Monday, April 18, 2011

What we're reading: Good Enough is the New Perfect

Lib and I were asked if we would like to read an advance copy of Good Enough is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood. Well, since that is exactly what we've been striving for since the late 90's and 8 collective sons ago...of course we did. So far, a very interesting read for mothers of our generation. 

More about the authors, Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, and their new book:

You talk about two types of working moms in your book: the Never Enoughs and the Good Enoughs. Who are these women?

BECKY: We’re going to generalize here for a moment, but the Never Enoughs are the women striving for perfection at work and with their kids, the women focused on always being #1. We called them the Never Enoughs because many described themselves as constantly running toward expectations but rarely reaching them — or reaching them and deciding it wasn’t enough, or reaching them and then feeling like they’d completely failed elsewhere as a result. These women struggle the most to say no, they’re the ones who beat themselves up the most for making mistakes. In our survey, the Never Enoughs were the women who described themselves as having “a strong need to be the best at everything.” They were six times more likely than the Good Enoughs to say, “I try to be a superstar at work AND at home, even if it kills me.”
The Good Enoughs, on the other hand, told us that being the “the best” wasn’t important, as long as they were “good enough and happy” at work and at home. These were the women who had hopped off that hamster wheel and created their own definitions of success. They were more satisfied with their choices, and less likely to feel they’d sacrificed too much. They were also far less likely to describe their marriages as “a disaster” or “not very good.” They were better at making time for themselves, and at finding time to spend with friends and family. The part that surprised us? The Good Enoughs had given up very little ground at work to achieve this state of contentment. 
So which ones are you? Good Enoughs or Never Enoughs?
BECKY: Depends on the day! We both have our Never Enough moments — you should have seen me the month before our manuscript was due — but we’re both more “Good Enough” than we’ve ever been. It’s an ongoing effort to embrace this philosophy. I’ve become better at knowing the difference between needing to be the best at everything — and choosing to throw my energy into something that means a lot to me. I’ve learned to accept my imperfections, which, frankly, saves me a lot of time. I don’t need to sit around second-guessing myself as much, and I don’t feel compelled to say “yes” to as many things. Of course, I still fall off the Good Enough wagon all the time. After all, I spent a lot of years trying to accrue “gold stars” — trying to be the best mother, the best at work, the best Downward Facing Dog in yoga class. It was exhausting, and it was pointless.
HOLLEE: I think I am pretty squarely in the Good Enough camp these days. The best example I can think of — which I detailed in the book — involved a kindergarten snack. This fiasco occurred three years ago, during my first foray into providing school snacks, and for some unexplainable reason (maybe a tinge of guilt about being a working mom), I felt a real need to outdo myself (and honestly, the other moms) with this contribution.
So when Gideon said he wanted me to make Oreo spiders (from a Highlights magazine) with pretzel legs for the 22 kids, I was all for it.  Until two hours later … when I was still struggling to get the pretzels firmly entrenched without breaking the cookies! As my husband was nibbling on some “spiders” that I had rejected, he wondered out loud whether anyone would appreciate (or even notice) this effort!
Flash forward to this past winter, when I realized about 8 p.m. that I hadn’t made anything to send in for Gideon’s third grade holiday party. I really didn’t feel like making a late-night run to the store — and then I spotted an (already-opened) box of Oreos in the pantry. I sent them the next day, and the kids were thrilled! Lesson learned.

What do you hope moms will take away from this book?
HOLLEE: We hope Good Enough is the New Perfect will be the manual that we didn’t have. Through the inspiring stories of the moms we interviewed and the experts who shared their experience, we hope our readers will learn that they don’t need to be perfect in every aspect of their lives. A lot of very successful women have achieved what they have by honing in on their main priorities and saying “enough” to the rest. Sometimes good enough is good enough. And it can be a lot happier way to go.
BECKY: And we hope it will expand the discussion about balance. Women need to feel OK opening up about these issues. 

Good Enough Is the New Perfect is available at bookstores nationwide and at Amazon.

About the authors:
Becky and Hollee are the work/life balance columnists for the ABA Journal, the nation’s premiere lawyer magazine. Both graduates of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, they first worked together in the early 1990s, when Becky was Hollee’s first editor at The Daily Northwestern. Like so many of the working mothers they interviewed, they forged non-linear career paths, taking detours in their quests to balance work and family. They blog about work/life and parenting issues at


Patti Hanan said...

Motherhood is certainly a balancing act :) I am definately in the "good enough" category! I long ago got off the hamster wheel. Thank you for this book review and insightful post :)

Leslie Harris said...

Very interesting post. I'll definitely check out their book. As for me, I'm still a work-in-progress, an almost content "good enough" mom who still struggles with occasional guilt from my old "never enough" ways. Does that make sense, haha? I love your blog, and as a mom of two sons I feel perfectly at home here. :)
Leslie (aka Gwen Moss)


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