Nobody Told Me Motherhood Would Make Me Feel Like I'm Failing All The Time

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy/Constance Bannister Corp/Getty

One of my least favorite and more tedious responsibilities as a parent is clipping all four of my tiny humans’ fingernails. I mean, that’s 80 freaking nails … 100 if I include my own. Because of that, it’s just sort of become one of those tasks that falls between the cracks in our big family. And unless my kids are scratching themselves or others, it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. (And really, if that’s my biggest shortcoming as a mother, I’ll take it.)

But it seems others don’t possess my “there are bigger fish to fry” mindset when pertaining to such, what I consider, small and miniscule details.

My twins were almost a year old when I was taking them for a well-baby checkup. We were already running late, they were screaming, my husband was at work, I forgot the snacks, and one of them demolished their diaper in the parking lot of the pediatrician’s office. Of course, right? I changed him in the back of the SUV when I realized — lo and behold — his fingers resembled those of Edward Scissorhands.

Well, shit.

We made it into the doctor’s office (barely), and when the nurse who helped with weighing my babes looked down at his fingers, she passively squealed, “Aw! Mommy needs to trim your nails!” All the while, shooting me a dirty side-eye like I’d somehow neglected my child.

Little things like this happen to mothers all too frequently, don’t they? She didn’t remark, “Daddy needs to trim your nails.” She said Mommy needed to — I needed to. And although what she said wasn’t a huge deal, this type of gender stereotype amongst parents is a huge deal, and it’s making mothers feel like failures.

I’m a good mom. In my heart of hearts, I know this. My husband knows it, my friends know it and my kids know it (as long as their punishment isn’t an electronic ban or I’m asking them to clean, in that case, I’m the “worst mom ever”). But it seems for me and so many other good moms out there, the rest of the world doesn’t see or cherish our value yet. Because the truth of the matter is, no matter what we mothers do, society expects too much out of us while acknowledging us far too little.

We’re told by sanctimommies that if we skipped our seldom and much-needed moments of alone time, maybe we could be better. If we nursed longer, maybe we would feel more confident in our parenting. If we were older/younger, emotionally wiser or more financially stable, maybe we wouldn’t feel like such despicable failures.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. It’s such a loaded word, isn’t it? Sure, we all have the potential to be better than what we already are — even when giving it our all — but I’m starting to wonder, when do we stop to consider the damage being done to ourselves along the way?

Scary Mommy and Bettmann/Getty

Let me be clear, mothers worldwide would give up their lives for their child(ren). But when we are talking about day-to-day living, the broad concept of mundane, but magical, everyday motherhood, we can’t keep pouring from an empty pot. Yet it seems the world would have it that way.

But we are enough.

We give it our all until we are wrung dry, but We. Are. People. Too. Flawed ones, sure. We question our judgment, we make mistakes and we fall flat on our drained and deprived-of-the-light-of-day faces. But we get up every single day and try our best once more. On repeat. For 18+ years, and we do it because we love those wild ones who are the reason for those mile-long dark circles beneath the eyes.

For most, just “raising children” isn’t good enough. We want to give them a childhood that’s peaceful and joyful to remember. We want to be their home. But we can’t do and be all of the things 24/7 without thinking about our own needs too. When we try (and we do try, don’t we?), it’s only mass-destruction for the entire family in the long-run.

So why is it getting to that point?

Why is it that Dad can be halfway through his steaming hot dinner while Mom is starving and still fiddling with the kids and their meal plates? When will we see a mom with a ton of kids and think about how lucky she is instead of criticizing her family size? And when will a mom be able to freely pull out her breast to nurse in public — regardless of her child’s age — without hesitation or shame?

Some let their kids eat day-old Flamin’ Hot Cheetos recovered from under the couch, because … well, as long as there’s no dog hairs, it’s totally fair game. And then there are others who only allow organic, steamed and clean-choice food in their home. No matter the style, we have all failed, leading us to feel like failures. Our motherly role has been doomed with a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of mentality, and we are tired.

Since we want what’s best for our kids, we want to be the best for our kids. But, somehow, we are confusing best with perfect time and time again … and it’s ripping our mom-hearts to shreds for literally no reason at all. If not for the world around us, we would parent on pure instinct. But because it’s impossible to scroll through social media, watch a popular show, or even walk through town without encountering some type of misogynistic view on the high demands expected from a mother, good moms feel like failures everyday.

Our parental instinct is burdened by the opinions of others, but we are enough. What works for one child or parent will not work for another. Most of us, well, we are running on the collaborated input of trusted professionals, our partner’s two-cents, as well as our gut’s intuition.

We are the mothers that friends, family and loved ones call “good,” and we fail every single day. But though we fail, we are not failures.

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