Wednesday, 11 September 2013

How to make near enough parenting, good enough.

If you think you've dropped the ball on motherhood, here's how to make near enough, good enough and practise the art of "motherhood triage." 


With so many balls in the air, is it any wonder women have to occasionally drop one to ensure they catch another.  Some people, (i.e. television and radio host, Amanda Keller) call this “good enough parenting.”

To illustrate her point, Amanda recently related the following example of good enough parenting to Adam Hills when she appeared on his show, Adam Hills Tonight:

"... I'd be lying on the couch and one of (my kids)... would say, "Can you peel me an orange?" and I'd say, "Oh, just have a biscuit.''"

Amanda had just cleverly “triaged” her motherhood priorities.

1. the importance of lying on the couch for another 15 minutes uninterrupted.
2. the importance of the small child having a nutritious fruit snack as opposed to a sugary biscuit.

If you are not familiar with the term “motherhood triage” here is a definition:


Moth•er•hood tri•age [noun] 1. The process  of determining the priority of mothering tasks depending on their urgency.  2. [see also] good enough parenting *

In this scientifically proven** article, I will give you 10 examples of how you can triage motherhood and make your life easier.

But let’s start with Amanda’s case study, which coincidentally is the first rule of motherhood triage.

1. A child’s right to a nutritious snack takes a back seat to Mum’s right to have a few moments of shut-eye or horizontal rest-time.


Amanda, like most exhausted mothers, ranked the nutritious snack for her child option below her need for rest.  Because sometimes it’s more “urgent” in the wider scheme of things that Mummy gets a little bit of rest; otherwise later on, when Mummy is at the end of her tether she may just do a Mummy Mouse and eat one of her own babies in a rage. Nobody wants that.

The second rule of motherhood triage applies to things left on the floor.

2.  If it is not sharp, dangerous, toxic or some form of excrement (human, canine or feline) just keep walking.


For instance: when I was pregnant with twins, I noticed a black sock on the floor in the hall.  Being an expert in motherhood triage even then, I quickly ranked the urgency in this order:

1. The importance that I keep moving towards the front door and get to where I was going.

2. The vague visual displeasure of a random black sock in the hall.

I walked past the sock.  I continued to walk past that same sock every morning, every day three times a day and every evening on my way to bed. That was 10 years ago in a rental home two suburbs away. As far as I know, the black sock is still there.

Because notwithstanding the fact that if I had bent over at that point in my pregnancy I may have “timbered” onto my head,  IF I bent over to pick up every little thing that ended up on the floor in our house, I simply would never, ever get anything else done.

Tidying a house where children are living is not only thankless, it is a slippery slope to a day spent cleaning the house properly.

Which brings me to the next rule of motherhood triage: when you get to the point where you do actually need to pick a few things up …

3.  With regard to housekeeping: a veneer of cleanliness is all that is needed.


Contrary to beliefs on housekeeping dating back to the 1950s, cleanliness is not next to godliness. Cleanliness, in relation to family homes is merely an unobtainable concept designed to make women feel inadequate.

You can give the impression of cleanliness very quickly by going around the house with an empty laundry basket and just chucking every bit of clutter and crap straight into the basket: don’t sort clean clothes from dirty ones, don’t carefully return things to their rightful place, just use your whole arm, sweep it across the dining room table and ignore your kids when they wail about the elaborate Lego City that you have just felled in one clean swoop.

Do a quick wipe of the toilet seat using a large wodge of clean toilet paper, maybe tip a gallon of bleach down there if you have time, pull the shower curtain across to hide the ring around the bathtub, tidy a few couch cushions, dump all the dishes into the sink and cover them with soapy water as though you are in the throes of performing an important soaking task.

You have now achieved a veneer of cleanliness and you are ready to receive guests.

If the mess is really bad, choose one room of the house, just bulldoze every bit of mess and clutter in there and shut the door on it. When guests come, tell them someone is sleeping in there.

Triage ranking:
1. The importance of people thinking you are clean and organised.

2. The importance of actually being clean and organised.

The next rule of motherhood triage relates to a mess made on the floor versus continuing an important conversation.

4. An unholy mess on the floor is worth two coffees and a catch-up with your friend.


For instance: one morning my best friend came over with her kids for a “playdate.”  We gave the kids a big bowl of popcorn, turned on ABC Kids and ensconced ourselves at the outside table with our coffees for a much-needed catch up and gossip.  About 10 minutes in, when my best friend was telling me a particularly juicy titbit about someone we went to school with, her eldest child came running outside with (what he considered to be) an important newsflash.

“Mum! Sam spilled the popcorn and now it’s all over the floor!”

We looked at each other. We craned our necks to look inside and assess the damage, there was indeed popcorn blanketing my living room floor. The rest of the kids remained still and silent and glued to the telly. My friend looked at me. I shrugged.

“Nyah, skate on it for all we care,” she said.

And we continued our conversation.

Triage ranking:

1. The urgency of hearing the end of the anecdote your friend is telling you.

2. The urgency of cleaning up the mess the children have just made on the floor.

(This ranking also applies to telephone conversations.)

In a similar vein is my fifth major rule of motherhood triage …

5. Children playing nicely should be left to their own devices.


Whether they are cutting each other’s hair, eating Play-Doh, painting the walls with finger paints, drawing moustaches on each other with an indelible black marker pen, soaking each other with the hose in the middle of winter,  ask yourself this question:

Are they playing nicely?

If the answer is, “yes.” Leave them to it.

Triage ranking:
1. The urgency of securing 30 minutes of peace where there’s no fighting

2. The urgency of whatever weird stuff they’re doing being stopped

And finally, here are five more quick rules of thumb you might want to consider next time you are triaging your own household:


6. Snacks before dinner are sometimes an unfortunate necessity.

7. A child dressed like a homeless person is better than being late for an appointment.

8. Screams when you are in the shower should only elicit your response if accompanied by the words “(insert name here) is bleeding.”

9. Arguments over who wants to watch what on the television and who “always has the remote control and won’t let us watch what we want to watch” are not important enough to adjudicate with conscientious parenting, lessons about cooperation and long-winded lectures about being considerate of others.

Just tell them to sort it out themselves or you’ll pull the plug out of the wall and watch them find the meaning of cooperation.

10. Dessert is a carte blanche affair as long as children help themselves.

* Source: The Edible Garbage Dictionary, 1st edition, Penny Dreadful Press, 2013
** Scientifically proven by the Edible Garbage Institute of Self-important Parenting Science


  1. Fantastic post - I am definitely an affiliate to this progressive way of mothering.

  2. I love this entertaining and sensible post - following its tenets will create a bit of sanity in a chaotic world of pressure and paranoia (I saw Amanda on Adam Hills - hilarious!)

    1. Thanks Lee-Anne, she also had a funny thing about her kid asking who Jesus was, that really made me guffaw.

  3. Great! Was nodding in agreement the whole way through :)