• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


When Good Enough Is Not Enough

Thinking about Deborah Spar's new book.

September 18, 2013

I’m reading lately the press for the about-to-be-released book by Deborah Spar, Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection. I must first issue a disclaimer that I have not yet read the book (it will be out next week), but the articles and interviews highlight Spar’s assertion that women should strive to be second best. She appropriates from economics the term “satisficing.”

I have to say that, while I’m not sure how I feel about this from a feminist perspective, on a personal level, I think I’ve already been following her advice, except I call it “good enough,” and I’ve written about it here before. I think it is why I love September.

In September I’m really at my best. I still come to class with well thought out lesson plans. I’m even ahead of the students in the readings. I’m still cheery at the beginning of a meeting, and I work tirelessly on my assessment reports. I’m also a pro on the mom front. I’m a crazy perfectionist for the school supply list. I buy everything on that list down to the Magic Eraser (which I don’t even use in my own home) and the fancy headphones. I even make sure to find the pump version of hand sanitizer and the Crayola brand of crayons (again, exceeding my own home standards).

Last week, while I was gathering my hundreds of dollars worth of supplies and my husband was asking me why I was fretting over the fact that the required orange folder didn’t seem orange enough to me, I explained it to him. This is my chance to be my vision of the perfect mom. I have met every teacher demand. And --it’s the only time I really can during the year. I never have the energy to put together Halloween candy packets. Our version of the “Drug Free Campaign” poster misspelled the title “Durg Free.” By the end of the year, I am packing the most ridiculous school lunches. For most of the academic year, I have to settle for “good enough.”

I also have instilled this philosophy into my children. My son just told me he’s going to run for treasurer instead of president of the student council because he feels the race for president is too competitive (plus, he likes math). I applaud his strategic style of not overreaching.

So, if Spar thinks being good enough should be a life philosophy, I’m okay with that, but I’m not sure that everyone should be. There are some professions where good enough simply isn’t. I don’t want a just-good-enough surgeon. And, this shouldn’t be framed as a problem only for women. Everyone has work-life balance concerns that need to be better acknowledged so that we can excel where we must. Where do you adopt second-best behaviors? Is it enough?



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