Why does Mother’s Day always make me think of all I’m not doing right as a Mother? Every year I try to avoid it, but I can’t escape. The images of crafty, fulfilled, do-it-all moms who are (seemingly) perfect, fill the world, and at first, I love it. I love glorying in this role that I truly find life-altering, holy, and divine–being “Mom.”
But at some point I start comparing to those images. I see what I want (or wanted) to do and be, and feel I’m missing the mark. This week, for example, I had just returned from a days-long stay alone to work on my book and try to catch up on sleep. (It sounds heavenly, and it was–if you like writing for hours and hours). But one long drive, two kid-interrupted sleepless nights, four sick kids, and less than two days later, I was already burned out, and on the verge of losing it! “Really?” I chastised myself. “You can’t even handle your life after a major break? Weak.” Sometimes I’m not very nice.
The Irony of Mother’s Day
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the very images and words meant to lift mothers up this time of year can have the opposite effect? The worst, for me, was about 8 years ago, when I had 3 kids. Caught in a contract with a group psychology practice, I was working far more hours than I’d planned. Add in work for my newly-founded Postpartum Wellness Coalition, and I felt like I was “doing it all.” That is, until Mother’s Day.
Sitting in church, listening to a lovely man speak of his angelic mother moved me. It inspired me to be like that. Then, it moved me to tears. Because I wasn’t like that. It hit me–wham!–like a wrecking ball, “You’re not being the mom you wanted to be.” I was truly wrecked. I cried for literally 8 hours strait! I couldn’t stop, so I shut myself away in my room all day, humiliated, defeated. I was only saved through a “Say-Anything”-esque rescue by my dear husband, OJ–standing on the stairs playing Coldplay’s “Fix You,” in the dark until I finally let him show me the love I felt I did not deserve.
And I’m not the only one. In the past few weeks alone I’ve heard stories from numbers of friends who fear they may be “failing” at motherhood. I asked, on my Facebook Page, if anyone was willing to share some of their “mommy fails,” and got some pretty honest responses:
- “All 3 of my babies rolling off the bed onto wood floors. You’d think I’d learn the first time!”
- “Calling my kids by the wrong name. I hated when my mom did that to me.”
- “Letting my mood swings get in the way. I wish I could have been more ‘stable’.”
- “My kids are little, but I’ve already cut nails so short they bleed, and both my girls have pulled chairs on themselves in the kitchen, leaving bruises. But the worst is when my daughter screamed and cried when her Grandma gave her a dress because she didn’t think the dress was pretty enough. Spoiled, much?”
- “I could write a whole chapter on my mommy fails!”
- “I was shopping with my 3 kids and it was great. Until the checkout. My 4 year-old started screaming for candy, but I was taking a stand. And I did it. We got all the way to the car, him screaming the whole way. As I was putting them in, an older woman came up and said, ‘I just want to tell you that you are doing a great job at being a mom. My daughter only has 2 kids and she is a mess, so keep up the good work.’ I said, ‘Thanks.’ Then I got in the car, and yelled to my son, ‘Shut up! Not another word ’til we get home!’ It could’ve been such a good ‘mom moment, and I had to go and ruin it.”
- “Growing up, I was pretty afraid of my mom, so I try to make sure my kids don’t feel that from me. One day, a few years back, I’d gone off my medication (I suffer from anxiety) to try and get pregnant. My kids were not cleaning their playroom like I asked and I lost it. The angry voice came out. I was throwing things and saying who knows what, and my 3 year old daughter is crying by now and she says to me, ‘mommy stop it you are scaring me.’ I had to walk out of the room. It didn’t matter anymore if it got cleaned. I felt horrible. But I know I’m not the only mom who feels like this. I’m just grateful my daughter called me out on how I was making her feel.”
3 Things Every Mother Needs to Know This Mother’s Day
1) You’re Not Alone. She’s right. She’s not the only mom who feels this way. In fact, we can relate, can’t we, to at least one of the scenarios above? We all have “mommy fails.” We all feel less than adequate from time to time. I see it with every mother I meet, whether they openly acknowledge their “failures” or try to hide them. It’s no secret we all make mistakes. It’s part of being a mother, and it’s ok.
2) You’re better than you realize. You’re not a failure. We see what’s wrong because we care. If we didn’t care it wouldn’t bother us if we yell or if our kids get hurt. The fact that it bothers us proves we love our kids. And when we can see this and then choose to learn from our “fails,” it proves we’re actually better at this mom thing than we may have thought. In fact, one of my Facebook friends decided to ask her daughter what her “mommy fails” were. She says, “I expected a heart wrenching conversation. I have at times completely lost it with my kids. Yelling, tears, the works. But her response was, ‘Oh that’s easy. When I was sick and made toast I asked you to watch it and you burned it black!’ I asked her, ‘That’s it? What about me yelling you and making you cry a few weeks ago?’ ‘Mom,’ she said, ‘that is just real stuff. It doesn’t make you a ‘fail.’ I have done that to you too, and I kinda like knowing your not some super hero and that you cry too. Besides everyone’s mom freaks out on them sometimes.” See, chances are, you’re doing better in your kids’ eyes than you realize.
3) You are enough. This one is important, so I’m going to say it again, “You are enough.” Being Mom is a daunting task, but you have what you need to do the job only you can do. You have enough love. You have enough wisdom. You have enough of what it takes. You are enough. Happy Mother’s Day, Moms.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Despite her many “fails” as a mom, Dr. Hibbert keeps loving. Isn’t that what really matters anyway?[/author_info] [/author]
How do you handle your “mommy fails?” Feel brave enough to share one with us? Leave a comment, below. I did.
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 Huge thank you to Elizabeth, Diann, Jesica, Jana, and Holly, for sharing your “Mommy Fails” with us! You just proved how incredible you are as moms, owning up to your mistakes like that. Big hugs to you!