Okay, Mamas, here’s what you need to know: I’ve been a mom for sixteen years now, so you’d think I’d know what I’m doing. Surely I’m the expert at this point.
Nope. Not even close.
If I could go back to the diapers and high-chair phase, I like to tell myself I’d be more patient and make fewer mistakes. But that’s me using hindsight and rose-colored glasses. I’m in the throes of the school years now, and I. Am. Clueless.
Just last week, I had a huge #MomFail, complete with yelling, nasty threats, and that weird arm-flapping thing I do when primal rage has taken over.
It was not pretty.
When your 12-year-old daughter has to grab you by the shoulders to calm you down and keep you from potentially strangling one of the other kids, things have gotten just a little out of hand.
I’m well acquainted with #MomFail.
We Moms are so intent and focused on doing a flawless job at this motherhood thing. We want to get everything right from the start. We want to give our kids an idyllic childhood, and we convince ourselves that if we try hard enough, we can achieve perfection.
What’s worse is that, since childhood, many of us have romanticized how we’ll be as mothers. We envision what life will be like when baby arrives, and in our innocent little minds it’s ALL good.
But when motherhood hits, it’s raw and messy and a sleep-stealer. It brings out emotions and facets of our own personalities we never knew existed. It changes us and stretches us and pushes us to the limit.
And when we discover we’re not the mom we always thought we would be, we grieve the loss of that dream — no matter how far-fetched and unrealistic it was to begin with.
The tears I’ve cried over being a “failure as a mom” could fill oceans.
But here’s what I’ve learned over the years, the tiny bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned as I’ve walked this path.
For the Woman Who Feels Like a Failure as a Mom
1. Messing up doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.
People make mistakes. Especially sleep-deprived, under-appreciated people with overly demanding taskmasters. Yes, we love our children dearly, but they are tyrants. . . especially when they’re young.
Quit beating yourself up for making mistakes, for getting angry, for not getting everything done, for losing your patience, for crying in the grocery store. Whatever.
It’s okay, I promise. Learn from your mistake — if you can — but don’t rehash it over and over. So you messed up. Try to do better next time. But give yourself some grace right now.
2. Find freedom in saying you’re sorry.
Learn early on to apologize to your kids.
When you mess up, don’t be afraid to tell them you’re sorry. Give them a kiss and a cuddle and ask their forgiveness — even when they’re too young to know what forgiveness is. Saying you’re sorry doesn’t show weakness — on the contrary, it demonstrates incredible strength. And it gives your kids an example to follow.
3. Recognize your child as an individual.
When my kids were babies, I had this idea that everything they would learn, do, and say would be a result of how I taught or didn’t teach them. So I put this huge burden on myself to be perfect in every way. It didn’t take me long to realize my idea was crazy and completely un-doable.
Our kids are little people — with personalities, ideas and inclinations all their own. Sure, how you are as a mother influences your child’s development — but so do lots of other things — some of which you can control and some you can’t. Carrying the entire weight of your ‘how your child’s life turns out’ on your shoulders is too much.
Even if you manage to do everything right (which you won’t) — your little angel is going to spit peas in your face, tell you ‘NO!’ until they’re blue in the face, and — most likely — bite some unsuspecting kid at the Chick-Fil-A playground. There’s no getting around it. Kids are going to make their own decisions from the time they learn to crawl and they are going to defy you and everyone else at some point. It’s normal.
Don’t blame yourself for their poor choices. Teach them and move on.
4. Take your disappointment to God
When you are feeling like a failure, pour your heart out to God. Learn to pray in those rare moments of silence or calm, short as they may be.
When my kids were young, I spent time praying in the shower, in the car, and yes — even on the toilet.
Learn the beauty of sentence prayers to meditate on throughout the day. I recently learned the prayer of a fifth century monk, adapted from Psalm 70, which is a perfect fit for the harried days of motherhood. The prayer is simply
O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.
Remind yourself all day long of God’s nearness, and don’t hesitate to cry out for his help.
A scripture I claimed often when my children were younger was Isaiah 40:11.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Which leads me to my next point.
5. Be gentle with yourself
In many ways, learning to parent small children will teach you how to care for yourself. It sounds counterintuitive and a little crazy, but it’s true.
As your children grow, you will be reminded of your own childhood — both the good and the bad. When you discover the connection between your childhood and that of your kids’, you’ll end up going one of two ways.
- Pour all your energy and focus into your kids’ lives, attempting to fill up the holes and disappointments of your own childhood, or
- You’ll experience parenthood as a tool for self-development, learning to be gentle and loving with yourself as you demonstrate gentleness and love toward your kids.
The first path is the one we naturally lean toward, but it’s the less healthy choice.
Your kids aren’t you. They have different DNA, different parents, a different home, different influences, and they live in a different society. They are going to experience life differently than you did as a child.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have to be intentional in how we parent. It’s vital to examine what went wrong in our own childhoods if we want to break the unhealthy patterns of the past. But we also don’t need to pour our whole lives into our children as a means of satisfying our own unmet needs. Doing so sets us and our children up for problems later on.
Instead, choose option two. Let parenting teach you and help you grow.
Learn to see yourself as a child again. Recognize the needs that went unmet in your own childhood. Let your honesty and self-exploration guide both your parenting and your own emotional growth. Make every effort to move toward your own emotional and spiritual well-being, separate from your children.
In doing so, you will provide your children with a role model of emotional health, which is a win-win scenario for both parents and kids.
I hope these suggestions for how to deal with your feelings of #MomFailure are helpful to you. Maybe you’ll consider sharing them with a friend?
Sometimes it helps to know we aren’t the only ones who feel this way. The videos will let you know you aren’t alone, but will also give you positive encouragement and a realistic viewpoint. I highly recommend them!
So what about you? Want to share some of the moments when you’ve felt like a #MomFailure? There’s no judgment here, only solidarity. Let’s talk about it in the comments section!