Today I failed as a mom. My kids needed me to play with them more, to be more patient, and to understand their point of view. Instead, I was wrapped up in my own work, tired from my day and therefore short-tempered, and insisted on obedience. I suffer from constant feelings of mom failure.
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My kids don’t need to know the baggage that follows me home from work or even the pressure of making sure that they have a roof over their head and food on the table. Yet, I know that I carry that baggage around with me sometimes putting it down between us. I engage in endless bouts of guilt about all the ways that I should be doing better –doing more.
You see, in my mind, I start everyday with an agenda –a task list. I sometimes prioritize my agenda over my children’s needs. I have things that I must complete to feel accomplished for the day. Regardless of whether I am home the whole day or working, I am driven by my goal-oriented nature to achieve. I even recount my accomplishments at the end of the day to my husband as a way to justify my time.
Sadly, we have been programmed that achievement is the number one indicator of success. Tasks and their completion are the basis by which we can judge an employee, a project, and therefore, a person. (How many Post-It notes do you have laying around?) Thus, this value permeates all areas of our life. The question of “what does a stay-at-home mother do all day?’ somewhere became a reasonable question. This question asked as though her role is only legitimated by the amount of quality tasks she completed that day.
HOW I JUSTIFY MY TASKS
However, I know that my children are my greatest gift, and I devote every task list to them.
Work so they can go to college. ☒
Clean so that they can have a healthy home.☒
Cook so that they grow strong. ☒
The list goes on. Every one of my motivations stems from my desire to be the best kind of mother and wife. Every one of those tasks justified in my mind.
But, I fail, repeatedly. In the midst of completing my list and legitimizing my role, I miss the point.
At the end of the day, I sit down (maybe) and think about all the things that I did wrong. All of the moments I missed. All the ways I communicated to my children that they didn’t matter as much as I know they do.
HOW I AM FAILING AS A MOM.
Time and time again, I choose to clean the bathrooms instead of play cars. Over and over, I choose to discipline rather than listen and understand. More often than not, I ask my children to put the toys, the clothes, and the fun away rather than joining in. Sometimes I treat my children as an accessory rather than my most important gift.
Like you, the Pinterest Perfect images that I see everyday intimidate me. Like you, the possibility that someone might figure out that I have NO IDEA what I am doing horrifies me. And, like you, I try to keep it together with a list, a chart, a theory.
I fight every day against the temptation to merely plan the day rather than be present and parent my children. I fail to be who they need me to be as I am so busy trying to get them to fit the mold I planned for them. I fight against my own belief that if I take my children to more places, enroll them in more activities, share more adventures, that somehow, that will make me a better parent.
And, guess what. You do too. I hear this time and time again. I hear the stories of perceived failure, I listen to confessions of guilt, and I share in the tales of days-gone-wrong.
GRACE IN FAILURE.
After listening to those stories and commiserating in our grief, here is what I do know: My kids need grace just as much as I do. Also, my kids offer me grace more freely than I offer it to them. If I screw up and ask for their forgiveness, they give it. But, when they make a mistake, I offer punishment: time outs and lost privileges often without even acknowledging that I was part of the problem.
Often, I even believe lies about my children. I assign their actions motives that they never had. I believe that their actions or inactions are results of my parenting or my lack of parenting instead of trying to understand that they are human individuals.
Knowing that every other mom out there is struggling with this same issue is a tremendous weight off my shoulders. Do you need to know that too? Do you need to know that you aren’t struggling alone?
THE SECRET OF MOTHERHOOD!
Do you need to know that all of us mommas are out here trying to figure it out as we go along having no idea what we are doing and often feeling like failures?
If this isn’t the case, then there would be far fewer posts about mom guilt, work-life balance, being present, or feeling badly about not playing with your kids.
So, what do we do? If all of the moms are drowning in perceived failure, what in the world are we supposed to do?
PRACTICAL TIPS TO OVERCOME THE FEELING OF MOM FAILURE:
Give yourself some slack.
One of my favorite anecdotes from a friend that always seems to have it all together is that sometimes she gets to the end of the day and literally has to sweep the toys from the couch so that she can sit down. I was shocked, amused, then relieved.
You see, she is a highly successful professional, has a nanny/housekeeper, and still has to sweep the toys from her couch sometimes.
Another good friend of mine admits that sometimes, if her kids haven’t had enough food for the day, she simply lines them up and gives them a giant scoop of peanut butter!
So, give yourself some slack. Let some things go that don’t really matter.
This might include leaving some of the Legos out overnight. Or, eat drive thru sometimes. It might even include sitting amidst the forts/tents/hammocks/castles/obstacle courses that your children built in the living room that day!
Guess what: if you don’t take care of yourself, how in the world do you expect to take care of anyone else. Schedule a pedicure, take a nap during your lunch hour, or even schedule a weekend away with girls.
One of my favorite things to do to pamper myself is to put on my slippers. Mine currently have holes in the bottom from being worn so much. (I think that I will get some of these! I like the solid sole and the slip on style! I’m so cool!)
Susanna Wesley, mother of John Wesley, had 11 children and would sit in a chair with her apron over her head to get a few moments of quiet prayer, and he turned out ok!
A friend of mine sometimes does what she calls “nap-sitting” and places her kids in a safe room while she closes her eyes in a corner.
These few moments, hours, or days to focus on yourself might be the only way to reign in that last nerve or that final straw. Take a few moments to sit in your car before you go inside the house at the end of the day. Listen to your favorite music while you make dinner, or just lock the bathroom door for a minute!
I can’t do it alone. In fact, I am not sure how single mothers make it through the day let alone all of child-rearing. Have a babysitter, a family member, a spouse, or friends who are willing to step in and give some support.
I am blessed with some great friends who are willing to board a red-eye on a Friday and spend a couple of days away just to recharge. Further, our husbands even agree to keep our children (10 among the three of us) while we take said getaway. These trips seem to be few and far between, but we plan them when we most need them!
If you can’t get away for a weekend, at least get away from some of your housework. Hire a cleaner, sign up for a meal plan, or outsource your laundry for a week/month/year.
A good book, a good movie, a trusted friend or mentor, a MOM’S GROUP! I can’t stress these enough. Burrowing down into our own minds, we become our biggest enemies and our worst critics. Without someone around us to bring us levity, inspiration, or comraderie, we will always feel alone and like a failure.
My favorite place to get inspiration is from my local Mom’s Group. I had no idea how isolated I felt until I found a group of women who were willing to share their birth, baby, child, food, money, discipline, fitness, and health experiences with no judgment. I have never felt so accepted as when I sit in a room with 20 other mothers of pre-schoolers and hear the same struggle I experience over and over again.
One of my favorite books about parenthood is Jim Gaffigan’s: Dad Is Fat. No, it isn’t full of scientific parenting theories, but it tells me that there are a lot of people in the same boat as me. He regularly uses the TMK excuse (Too Many Kids), and I admit, that I have used it too!
Create a way that you can engage with your child daily.
Lastly, if you feel like you are failing to connect, then create an intentional connection. In other words, check yourself. Is your child only seeing the back of your phone? Do your children know that you like what they like or that you are interested in what they do during the day.
Institute a practice like High, Low, Buffalo to improve daily communication.
Set aside playtime and stick to it even though the laundry isn’t done.
I Fail, and it’s ok that you do too.
Finally, I fail. Over and over, I fail. Today I failed. Today I yelled and wasn’t very fun. Maybe you did too. Exercise your ego a little and ask for forgiveness. Extend grace in a new way, and don’t forget to recharge yourself by finding support, inspiration, and engagement with your children.
But, know, all of us mothers are out here failing, y’all. We are figuring it out as we go, trying to read the manual, and failing test after test. In the midst of it, we need to find support and acceptance among other mothers and put an end to the mom shame.