The psychologist Donald Winnicott said, “a good parent is a good enough parent.” He was referring to the desire we have to be perfect parents, and that it is inevitable that we “make mistakes.” To love our children and protect them from extreme harm and distress: that’s good enough.
There was a period where my wife and I were very hesitant about having children, because we wanted to create the absolute “right” circumstances. Carl Jung’s quote, “nothing has a stronger influence on a child than the unlived life of the parent,” rang in our heads. For many years, I felt it would be unethical to have a child before I resolved all my neuroses, since it would be unfair to burden another generation with unconscious patterns that I could have healed.
What we eventually understood is that there will never be an “optimal” time to have a child. Thinking in terms of “optimal” was actually a reflection of our own cultural conditioning: in a career driven, hyper-active society, many people feel that having children is an unfortunate but necessary sacrifice they have to make.
There could always be more money in the bank. There will always be more places that would be easier to explore without a little one in tow. And as anyone who has done introspective work knows, neurotic tendencies are like weeds that we can do our best to uproot, but ultimately we just have to accept.
For many years, I faced a similar dilemma with my book. I wanted to find the “right” agent or the “perfect” publisher. After years of effort in the traditional publishing world without much to show for it, I realized that I needed another approach.
Yet I was very reluctant to go down the self-publishing road, because I knew how much work it would be, and I didn’t have the enthusiasm to sacrifice my “creative time” to organizing cover design, typesetting, and marketing.
In the same way that we were worried about the “right” time to have a child, I was paralyzed by the fear that the book might not “work out.”
But now that the book has taken physical form, I have no regrets. Just seeing it in my hands, I have a level of satisfaction that makes all the effort worth it. I could still be sitting around, waiting for something to happen to me. Now, no matter where the book goes in the future, I know I have created something has value that I can share with others.
I suspect that when we hold our child in our arms for the first time (probably this week!), we will feel the same.
Where is the book going to go? I have about as much knowledge about that as I do about who my child will be. In the same way that I have to step back and trust that he will have the experiences he needs to grow, I have to trust that whoever needs to read the book will pick it up.
I have done everything I could to ensure its survival in the world. Now, I have to let go and remind myself that just as a good parent is a good enough parent, perhaps a good artist is a good enough artist.