Being a parent or a caretaker is HARD and many of us often feel like we are failing- we label ourselves as FAILURES.
Before having kids it was so easy to say that “I’m never going to yell at my kids” or “I’ll NEVER do THAT!” or “When I’m a mom, I’ll do _____ so much better than them!”. In that free and naive time before bringing child number one into the world, I considered myself a kind and very patient person. I was confident that I would be a very good mother. I knew that I’d be able to keep my cool and be “better” than some of the real life examples I was observing (and judging). Then reality hit.
If you are anything like me, after a few years of dealing with spilled milk, stuffed toilets, messes in every room all day every day, and tantrums up the ying yang, you reach a breaking point and start becoming a MEAN MOM. I’ll admit it. I am a yeller… or at least I was for a very long time. I reacted to my children all the time, rather than learning to respond in a kind, uplifting way. And I hated myself for it! With each child that I brought into the world, it seems my patience dimmed and my confidence in myself died.
I started to beat myself up and feel like I wasn’t “good enough.”
After my fifth child was born, I was in dire straights. We had moved to a new state and I had absolutely no family or friends nearby. I had no one to call on when I needed a break or a nap or a shower. My husband was just starting a new job as a full-time doctor and was often on call and not home. I was desperate for a break. One day, I saw an advertisement in the local newspaper for a parenting class. I thought it was the answer to my prayers and couldn’t wait to go to it.
I showed up for the class with high hopes, red eyes and a notebook and pen in hand to take notes- ready to learn all that I could to stop yelling at my kids and control my anger and expectations. I was in for a sad reality check. The other “students” showed up with their court mandates and drug stories, eager for the next smoking break and clearly not wanting to be there. I had no idea that I had signed up for a class that was taught at a local drug rehab center and that was court mandated for people that couldn’t “show up” as parents.
This didn’t deter me, as I was desperate for some guidance. It seemed that the lady leading the class new what she was talking about and the course reading materials could help me out, so I kept going.
However, during my third class, upon hearing yet another drug addiction story and lost child to the “state”, I couldn’t bring myself to go anymore. I have always had a soft spot for children, especially the orphaned or those put in foster care. It was too much for my heart to take.
I had been beating myself up about not being a good mom. I had felt like a terrible failure. I felt sorry for my kids to have to have a mom that constantly got mad at them and raised her voice. However, after going to this class, I realized that my kids actually had it pretty good. They were well fed, loved, cared for, had a safe place to sleep, clothes to wear, and two parents that loved them very much and wanted them in their lives. It could’ve been a lot worse for them, and this class helped me to see that I wasn’t a bad mom at all. I just needed some guidance and to give myself a break. I don’t even think that the parents in the class with me were failures either. I think that we are all just doing the best that we can with the circumstances and upbringings that we’ve been dealt, and some of us are just further up the road than others. It is up to us to help each other out and lift each other up-NOT to judge and condemn and use their sob stories to aggrandize ourselves. We are all in this together, and need to help each other and show love, not condemnation or judgment.
Our children are some of our greatest blessings and our greatest challenges. They are given to us to teach us lessons that we could learn no other way. While being a mom has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it has also been the most rewarding.
There are definitely days that I want to throw the towel in and “quit”– which usually means lock the door to my bedroom and let the kids do whatever they want, while I binge on Netflix and my secret stash of chocolate (that I’ve had to move about 30 times from my candy thief children!).
I have found that the days that I feel sick or tired or overwhelmed, are the days that I feel like a failure. On those days I find myself getting impatient about every little thing, and yelling way too much. On those days my husband accuses me about “aunt flow” coming to visit and it makes me even more mad. Everyone has those days and it is a good thing. When we experience opposition and hardship, we find greater joy in the times when we are feeling good and doing well. In other words, the hard times make the good times better.
When I am well-slept and feeling good, I feel like a great mom. I am happy and fun to be around and love to play with my kids. When I am tired and in pain, I prefer to be all alone to wallow in self-pity rather than have little mini-me’s inflicting more pain on my open wounds. We all have good days and bad, but what we expect them to be like can make or break them.
Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure by expecting things that are just not very realistic. We get mad or feel defeated when the bar for our standards is so high that no child or husband could possibly jump over it. So, moms (this could work for caretakers and dads as well), just give yourself a break. Know that each day is an opportunity to learn and grow from our mistakes, not to beat ourselves up over them. You are perfectly normal in your imperfection. Accept that NO PARENT is perfect, we are all learning and finding new ways to improve on a regular basis. If your best friend were to call you saying that she felt like she was failing or was a bad mom, you would emphatically disagree with her and tell her that she was a great mom and just having a bad day. Could you do that for yourself? Be your own best friend, by giving yourself a pep talk rather than listening to the evil voices that tell us we are failing.
Let’s help each other out. Stop feeling like a failure and stop labeling ourselves and others as failures! We are all doing the best we can and just need to allow both the good and the bad feelings to come- they can all teach us something about ourselves we might never have suspected or learned any other way!
Our kids don’t expect or even want us to be “perfect.” They don’t even know what that means. What do you think they really want the most? Find out here: The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Kids