When The Biggest Battle You're Fighting Is Yourself

by Meredith Ethington
crazystocker / Shutterstock

I’ve been a mother for 10 years, almost 11. And I still fight the same battle every single day.

No, it’s not a battle everyone will recognize. It’s not cancer or single motherhood. It’s not a child with special needs or a husband who has cheated. It’s not a kid failing in school or being unable to put dinner on the table. I’m living a fine life. I’m living a good one.

But this battle rages on inside of me every single day, and I know now it will probably be a lifelong battle for as long as I’m a mother.

The battle is myself. Every day I look at my kids and feel immense gratitude for them. But at the same time, every day I feel like I’m failing. I claim that I don’t want to be perfect, and yet sometimes, I feel like those expectations are still there. Deep inside me torturing me from within. Telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’m falling short.

You see, I think I secretly want to be perfect. I want to be the mother who doesn’t yell and who isn’t grumpy in the mornings. I want to be the one who always gets the homework done without a bad attitude and the one who cooks healthy dinners. I want to be the one who doesn’t get annoyed when her kids are just having fun and are squealing with delight right next to her. I feel guilt when they get on my nerves.

No matter how patient I am, I’ll always feel like I’m not patient enough for them. They are my greatest gift, and yet I feel like I can’t possibly be theirs.

It has gotten easier. Some days, I’m able to reflect on a day and feel proud of my accomplishments. Some days, I’m even happy that we all just stayed alive and didn’t kill each other. But then there are the days where something is telling me that I didn’t do enough. That I’m failing. Those days are the days that I self-loathe and think that someone else would do a much better job.

I’ve worked on counting my strengths, recognizing when I am the patient, kind, loving mother that I know I can be. On the bad days, though, it’s hard to remember that some days things are pretty darn close to perfect. On the bad days, all I can see are my shortcomings, and it’s a heartbreaking burden to carry.

So I fight this battle every day. I struggle to interact with the kids I love desperately because they annoy me, and then I’m annoyed by myself for being so annoyed. It’s a vicious, ridiculous cycle that no one can see. So it leaves me feeling lonely, like I’m the only one struggling at this parenting thing.

It’s hard when the only struggle you face on a daily basis is yourself. Nobody else can see it. No one can really praise me for a job well done when I am able to overcome that part of myself, either.

Except me. I’m the only one who can do that, and that’s part of my battle. To remember to tell myself how I’m actually a pretty amazing mother despite what my guilt and anxiety tell me. So I battle the part of me that feels like she’ll never be a good enough mother — and that maybe she wasn’t meant to be one at all. And some days, I’ll overcome that part of me when I lovingly pack lunches or read an extra story when they beg. I remind myself, See, you’re doing good.

But no one will know that I overcame one of the hardest things to overcome — myself. That nagging voice inside me that always tells me I’m not good enough. That they deserve more. It’s brutal.

Recently, my oldest expressed how worried she was about me dying after seeing a movie that scared her. I remember the feeling of almost being shocked that she felt that way. She would miss me if I were gone? I felt sad that I even questioned that. Of course, she would. I’m her mother.

But for those of us who battle the nagging voice of insecurity every day, it really is that constant. The doubts and the fears of not measuring up are always there, eating away at you. It takes effort and strength to push those erroneous thoughts aside and embrace that you are enough. They do deserve you, and they love you — a lot.

So for those of you out there like me, who feel like you’re a horrible mother because of a bad day or a nagging voice in your head, let me assure you (because it’s easier than assuring myself): You aren’t. And you’re certainly not alone in your feelings.

Remember to remind yourself that a bad day is just that, a single bad day. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t a brilliant, wonderful, loving parent doing good things in the lives of your kids. It’s just a bad day. Everyone has them.

And if you see a seemingly worn-down mother, looking disheveled and discouraged, remind her too. She might need to be reminded that she’s a good mom because she may have a hard time seeing that in herself, and hearing it from another mom in the trenches might be just what she needs.