A Little Treat, Just Because

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Good Enough Mother

My Little Thumbsucker and I skipped church and spent the morning at the local Mass-Market Bookseller where I bought two things: a book by Harvard Medical School on how best to feed your children and a postcard. And the more I think about that postcard, the more the book--or rather, my perceived need for it--just seems dumb.

I bought the postcard for myself. It features a famous black & white photograph by Dorothea Lange entitled, "Migrant Mother" which was shot in 1936 in Napomo, California during the Depression. The woman in the picture is only 32, but she seems to have aged prematurely. She and the two children who cling to her look ragged, dirty, hungry, weary. And though I have seen this photo before, I only now notice the infant lying in her lap. This image brings tears to my eyes.

Wanting to be a "good mother" to my 21-month old is always at the forefront of my mind, even though I can honestly say I haven't quite known what is Good Enough. Am I a good mother even if my boy isn't in a toddler tumbling class? Even if I'm not registering him for early preschool? Even if I don't force him to eat veggies he hates because he loves fruit?

Migrant Mother wasn't worried about living up to some stupid ideal of mothering perfection when her picture was taken. She was worried about surviving. Her family lived in dirt and slept under a canvas tent. I don't know what, if anything, she was feeding them, but it sure as heck wasn't a Harvard-approved meal. Regardless, I feel certain she was a good mother. I see the toll that worry took on her face. I know her children loved her and looked to her as their source of comfort. How could anyone judge her harshly? She reminds me of how good I've got it and how Good Enough a mother I am. I'll put her portrait where I will see it often.


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