July 19 2024

Aiming for the Good (Not the Perfect)

by Amy Elizabeth Jacober, PhD

Even as I write this, I am watching my children play in the backyard. I woke early had a cup of tea, finished one article to hit today’s deadline before making breakfast. Today was a banner day. There are plenty of days that I wake early with the best of intentions only to find a small child wanting—no, needing—to be held for the precious twenty minutes before we really hit the ground running. I have to make choices. My students, quite frankly, rarely care if they have to wait an extra day or two for feedback. There will always be one more comment to make, one more reference letter to write, and one more chapter to edit. I am a Type-A personality by nature, and in previous years I really could accomplish a ridiculous amount. That is still the picture of who I am in my head but reality is that there are just not enough hours in the day.

I love my work and that I get to model for my children that a woman can and does contribute to the world. It might not look like it did a few years ago, but they still know. They also know they are a priority and part of my being a good mom is being a good professor and writer. In case you think this all comes easily, I also have to do a lot of self talk to remind myself of the healthy boundaries I profess yet struggle to maintain.

We moved near my parents nearly two years ago. My career took a major hit and that has taken time for recovery in my own self concept.  My mother has MS and my father is slowing down a great deal. I see them several times a week. While they are able to help in some respects, I spend a great deal of time attending to their needs but having to do so in ways that don’t patronize nor belittle. It seems the requests always come in the few free moments I find in a week. They are quite careful to not ask while they know I am in class or have meetings, it is always just before, or just after, and supposedly for just a few minutes. I do the best I can. We have made a deal that I will do one small thing every time I come over rather than trying to make it through the entire list of wants and needs. It is good enough. By the end of any given week, the list is completed and I know a new one will appear in just a day or two.

We have long said in our house that perfect is the enemy of good. When we look at creation, God says day after day, “It is good!” On the third day, it is said twice! Many women spend a lifetime in pursuit of perfect only to have nothing. I choose to pursue good. Every once in awhile, I hit it, and a class, a writing, a lecture, a meal, a bedtime story, or walk with my children is more than good…but that often is more the result of God at work in and through me than anything I could have orchestrated myself. My children might be a little messier and have to be a little more creative than those whose mother is able to be fully present at all times. My home is definitely a little messier (I call it more creative). My lectures and writing might take a little longer to put together and include a stain or two but they are good, far from perfect, but good. It is in this goodness that I find balance.

Image credit: "The good enough mine" (CC BY 2.0) by  kanu101