The Science of Parenting

Good Enough Parenting | S.12 Ep.2

September 07, 2023 Season 12 Episode 2
The Science of Parenting
Good Enough Parenting | S.12 Ep.2
Show Notes Transcript

When facing competing demands and difficult situations, sometimes we have to settle for “good enough parenting”. What does it mean to lower the bar, and how do we still meet the needs of our kids when we can’t give 100%? Tune in to today’s episode to find out.

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research-based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks, and I'm a parenting educator.

Courtney Hammond:

Hi, I'm Courtney Hammond. I'm a person in long term recovery. I have two beautiful children. And I'm also a parent partner and the volunteer coordinator at a recovery community center.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, Courtney's back. I always am like, yeah, I didn't scare you away. Actually, that does kind of worry me sometimes, that it will be too much. And then people will be like, I mean, that was plenty. I am really glad that you stayed.

Courtney Hammond:

Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, well, we're gonna dig in a little bit more today thinking about parenting challenges and parenting through challenges. And today, thinking about this idea of good enough parenting as a way to get through parenting when we're parenting under stress. So yeah, we get to dig into that a little bit more today. And I'm excited to talk through some of our stuff. And I do want to start out by saying, you know, thinking about this idea of good enough parenting, I wanted to make sure before we dig into the research reality stuff, that's like, okay, okay, that I wanted to dig into. There's some context here that's really important. And so, you know, as we think about this as a strategy for parenting through these challenges, that I think it's important we have this discussion out of the gate, that every family has different resources, right, and even the resources that I have now are going to look different in six months. But because of that, because every family has different resources and demands and barriers, you know, we know that some people are going to have more recess, recess, that's a resource too I guess, is to have recess. But some people have resources, more resources, like access to child care, income, family support, health, and other people might have more barriers, like trauma, isolation, mental health or substance use disorders. And yeah, I just think it's important for us to be like, hey, let's acknowledge out of the gate, that what my good enough parenting looks like might be different than other people's because we have different resources and demands and challenges. Right?

Courtney Hammond:

Right. I think it's okay to have these strategies because sometimes you have to take yourself back to the bare minimum or the baseline. Something happens, a tragedy happens, something in the situation of your living arrangements changes, a death happens, trauma, tragedy, a pandemic, you know, you have to redo your parenting and take back and some people are left with, you know, with no clue. So today, I think this is a very good podcast to give us some more strategies and tools in our pocket.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, well, thanks. And I thought I was making up this term of good enough parenting like, oh, this concept. No, other people thought of it before me. But how do we, you know, when everything around us feels like a mess and when we are just yeah, like you said, you gave lots of examples, when we're under the stress, how do we prioritize parenting in the middle of that? And what do we prioritize in our parenting? And yeah, as we were talking through some ideas in this episode, and a few mini frameworks, if you will, of what that can look like to identify good enough parenting. But yeah, as we do that, that you get to decide what's best for you. And that only you can be an expert on your own baseline. Yeah, right.

Courtney Hammond:

And it's a fluid thing. We had this discussion earlier, where just because this worked yesterday or last year or last child, things happen and you have to redo it. You have to resituate like, what is the word I'm looking for.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Resituate, that feels like a good one.

Courtney Hammond:

Resituate.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Reevaluate, yeah, reevaluate.

Courtney Hammond:

Reevaluate, you have to reevaluate what works for the child, what works for the situation, what works for the resources you have available.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, and when you use that word fluid, I wrote it down on my paper. That's what it is, the resources we have available can be fluid. The demands that are on us are fluid. The barriers and obstacles, all those things are fluid from week to week, from year to year, from child to child. So I thought fluid was a great way and so that also means what our good enough is can also be fluid. Yes. But yes, before we get to the frameworks that we can start by having the conversation of, we're not all going to have the same baseline because some of us are going to have more resources, or some of us are going to have fewer resources and higher demands, or we're going to have this weird mix of like, the visual that comes to mind is like a bingo card. Right? Like, not all of my things are going to fall on to resources or fall onto challenges or barriers or whatever. I'm going to have a different bingo card than you have. Yeah, challenges and demands and opportunities.

Courtney Hammond:

That free space is always yours, because that's always, you know, a free space.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, the free space. Okay, we're gonna come with a really good metaphor at some point in this episode of what exactly the free space is. We're coming up with that, it's gonna be good. Oh, but yes, as an example, I wrote one down of I live in a small town. So that is both a resource and a challenge. But we have a lot of family that lives here who are willing to watch our children for us so we can not be parents for a minute, whether that's like going on a date night, or literally, when I'm sick, they've like brought meals over, right? So that's a resource I have that not everybody has, local family. And one challenge that I have that other parents, you know, might not face is I'm a parent with depression and anxiety. So that presents challenges and opportunities. And so our bingo card is gonna look different. We all have our own stuff. Yeah. Yeah. So I wanted to look at or share a little bit about what the research tells us happens to our parenting style, how we interact with our kids when we're under stress. So the summary is that, in general, it tells us when parents are under stress, we tend to be less patient with our children, and more harsh. Hey, oh, I have lots of examples of that that I could share. I definitely get less patient when I'm under stress. And that it's really interesting depending on the situation, there's kind of this pendulum from sometimes as parents, we might get more controlling when we're under stress. And sometimes we might get more lenient. So as an example, during the pandemic, a lot of parents were like, yeah, more lenient stuff that I normally would tell my kid, no, you can't. Now I'm letting them because I'm being more controlling in other ways, right. And so in some cases, we're more lenient when we're under stress. And then there's literature around parents experiencing a natural disaster, and how, in that case, sometimes parents are more controlling as a reaction to stress because they were like, I have to keep my child safe, I have so little control. And so either you're more controlling or more lenient under stress. And then the other thing is that our family routines tend to go haywire. And as a reminder, we've talked on a previous podcast that routines and schedules are different things, right? A schedule is related to time, a routine is more of a pattern of interaction. So you might have a family mealtime routine, you might have a bedtime routine or a morning routine, or when we get home from school or work routine. It may or may not always happen at the same time, but it's like the general flow of how things go. And so I'm a parent who's not always great at a schedule. Not always great at routines either. But what we see is when we're under stress, those things that are our, quote, unquote, normal, get totally thrown off. It just gets a little crazy around here. So that's what the research tells us. When parents are under stress, less patient, more harsh, sometimes more controlling, sometimes more lenient, and our family routines go haywire. I wonder why it's hard to parent under stress, huh? Why is that?

Courtney Hammond:

For me, it depends on how that stress manifests. Because what stressed me out yesterday, I'm still stressed, but it might have been a different type of stress. So I guess it just depends on how it's manifesting. Does that make sense? Yeah, I can either disassociate super quickly and be like, lenient, go, you know, go do, I just need space. Yeah. Right. And then it could be like, whether I'm in public or what is going on, the situation, what my mind evaluates as the situation is happening depends on if I'm more lenient or more strict, and I feel like I'm a very fluid person. I'm kind of all over the place and all over the board. But I also have a two year old and a 13 year old, completely two separate ways to have to split parenting. I have to be super strict and somewhat lenient with Lexi if that even makes sense, but I have to be super strict, I mean, super safe, very clear with Liam. I cannot protect him the way I have to, you know, cannot potentially protect Alexis. She can go around the block. Liam, you can't go outside. Yeah, so I guess it just depends what's happening, but for the most part, when I get under stress, when it comes to average, I get more strict, I get more controlling, because my brain's always like, oh, no.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. So I think that's interesting. I would actually say my default is probably the opposite. I probably tend to get more lenient if I'm honest, and then I feel guilty. I wish I could let that go. That'd be a great thing to let go of for myself. But yeah, what it looks like for me, I think of when we were moving, you know, that was stress. Or I think of even just periods of time where things have been really crazy for myself or my partner at work, or when one of my kids had surgery, right. And so those are stressful times, I tend to let more go. And I actually think part of it's like a self care strategy, right, that I can't control. I gotta let some of it go. Not that that makes it better or worse than being more controlling or more lenient. But I do think that's kind of how my brain processes it. But also the family routine thing. Well, yeah, the patience thing as well.

Courtney Hammond:

My routine is never in stone, I know. We get up, we get ready for school, we go about our day, we come home, we eat some sort of dinner, family interaction, whatever that looks like for us that day.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, fluid.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah. And then we go to bed. The time maybe goes like on weekends, she can stay up a little bit later. Liam, you're going to go lay down and calm down at 8:30 regardless. So I mean, my routine, I'm working on it. I'm working on it, and for the longest time, I was like, oh, I have a terrible routine. My kids are going to be, you know, terrible at this when they're older. But honestly, like, it's an expectation and I know I don't hold myself that accountable when it comes to making a super solid routine or schedule.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And recognizing the difference between the two, I think that was an important realization for myself. And then you know, my cohost at that time, when we got ready to record that episode, she actually said to me, like, I actually really hoped you wouldn't want to do an episode on routines, because I'm not good at them and I feel bad about it. And so that realization that like, okay, the thing I'm not maybe so great at is a schedule. She was I actually do some of the routines, but I always thought of them as a schedule, which I was not good at. Yeah. And so I will say the root, I try to hang on to the root, does that depend on where you live in the U.S.? Now, I don't know which one to say, the root. The root of it that with the routine, I try to hang on to that like, okay, we usually do some kind of like, we brush our teeth, right? The stuff you got to do, like you got to shower but even that, it might be a few days longer before you shower again, which is okay for the age my kids are. Because this particular day was stressful or something but I try to hang on to the what's behind it. We try to have some kind of connection time which my kids are little so that might be like reading a book, or snuggling, or even just kind of talking about the day. And so I'm like, it might be watching TV and snuggling, instead of reading a book and snuggling, right. But the gist of it, you know, what's behind it I hope is still kind of there. But even then, that doesn't always happen either. Sometimes, it's just like, now you have to get in your bed, good night. And trying to offer that consistency. And it's okay, I think, to give ourselves permission to let some of that go. I mean, yeah, over time, like keeping a lifelong mindset of our parenting. Over time, we want our kids to to say like, I could generally count on my parents, right? We know that's important for them. And that they were generally consistent. I generally knew what to expect from them. But it doesn't have to be like every single day I knew exactly X.

Courtney Hammond:

Nope, that's not. That's an expectation that's too high. I mean, like, I think you should expect to be like, okay, let's brush our teeth this morning. Hey, do we need a quick breakfast? Do we need that? What does my family and my children need today? And then most importantly, what do I need? If I need a couple extra minutes to get around in the morning? Like, what does that look like? Do we just let our kids maybe like, fend for themselves for the morning and maybe pick out something to eat? Or do we put the huge expectation on of he didn't brush his teeth for five minutes. Like, oh, you know, we have to do that. You know, just little things like that. Like, you know, oh Lexi didn't brush her teeth before she went to softball this morning. I know she didn't but honestly, that's one day, it's okay, like, it's okay. And I give myself permission to not be on her about it. Just because you don't brush your teeth one day doesn't mean your teeth are gonna fall out.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right and understanding, like giving ourselves permission to have the general idea of consistency in comparison. We were talking about this earlier that like, just between the two of us, are we evaluating our parenting on a daily level all the time? Because if I had to keep a score of this day, I was consistent this day, I was not this day, right? I might not score very well. But over a period of if I look at over a week, over a month, over a few years, right, like, okay, in general, I was able to offer consistency. It may have looked different how I did it, if that makes sense. But we don't always have to evaluate it on a daily level.

Courtney Hammond:

And what consistency looks like for you, Mackenzie, is not what that looks like, you know, absolute unreal, crazy. You know, but again, that's okay, like it is okay. We're all learning it's okay to try new things. It's okay to switch up your routine, like, hey, this isn't working. Something has to be done easier. And if it works, it works. If it doesn't try again.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yep. And that's all right, because it's fluid, right? Maybe fluid is the free space on the bingo card. Somewhere in there.

Courtney Hammond:

We're gonna mark that down. Yeah, you get the free space. It's called fluidity. Literally.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, so as we think about parenting in stress, we talked about resilience last week. And so when we're parenting through challenges, remember that resilience is about our family's ability to kind of bounce forward, if you will, through adversity. But part of the definition we use talked about using this phrase, maintaining effective family functioning. Sure, what's that, though? Like, what is it? I mean, I know because I am interested in Family Research and Family Science. I know the gist of effective family functioning, but also, what's that? I know, but I don't know. I did kind of really mentally wrestle that, like, what is that? What does it look like to me specifically, in daily life in a practical context? What does it mean to maintain effective family functioning? So I researched it, lovely dork that I am. So from that Handbook of Parenting, that chapter that we cited last week on family resilience by Mass and Palmer, this is a direct quote. So I was looking specifically, what's good enough parenting? How do we decide? This is a quote that I pulled, I actually have two here. So one direct quote, at the most fundamental level of caregiving, parents are expected to nurture the bodies and minds of children, to keep them alive and well in the face of threats, and to support and, I'm kind of paraphrasing the last part, but basically support their development, their healthy development. And they go on to explain that different cultures and things, we might add layers of what's at that fundamental level based on where we live and things like that. But they go on and they say this specifically, before any other goals, first, a child must survive, grow and acquire basic human tools of interaction. And I was like, okay, when we are under stress, whether that is a chronic stress and I mean, literally things like domestic violence, or you've talked about active addiction and things like that, whether it's stress like that, or stress like, we're moving or we're experiencing some kind of transition in our family. What's at the bare minimum? Well, according to these experts on family resilience, first, a child must survive, grow and acquire basic human tools of interaction. That's good enough parenting. That's good enough in the midst of big barriers. Yeah. So what do you hear? You know, I was like, oh, this is a really fascinating quote. What do you hear in that, like, what stands out to you?

Courtney Hammond:

So I hear mental health, emotional health, you know, whatever that looks like for that family or that child. Make sure that you are some some sort of stable situation, as the environment allows you to, and to make sure that we are supporting our children and supporting ourselves in the time being. Yeah, so that's such a huge range of the list, but it doesn't have to be that big or complicated either. It could literally be like, hey, we have clean clothes, we have food, we have each other and I have a job, might not pay the best. But here, this is what I do have. These are the things for me. And, you know, as long as you've got those, I think that's probably good enough parenting for somebody, for some standard.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And I kind of pulled the same things. I was like okay, safety. And again, how we each define safety might look different. What might be a concern for me for safety might not be for you. That's okay. But so safety is a priority, right, keeping them alive and well. in the face of threats. Then the mind and body, right, the physical needs, like you said of fed, clothed, sheltered, and again, shelter, different too. Some families will experience homelessness. So there was a lot of families in the pandemic. What were you gonna say, Courtney?

Courtney Hammond:

Some people travel the world in the RV because that's what they love to do. They're not homeless, they choose to be nomadic and they choose to explore. Even when it comes to homeschool, education might not be a necessity for that family at the time because they're doing more hands on environmental learning than book learning.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And that educate? Yeah, it doesn't have to be this one specific way to do it. That's like the whole basis of what we believe, there's more than one way, right. You can be like a fantastic, effective, consistent, active parent. Being nomadic, being a nomad like you said, we travel in our vehicle and it's also our home. That can be a form of great parenting. And like the context I'm doing it in can be a form of great parenting, the context you're doing it in. We're consistent, effective, active, attentive, which you will learn are my four favorite parenting words, Courtney.

Courtney Hammond:

I feel like consistency is something that for me, I've had to build consistency. And consistency has changed so much for me over time. That what I did when I was 18, versus what I did in active addiction, versus what I did now. So being in active addiction, my consistency was just making sure I showed up to my DHS visits, was just making sure that I called her once a week, you know, because sometimes I didn't have a phone. And then what I did when I was 18 was, I was a very cookie cutter parent, this is what we had to do. This is what it looks like, this, this, this. But experience has taught me that consistency is very, very different from what I was previously taught and learned. And I've also grown to be more strong. And I've also let go of some things that didn't fit my former consistency. Yeah. And I've learned to accept it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Mm hmm. I love that. It's fluid.

Courtney Hammond:

I'm so fluid, I'm pretty much water.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Fluid, liquid, same thing, it's all fluid. I love it. I love it. So as we bring up this list of the fundamentals, identifying your own good enough parenting, you know that we're all gonna have moments where this is all I can give. This is going to have to be good enough. That we give ourselves that permission, I think, to say, it's okay to do good enough parenting right now. And actually, I have a supervisor in some of the work that I'm doing talks to me a lot about, this doesn't have to be excellent. This just needs to be good enough. And I think about that all the time. And I do, I'm a person that tends to have really high standards. And that's not a humble brag, it's actually kind of like a problem for me sometimes, that I put so much pressure on myself and people around me of like, this is how it has to be. Which people are like, really you do that? That doesn't sound like you from the you I know. And I'm like, no, I sometimes am rigid in what I expect of myself and other people. And so I think about this a lot in my parenting. It's okay, that it's good enough. Like this is good enough. I'm not harming them. It's not harming them to do this thing every once in a while. If I did it daily, right, too much of a good thing. But this is good enough for right now. You know, and I think when we are having time periods, I think of when I was experiencing depression when I was pregnant with my son. And that was when I was diagnosed with depression. And so I had a young child at home, and then I was expecting and so what was good enough was like, Okay, I have to feed my body, right, I have to feed myself and like the baby that I'm growing. And I have to feed my young child. Right. And like, sometimes that was what I could get accomplished after work. Like, that's what I can get through.

Courtney Hammond:

And good for you. Because it was good enough. Yeah. And that's like, that deserves a reward or, you know, some kind of recognition because depression sucks. Sometimes you don't want to get out of the bed to even deal with what you have to deal with. I mean, I'd rather not eat than have to get out of this bed.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And sometimes that was literally the decision context, and I was fortunate that I had a supportive partner, right, who also helped pick up some of those things that maybe I wasn't doing for us. And you know, again, that was a resource I had access to that nobody else did. But yeah, the demands of myself when I was in that time period. Yep, I was a good enough parent. And once I was through that period, right? I had other resources and other strengths. And so yep, it would have been great if I had been spending time with my child and having this connection time. And that was one time period over the space of this lifelong mindset we have with our kids. And so yes, sometimes I look back, I'm like, oh, I wish it had been different. And you know, I honestly can't say yet, my kids are too little for me to say whether that was hurtful or harmful to my daughter. I guess we'll find out in the long run. But I was doing the best I knew how in that moment. And that had to be good enough. It's what I had to give.

Courtney Hammond:

I like how you said, the life long term of being, you know, with your children, because this is something that I had to work through, like really hard, and I still have trouble doing it. And that was me dragging my daughter through active addiction with me. You know, like, I was like, oh, man, that was so bad. But she was 10 when I stopped, you know, now I have till forever, you know. I have a whole lot longer than 10 years to experience her and build that bond. And a lot of people are like, you know, you don't deserve that. And well, maybe I don't, but I'm gonna try anyway. And I'm gonna keep being her mom, and I'm gonna keep being her friend, I'm gonna keep giving her space. And I guess I mean that because I can't go back and change the past at all. And I know, it's done some numbers on her. But I validate that, and I hold the space for her.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And I think that's so important, too. You know, we often talk about that on a small scale on the podcast of like, that time that I lost my cool with you. But there's a different scale too, right, you're like this was a longer period of time. And yeah, you can't get that time back. And I think the fact of you being willing to one, validate that experience that that wasn't helpful for her. Right. And I think that's so important in her development, to recognize it wasn't supposed to be like that. And that you can repair now, right? That it doesn't mean you can't ever do anything good with her, obviously, I mean, I shouldn't say obviously, because I guess maybe like you said, people might disagree, but I disagree with them.

Courtney Hammond:

And that's okay if people disagree with that, like their feelings are valid. I was not planning to become a drug addict. And I was never planning to do this to her. But since I have it now, I'm making the best of it. And that good enough parenting for me seems to be with her specifically, is to respect her more than I think average people should respect their teenagers, you know, like, I have to give her respect. She didn't just earn it because she's different. And making sure that her boundaries are, I'm holding true to what her boundaries are. I can't interfere any more than she would like. And some people might say that's lazy parenting, or how do you know what she's doing? But I am literally working towards her trust. And I've lost it. So the more trust I have, and the more boundaries I respect from her. And the more okay parenting I do for now, or good enough parenting, that's what she wants right now. She doesn't want this super intense parent that's always in our business. And, oh, we need this, we need that, because I haven't earned that back yet. So that's my good enough parenting with her is that just kind of really holding her, I have to follow her standards. I have to follow her lead because I am literally gaining back everything that I've lost.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think that's so important. And thank you, for one being willing to talk about it openly, authentically and vulnerably. And, you know, part of what I hear is, I've heard you say in a few different contexts in different ways, you know that she's really mature, that she's grown up quickly. Right, and you've talked about how that was kind of what she needed to do, right? She needed to be more self-reliant than maybe the average kid her age. And I think that is such a beautiful thing to hear how you honor that, of like, you know what, you are more mature than the average kid your age, in part because of what we went through. And I think that's like I said, I just think that's a beautiful thing, how you're finding a way to honor it. And there's no roadmap, right? Like, as much as we know, and yes, there is science, right? I'm a big believer that science can tell us in general, and there's not a roadmap for your specific experience, temperament, and her specific experience temperament, challenges, resources, all of those things. And you've shared you're kind of parenting from scratch in a lot of ways. You're teaching yourself so many parenting skills. And I think in education times we talk about like the advanced move, there's like the from the basic understanding move, like this is where you start. I think that's a very quote unquote, advanced move the way that you like see that she has matured and how you honor that.

Courtney Hammond:

One thing I have to really, like when I am really quick to react to the things that she does to me, I think she's maybe just being spiteful. And maybe she is. But again, that's valid that she has a reason to. I've hurt her feelings. I have done things that I cannot remember because of my addiction. I have no idea the depths of the stuff I've done. So instead of bringing it up and trying to get it out of her, I'm just like, you know what? Valid. That is fair. I don't know what you're speaking of. I'm not sure. But that's valid. I'll back up.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. And I also think, so not having this experience myself, right. I've never parented a child after being in long term recovery. And I also just think it's so important for me, and I hope for other listeners, if that's not your experience, that yeah, maybe if you have been a person of the perspective that would shame or blame in that context that to hear this, right, I think this has been a really important conversation for me. That's why I'm so grateful, you're willing to share about it openly and authentically, because we don't know. Like, we don't know. And even if we maybe know, oh, so and so down the road was in active addiction, and now they have their kids back and whatever. Knowing that, you don't know, you're not an expert on their family and their kids like they are. And so just holding that space that people are doing the best they can, and that what we can do is support people. Right? Yeah. Like, what we can do is support people in the ways that they need it.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, you don't always have to agree with somebody to support what they need to do. Yeah, you know, I always tell my kids and Liam, I try to teach him, he's two.

Mackenzie Johnson:

He's still little so it's different.

Courtney Hammond:

But Lexi, I tell her if you don't respect the person, that's cool, just respect their purpose. Like you might not support everything that we support, and with today's world, support is like, top tier priority again, you know. There's so much big space to make fun, or to put somebody down because of something they believe in. And I'm a big thing, like, just respect their purpose. If they really fully are really believing in what they're believing in then you are not in any kind of place to tell them not to. Just support it. Just be there.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love that.

Courtney Hammond:

So I tell everybody that hey, respect the purpose not the person if you can't. If you can, awesome. But if not, you know, they're people, too.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love that. And you know, that's really what we're trying to do on the podcast here too is create that space of like, it doesn't have to be the same way to be beneficial to our kids and to be authentic to your own parenting style. And there are parents who have different values than I do, and that's okay. But what a beautiful thing that we'll have this world, like when our kids grow into these adults that there'll be a diverse group of people, like what a beautiful thing. I just appreciate your perspective, so much. So we do know that a lot of parents are forced, you know, by circumstances to make tough decisions about what they can give to their kids. And so you know, I've talked about some of the research, and I've pulled in a few citations and stuff, but I also just want to dial it back to our own realities versus like, I mean, what we've been doing, I guess, but dial it back to our own realities. Like, what advice would you give, right? So knowing that some parents, so as an example, we are sometimes forced to make hard choices when we're under stress related to how much time we can give, how much attention we can give, how much money, how much stuff, the skills, right? Those are all things that have to be fluid, and that parents often make hard choices about. You know, I think of the parents that work second shift or work overnights to help provide for their family. That time and attention might not be the resource that's easy for them to come by with their kids. But knowing that parents are forced to make hard choices under stress, what advice would you give to parents? What do you see as like a priority? What do you see as kind of the baseline or some of the fundamentals in your perspective? This is an opinion question so you won't be wrong.

Courtney Hammond:

So I think, in my opinion, the fundamentals is just love and attention. You know, like somebody who works third shift, their love and attention may be like, making sure when you come home, you take the hour before you go to sleep just to wake them up for school and see him off on the school bus, you know, something super little. Or even, you know, just being there in the morning when they wake up because most third shift people get off at like six or seven in the morning. So, my opinion would be like, from my own experience, my recovery has to come first. I am in long term recovery so my mental health, my kids' mental health, especially being a teenager, those are my top tier priority is mental health recovery, food, and finances and then fun and pleasure. So you know like we don't have a lot of money. I'm a single mom, my son's dad passed away. So I'm kind of just forced the hand of a single mom, but I love it. So I take on the role of both parents. So my financial situation is that Lexi's really, really good about the bare minimum. She wouldn't care if we live in a cardboard box as long as we were together and happy and healthy and I was clean. Like literally, my bare minimum sometimes or my good enough is being clean for that day, because I don't have this if this is on drugs. And my daughter and Liam will never have that if I am on drugs again. So I think in my opinion, mental health, finances, and then pleasure and stuff and play. So we go out to a lot of free stuff. Like we go on nature walks to the lake. I send Lexi on scavenger hunts all the time. Every year for her birthday we go on a scavenger hunt.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love that.

Courtney Hammond:

You know, it might be seven presents, but it's a seven present adventure. So that's just how I kind of, those are my things. Those are my non-negotiables, mental health, finances, and then fun.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love that. Okay, well, I wrote some of mine down ahead of time. Yeah, you're like you're cheating. I have a slight advantage. Okay, so one of mine is similar to how your talk about mental health. I think one of my priorities is when we're parenting under stress, when we're forced to make our choices is balancing everyone's needs. I think sometimes as parents, we can either prioritize our own, I would say a lot of us tend to prioritize our kids over our own. But finding that place where everybody's needs, you know, not constantly all the time, right? Sometimes you're gonna have to compromise, but that we can strive for that, taking care of ourselves. And like you said, with your recovery, your recovery comes first as a form of self-care so that you can care for your kids. Yep. Right. And so that's kind of how I feel to like, on that similar line of when we're taking care of ourselves, I can't parent effectively, if I'm burnt out. I'm really guilty about not getting enough sleep, kind of chronically. I have like a slight sleep disorder. But anyway. But so sometimes it is like, you know what, I do have to prioritize a nap because I can't, I'm not patient with you when I'm overtired. And I'm not an effective, consistent, like, I'm not these things. It's hard for me to be attentive, right. And so I'd say self-care. So caring for ourselves, and balancing that with meeting the needs of our kids. I also think that's something we can prioritize is using our family values to identify the non-negotiables or priorities. Right, I would say one of our family values is connection, right is like being connected to each other, and showing up for each other, and that we can count on each other which I think my husband is particularly. He's such a consistent guy just by his nature, that I think is such a gift to our family. But so I would say connection is a family value for us, which means a non-negotiable is making sure again, not measured on a daily time, but if we look at a month, have we spent time like positive time with each other, whether that's all of us together, or one on one with a child or my partner and I. So using family values, identify non-negotiables. And then also we find support, right? When we are under stress, whether that support is people in your life, like family and friends, whether that's local resources or services or programs that can offer you support. You know, I think of food pantries and domestic violence shelters and you know, finding resources, things that are going to help support you to care for yourself and your kids. And so I think that's often something we overlook when we're under stresses, like, how am I going to do it all? It's like, well, how do I make it so I don't have to do it all, right? How do I help find the support that will help me do it all.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, work smarter, not harder kind of thing.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Exactly.

Courtney Hammond:

When I have this in place, this over here runs smoother, or when I have. It's like a well oiled machine and it's gonna be work to find what works for your family. But there is a system, whatever that looks like for the family or the children or even this one and this one. You know, for dad going to dad's family versus going to mom's family. There's huge, you know, like whatever works, you guys have to prepare. I think it's just really personalized. And it's such a great way to personalize your family is to reassess those values and those non-negotiables. Yeah, and it's okay to have them change too. Tragedy strikes, things change, you know.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Fluid, it's on every bingo card, fluid.

Courtney Hammond:

Every bingo card. So if you're out there, you're like, oh, fluid. Give yourself some grace because life changes, challenges change, you grow, growth is uncomfortable. And there's no, the sky's the limit when it comes to parenting techniques,

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Well, and I think about the demands of what a baby, what a newborn needs from a parent, so different than the demands of a teenager and so different than the demands of a preschooler or toddler, you know, all the way through. And so it makes sense that our good enough changes, because what was good enough for a baby. We couldn't just be like, well take care of yourself for a day, like for a few hours, right, like we could with a teen. I can take a break because, right, the demands change. Yeah. And so we're good enough parenting.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, I'll use the example I was speaking of earlier, like last night, Liam is on this hiatus about not wearing pants. Love that for me. Love that for him. So last night, you know, I had a really busy day. It was a Monday and my whole last week was just kind of really messy with the situations I have going on that, you know. He's walking. He's been outside for two hours and for 15 minutes he had full range of the water hose. Like, you know, yeah, you know, good enough was me putting our Stoffers chicken enchiladas in the oven. You know what I mean? Like, it's there for a reason. I bought it like, I mean, I'll cook it. It took 79 minutes. Yeah, I mean, 79 minutes, you know, that was him outside enjoying his life as a child, having that control over the water hose and me not yelling at him to put it away or getting wet. Yes, and he washed the sliding glass door that he made, you know, and that was just my good enough. Like, hey, I'm actually living in the moment. I'm enjoying him. He's safe. He's having fun. Lexi's over here trying not to get soaked. It's a good time. Was it ideal? Was he should have been playing with a water hose for 15 minutes with the water running? Probably not. But we're all safe. And we're all happy. And we were all fed. Yes. And I just sat there and watched him enjoy his life as he thought he was the coolest kid in the world trying to get us with the hose. And we ate a really quick and easy supper.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And what I also hear within that is you within that by allowing that, it sounds like you were able to be present, right? You're talking about like, I was just basking in it, and how funny and fun that was. You were meeting the needs, right? Like you're like, hey, supper's in the oven. This will do. Yep, good enough. And right. And like there was connection, like so the priorities you identified earlier, that's an alignment and you're like, hey, you know what would be cool? Not being outside without your pants in the backyard. But like, you know what, for today. We're not gonna do it all the time but for now. Like I said, so I've literally like, as Mackenzie said earlier, I had to restart my parenting journey from scratch with Liam. I got pregnant in active addiction. I had to get clean while pregnant, and trying to rebuild a relationship with my family. So Liam, you know, it's like all about picking my battles. Like if you don't want to put pants on, and you're gonna run outside and hide under the trampoline, like, okay, come in when you're ready. Like, they'll still be here. Yeah. And it's just like, it's unnecessary stress. And I know when I get stressed, I become controlling and kind of mean and abrasive. So, again, I'm just trying to make my life easier, like, go ahead. He'll come in eventually and he'll get cold. Well, you're making choices given your own resources, demands, opportunities, right? And that, like, I might make a different choice given my resources or I might make the same one because I kind of think hiding under the trampoline for a while sounds cool. Right? But there is, there's a lot of space within that. So I love that. Well, our strategy, we've been talking about a few actually. Right, so we talked about what was in that chapter, we're talking about from our own perspectives what advice we'd give, but there's this well respected book from a psychologist Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, called The Power of Showing Up and so they talk about good enough parenting, right. So I thought, like I said, I thought I was making that up. No, it's in their book. I didn't make it up. But they said they call it the four S's of good enough parenting. So I thought this was also another option of how we can identify what's good enough. And so they talked about safe, seen, soothed, secure are the four S's of good enough parenting. So safe, can't always protect your child from injury or avoid doing something that leads to hurt feelings. But when we give them a sense of safe harbor, they will be able to take their needed risks for growth and change. So helping them feel safe. Seen is seeing what our child means, wait, truly seeing a child means we pay attention to their emotions, positive and negative, and strive to attune to what's happening in their mind. So we're seeing our child, however, they're showing up. Soothing them, not about providing a life of ease but it's about teaching our child how to cope with things when life gets hard, and showing them that we're going to be there with them along the way. Like we're talking about adversity with support creates resilience. And then secure, when a child knows they can count on you time and again to show up, when you reliably provide that safety, reliably focused on seeing them, and soothe them in times of need. They're gonna develop that secure attachment and thrive. We love that. So as we prioritize what is good enough, thinking about what's going to help our kids feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure over time, right? I think it's really important that we stop, or strive to stop measuring our parenting and like, I've not been attentive over the last hour, or like, I wasn't effective today. We need to lengthen the amount of time from which we evaluate. Right? Look at the bigger picture, like over this month was I helping my kids feel safe, soothed, seen, and secure.

Courtney Hammond:

And it's okay if you don't. Some kids are really resistant, you know, and you can't perfectly do all four of these. It's something that's built. So like, progress. Was I secure, was Alexis any type till she was 10 years old. No, and I'm still not because she's not allowed me to do that. Again, there's something she's trusted me with, there's some things that she will not trust me with. And that's okay. Liam, he's like, my, he's like the little growth on my arm, like, he never leaves me. So obviously, I've made him feel very secure. But I can also take what I've done with Liam and take what I've done with Alexis and see the difference, and see where their growth needs to go and where I need to adjust. And same with soothing, I'm not a big soothing person. My kids will tell you like, I don't really go to mom to feel soothed. But it's because I'm working on it. You know, my trauma and my past have shown me that, I really don't have a life of ease. So I don't know how to provide that. But I am slowly learning through podcasts like this, connections and support and the resources I have now that I am capable of being a soother or providing some kind of ease. So I'm learning and then, you know, I always make my kids feel seen. You know, that is one thing that I didn't have, that I have acquired from not having, kind of like, maturity. I always make sure that their emotions are my top priority when mine are in check.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, there we go. That's a good way to say it. Yeah.

Courtney Hammond:

And I have to make sure that my emotions are in check before I try to check theirs. Does that make sense? Because my emotions can be all over. And I'm like, why are you acting crazy? And then I'm like, look in the mirror. You're acting crazy. And sometimes I'm not great at it. But it's okay. I'll try again tomorrow. And then I'll relook on what I wasn't or was doing to cause the reason. So I mean, I'm a safe person. I don't feel like I'm ever going to protect my kid from accidentally falling off the monkey bars or someone telling them that they're not pretty or something, you know, but I will tell them that, hey, you know, I will validate them all day long and make them

Mackenzie Johnson:

I agree from even just conversations we've had, I think, yeah, it sounds like you're really great at helping your kids deal with things. Genuinely, I think you have that spot on from the way you talk about your conversations and interactions with the kids. I think it's a real strength. And I think you're underselling how you see your kids. Some of the things you talk about of like, okay, sometimes my kid just seems like they need to be with me for a while, like we need to spend this day together. Oh, yes. Even if it's not like, Oh, hey, come here. If you think of it in that stereotypical context of that kind of parent. Maybe you're not gooey, but you can still be soothing.

Courtney Hammond:

Yeah, so me and Lexi once or twice a month mental health days, you know, and when I do provide that space for her, that's, again, doing so much more. That's doing multiple things in one little day, so like, I give her space. I also am building the bond back. I'm getting to know her as a human and as a young woman. And she's getting to know me on different levels. Like, I haven't slept with my daughter since she was four years old, but now that I've been clean, you know, she comes down and sleeps with me. And I'm like, oh, she's still my baby, you know.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right? And that's like a beautiful thing for the two of you, right, to experience that together. And some parents have like strong feelings about co-sleeping, whether they do or don't. Right, and again, we don't need to do it the same way. Right? That's a beautiful thing for the two of you. That's building your connection. That's, that's fantastic.

Courtney Hammond:

I still sleep with Liam. Liam is my baby. Like, after his dad passed, I have this overwhelming fear of something happening. Like, what if he gets outside in the middle of night? Because I've seen it happen, you know, perfectly good, you know? And I'm like, how is your child walking around at 2am? So like, I can explain. Yeah. And I know how precious life can just be taken away so randomly. So Liam, you're in my bed till you decide that you can do that. I mean, I'm not going to tell you to get out.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, and that you get to make that decision. Okay, so our strategy is the four S's of good enough parenting from the book, The Power of Showing Up? That now brings us to our off the cuff question, our Stop. Breathe. Talk. space with our producer, Mackenzie DeJong. Well, what do you got for us, Kenz?

Mackenzie DeJong:

Alright, so we talked about, you ladies talked about, ways that maybe you have or haven't or whatever and these tools and strategies, but I know that one of the things that we talked about a lot is that I mean, both of you mentioned this multiple times, that these things are like skills and tools for us, right? It's not that you are or you aren't or you always do or you always don't, but we can practice and learn and build. So that being said, what is one way you are going to either be a good enough parent, or work on the safe, the seen, the soothe, or the secure in the next week or month? You know, we kind of talked about making that one thing, but just one, just one, one way that you're like, what is the one thing that I'm going to work on? Because you don't have to work on everything all at once. That's too much. That's way too much.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Too high of a bar that I would normally put in to do that.

Mackenzie DeJong:

One thing, one thing. That's all I'm asking.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I know. Love that. Okay, I think if I look at the next week, literally just like our calendar, we have some family commitments that are exciting and fun. But it's a lot of coming and going that our family is gonna be doing over the next week. And so I think I probably need to be prepared to soothe. Especially one of my kids, their temperament is less adaptive. And so when things are out of whack that messes, they feel disrupted, that usually shows up in their their behavior and emotions. And so I think I probably need to be, I want to be present to soothe. How about you, Courtney?

Courtney Hammond:

It's my turn, isn't it?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I know, it's hard when you don't know what's coming.

Mackenzie DeJong:

I know and I realized I didn't give you a warning.

Courtney Hammond:

No, no. This is completely unscripted. Yeah. I'm gonna say soothing, or soothed. Um, you know, my kid's going through some transition. Liam's go into a new daycare on Monday. So I think I'm gonna make sure that he's soothed. Cause I know, like, just because he's two. I'm like, oh he's two, he won't notice it. No, no, it's gonna be, it's gonna be rough for the next two weeks. Yeah. So that's what I'm working on.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We're soothing. We're both soothers. Yeah, absolutely

Mackenzie DeJong:

And you know, that's a good one for everybody to work on sometimes too. I honestly think sometimes it's like, we get into the go go go that we're like, oh, you're fine. Come on. Let's just go. Let's stop.

Courtney Hammond:

And with that, that's giving them Yeah. Yeah. And being soothed like you're seeing them. So it goes hand in hand. Like you're seeing them now getting down to their level and being like, what emotional needs do you need right now? And then, fluid.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Now that Courtney has outschooled us all.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Bye.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Thanks for the question, Kenz. Oh, always fun to think those through and like, okay, how am I going to apply this? So, I like those questions.

Courtney Hammond:

I love those questions, too. Right.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, so, today in our episode, we've been talking about good enough parenting and we've basically given like, here's the firehose of ideas. Right, like, it could be about the fundamentals we talked about from that textbook. It could be about the advice Courtney or I offered or it could be these four S's of good enough parenting. And really the goal for our episode today was to say, here are a lot of options. You get to decide what good enough parenting looks like for you in this moment. And it's okay if it's different a week, it's okay if it was different than what you would have said is good enough a year ago or five years ago, or what you think will be good enough five years from now. But you get to decide. So we tried to offer a lot of resources and options for you. Things to consider as you identify your own good enough parenting. But before we leave, we've been adding these little positive language type affirmations. So for today's episode, I have two. So one of the affirmations is, I'm doing the best I can with the information I have in the situation I am in right now. All right, so as you think about good enough for yourself and your parenting, which maybe you're like me, and you tend to set the bar way too high, and it adds a lot of stress to your life. I'm doing the best I can with the information I have, and in the situation I'm in right now. Okay, so that's one option for your affirmation. And the other one a little bit longer. I may not be able to give my child everything I hoped to give them. And I'm doing my best to meet their needs with the available resources I have. All right. So maybe I pictured it being different. Maybe I had this different picture perfect kind of thing in mind. But I might not be able to give my child everything I hoped to give them. And I'm doing my best to meet their needs with the available resources I have. All right. So a little bit of empowerment. Maybe you adopt these this week, as you work on figuring out your own good enough parenting right now. But we wanted to share those with you. What are we going to be digging into next week, Courtney?

Courtney Hammond:

So yeah, next week, we'll dig deeper in parenting and challenges, challenging circumstances, looking specifically at parenting when there are threats to the family's safety.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, so in addition to right, this week, we're gonna talk about stress. This week, we're going to look you know, even further or next week, we're going to look even further. Sometimes there are very real threats to safety. And so what is our good enough parenting under stress? What do we prioritize when there are real threats to our kids' safety. So we'll be digging into that but for today, thanks for joining us on The Science of Parenting podcast. And in case you haven't heard, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you never miss new content from us.

Courtney Hammond:

So come along as we tackle ups and downs, ins and out, ins and outs, and research family and reality all around the science of parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full nondiscrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext. This project was supported by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Substance Abuse via a subaward for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this episode are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of nor are they an endorsement by Iowa DHHS, SAMHSA, HHS or the US government.