I sat in the driveway for few a minutes after the kids got out of the car, leaning my head against the steering wheel while I tried not to cry. I had lost my cool — again. I was feeling overwhelmed and ineffectual — again.
I’m not cut out for this, I thought to myself. “I’m screwing them up. I’m not providing what each of them needs, and I don’t know how to. They need a mom who is better at this.”
And that’s when the tears start to spill. The thought of my kids with a different mother is too much to take — and yet today, like so many other days, mothering them feels like too much, too.
We moms are so hard on ourselves, aren’t we? We have all of these ideals and expectations for the kind of mother we’re going to be, and we never quite measure up to them. In fact, we rarely even come close.
And so we beat ourselves up. We second-guess our decisions and actions. We berate our abilities to do this job well. We sit in our cars or our bedrooms or our bathrooms or wherever we can find to hide so we can feel the weight of our inadequacy without sharing it with our children.
It’s not entirely our fault that we feel this way sometimes. We feel pressure from society and parenting books and Pinterest. We are constantly bombarded with what we should be doing with and for our kids, what we shouldn’t be doing with and for our kids, and half the time those things conflict with one another. So we are reminded consistently about all of the ways we are potentially ruining our children. It’s a lot of pressure.
Add in the fact that many parents didn’t have great role models themselves growing up, and we have a recipe for daily self-flagellation and a general sense that we are absolutely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it failing our children miserably.
We need to stop doing this to ourselves.
When I start to feel too down on myself as a parent, I remind myself that our children are our children for a reason. They came from us or came to us, and whether you believe there’s a greater purpose to that fact or not, we can be the parents they need.
We don’t have to be perfect to be good parents. If you care enough about your children to be reading this article, then you are enough for them. Love them as best you can, and they will continue to love you even if you screw up a lot, which we all do.
Yes, all of us.
Some of us may have severe struggles that mess with our parenting mojo. Some of us may be overcoming all kinds of damage from our own childhoods. Some of us may have life circumstances that make us feel spread paper thin all the time. No matter what our personal situation is, we have to trust that we are enough for our kids.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 17 years of parenting so far, it’s that kids are incredibly forgiving when we are honest with them about our shortcomings and apologize to them when we truly mess up. I’ve had to swallow my pride and say “I’m sorry” to my kids many, many times over the years.
In fact, I did it today. After I had my cry in the car, I walked into the house and gathered my children. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I was feeling really frustrated, but I shouldn’t have yelled like that. That wasn’t fair. I apologize.”
And without skipping a beat, my middle child said, “That’s okay, Mom. We all lose our cool sometimes when we’re frustrated.” Then they gave me a hug and went on their merry way.
Kids are usually far more forgiving of our faults than we are. Let’s take a page from their book and practice some self-forgiveness. As long as we are trying our best, we have to trust that we are enough for them.