed and fed. It’s an unrelenting crucible. You’re exhausted all the time, isolated from friends before kids, and have no idea if you’re doing it right.
“You know what it’s like having five kids? Imagine you’re drowning. And someone hands you a baby.”
In all other spheres of life, we still have access to honest adult conversation and feedback to start working through the problem. But in a parent/child relationship, this isn’t the kind of conversation we can or even should have anytime soon. The limited scope of feedback we get from our kids tends to flare up our insecurities without the insight to help us move beyond them.
Maybe you set out to let your kids play outside more, do screens less, eat healthier, be kinder to others, get better sleep, or take out just one kid on Saturday mornings and those things haven’t happened the way you thought. Maybe you’ve taken the time to plan and make sacrifices to meet those goals and yet— daily life still got in the way. We can get stuck by thinking of all the good things we aren’t doing.
We can bury ourselves in good intentions.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where our lack is exploited, rather than dealt with sensitivity and insight to foster growth and healing. We are bombarded with advertisements intentionally deepening this void and promising there is a product that will fill it. We are so desperate for acceptance, we settle for conformity instead. And then we actively shame or at least feel shame for anyone who doesn’t fit inside the lines. As the work of Brené Brown has identified, we live in a shame culture. Without proper self-care, our good intentions and high expectations of ourselves become weapons of shame. We can internalize all these messages in one heavy little phrase, you are not enough.
The next time you feel crushed by those four little words, either from someone else or yourself, call bullsh*t.
What is enough anyway?
Let’s think this through. Without a clear definition, the bar of expectations will always keep moving so we are always under it. If you meet or exceeded them today, the unquestioned assumption is you can do even more tomorrow. This happens all the time in businesses, families, everywhere. But these unrealistic expectations are not ever attainable. They are killing us from the inside out. If we want to give our best, we must throw off this subconscious weight.
To be good enough means you show up for the moment in front of you.
No other intentions or expectations necessary, just show up. Be present. Physically, mentally and spiritually— be present. Let go of anything outside this very moment.
Got household chores still yet to do? Let it go. Thinking about a deadline for next week? Let it go. Remembering a time you missed the heart of your kid in a moment of frustration? Let it go. Got high hopes for doing something amazing this week with your family? Let that go too.
You can stop trying to multitask. You can stop trying to stuff more into the in-between moments. You can stop constantly overloading your nervous system. You might even start feeling everything calm down as you read these words.
Wherever you are, just give your family a few precious moments of your full and undivided attention. That’s it. That’s enough. Maybe the reality of your current circumstances, demands and responsibilities mean this only happens 5 minutes a day. Is it enough? Absolutely. I’ll say it again. Showing up is enough. When you are present, you are your best self, always available and full of potential. This is how you give enough to your own life and everyone in it. The authors of Raising a Secure Child call this “good enough parenting.” Once you get the right quality ingredients into the recipe, the quantity isn’t the issue anymore.
All you have to do is show up, in whatever way you can, to the reality of your life. That’s what it takes.