I know I don’t stand alone in this feeling. The feeling of intense overwhelm, impatience, discouragement, and sometimes just pure and utter defeat. The honest truth is, sometimes, I just feel like a terrible mother.
I’m not saying that to hear a scripted reply telling me that it isn’t true, that I’m an amazing mother, and not to feel that way. Frankly – I generally know I’m a great mom. But sometimes I FEEL like a terrible mother. And admittedly, there are times that I am a terrible mother…
the things that make me feel like a terrible mother
You see. Toddlers are assholes. There. I said it. I got it out in the open.
Feels good, huh?
Maybe I’ll be shunned for saying such horrible things about my offspring – but let’s be real. If you’re a parent – or even an aunt, cousin, grandparent, or godparent – that thought has crossed your mind. Probably more than once. Don’t feel bad – this doesn’t make you a bad parent, and it isn’t what makes me feel like a terrible mother.
Sometimes I feel like a terrible mother because I’d rather do anything but give her a bath. I’d rather rush through story time so I can sit on the couch and stare mindlessly at the TV. I’d rather eat take out or feed my kid frozen chicken nuggets than cook dinner – again – for her to refuse.
but some days, the struggle runs so much deeper
You might be thinking, sure – we’ve all grunted through bath time and skipped pages in a book to get through it faster. That’s normal. It’s to be expected, right?
However, what many of us experience but often neglect to outwardly admit, is that sometimes we just have nothing left to give. Our tanks are literally on empty and we are running on fumes and the grace of God. Even worse, we don’t take the time to pull over and fill our tanks.
The tiniest things set us off, our patience is nonexistent, and we show the worst pieces of ourselves. We might yell, we might miss the point, we might lose our temper over meaningless things. These days, I not only feel like a terrible mother – but I probably am actually a terrible mother.
the pressure sometimes feels never-ending
Despite having an incredible support system in my husband, for without him I’d probably curl into a closet and cry daily, the pressure to be this “perfect” and patient mother with never-ending bliss, who loves every aspect of motherhood and feels nothing but joy is the exact concept that is ruining motherhood. And we’ve done it to ourselves.
The thing is, motherhood is hard. So hard. You wake up one day feeling like your insides are going to explode and a few hours later you’re handed a living, breathing human that requires every ounce of you for survival. They give you diapers, they give you wipes, but they don’t give you a manual. And they especially don’t tell you that it gets worse before it gets better.
From that moment, all we want is to be perfect for our baby. We want to give them the best, do all the right things, make all the right decisions, provide them with all the resources and support and love that they will ever need to succeed. Everything we do is done for them, in some way, shape, or form. And it’s debilitating.
What’s debilitating isn’t the desire and effort to achieve all of those things. What is debilitating is when you fail. And trust me, you will fail. You will fail often, and you will fail hard. You may even fail daily.
As a mother, all I want to do is care for my family. To give them all I can give them. Not because society says I have to, or because “I should”, but because I want nothing but the absolute best for them. They deserve it, after all. So when I come up short, or when I lose balance, or focus, when I “fail” them, I feel like a terrible mother. And when I feel like that, it’s a hard feeling to kick.
just because it’s a bad day, doesn’t mean it’s a bad life
Since becoming a mom, I cannot tell you how many nights I have laid awake, thinking over all the things I could have done better. How I could have responded better, been more intentional, had more focus. I think about how my priorities might have been off, and I wonder what I missed because I was stressed, or tired, or thinking about the wrong things.
I sometimes go to bed worrying that my daughter may not have felt loved enough that day. Or that her frustration or tantrum was really because I wasn’t giving her enough of me. I worry that when I lost my patience, she felt less important. I worry, a lot, about a lot of things.
As a mom, I want to do better. I tell myself everyday, “I will do better today”. But as a human, sometimes I just can’t. I just physically can’t do it. I have nothing left to give, and I lose sight of things, and I fail again.
Fall down seven times, get up eight – right?
remembering to be gentle
My daughter doesn’t understand if I’ve had a long day, or if I didn’t sleep well, or if I am stressed beyond measure. She doesn’t. She literally cannot comprehend those things because she is two. But for whatever reason I expect her to. As parents trying to raise strong, independent children – we come to expect them to have a deep emotional intelligence at an age that’s just not realistic. And that is an awful habit that I personally am working on breaking.
Then, during a moment of defeat this last weekend, I realized something – I’ve been parenting for just over two years. And when you really think about it, the nitty gritty parenting doesn’t start until like, egh – somewhere after a year. Unlike your paid job, parenting roles change almost seasonally. Could you imagine if every 3 months your role and responsibilities at work completely shifted, without much notice, and zero training. Sounds delightful, right? No. No it does not.
So while I am so focused on all these moments of failure. Moments where I coulda, woulda, shoulda done something differently, I have to remember to be gentle with myself. Even more gentle with myself than to my child, because children are resilient and forgiving and forgetful. They were most likely designed that way to allow for the inevitable failures of parenting.
So fellow mommas – be gentle to yourself. Be okay with having nothing to give, but finding a way to give anyways. Find peace with the fact you will fail as a mom. Learn to accept it all – because at the end of the day, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.