Moms are hardwired to feel like failures. The truth is, we’re all a pretty far cry from that. It’s time to stop feeling like you’re not a good mother. Here’s how to stop seeing yourself as a failure with simple steps shared mom to mom.
We’d been outside for about 15 minutes, but I already had a river of sweat down my back. Twenty kids from toddler to teen swarmed around two canvas sheets on the lawn, seemingly oblivious to the heat.
I took a deep breath and regretted it. Spray paint fumes hung like incense in the air.
Woozy, I leaned back against the chain link fence and asked a question:
“What are you going to do in the fall?”
Her family was moving – had moved, actually – after a really tough school year. Difficult family circumstances led to an extended emotional fallout. I was in awe of her ability to manage everything.
My friend, however, was not.
“They’re going to school,” she said, her voice holding a note of resignation. “I had a hard time getting it together this year. I feel like I failed them, and I’m not sure they’ll recover. They deserved a lot better than what they got.”
What her children got was a mother who loved them, who carried them through a pretty vicious storm. She taught them Shakespeare and fostered their faith life; she took them to activities and taught them science and math.
But she couldn’t see any of this. Only the sound and the fury of perceived failures lay before her, signifying nothing but a loss of her self-worth.
Honestly, I got it. My heart heard her as both a homeschooler and a mom. But as most of us know, you don’t have to homeschool to be bedfellows with maternal failure. It’s a universal component of mom life, and it starts on literal day one.
Hey Mom – You’re Not a Failure
Motherhood is hard. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.
It’s also beautiful and rewarding and the best darn thing to ever happen to you, but none of that outweighs the guilt and immolation you slog behind you like a diaper bag filled with rocks.
You are a perfectionist by nature, spending time in pursuit of worthy goals. Adding intense, differently-wired children to the equation complicates the matter.
All of it – your marriage, your children, your family life, your professional and educational choices – end up vying for space in an airline-approved carry-on.
And then there is turbulence. Rather than blame the current of your circumstances, you turn the focus in on yourself. The weight of failure holds you down with a sort of tunnel vision. There’s no space to see the good or the truth of your accomplishments – only the specter of everything you’ve done wrong.
My friend, you don’t deserve this.
How to Stop Feeling Like a Failure – Right Now
Take a look at your children
Hold them close – even the big ones. Ruffle their hair. Feel the weight of their bodies and breathe in their scents. Are they happy? Thriving? Are you supporting them if they aren’t one, or both? When – not if – the answer is yes, let go of everything else, even just for a moment. Fall in love with your children and your vocation of motherhood again.
Make a list of the ways you’ve rocked being a mother
Small stuff counts here. Do you get dressed in the morning? Are you supporting your family? And even if your kids don’t eat it, are you offering nutritious food? None of this is inconsequential. Every act of love – small or large – carries its own weight in the final analysis. Write it all down and hang it up in a prominent location. There’s no shame in reminding yourself how amazing you are.
Now take a look at your failures.
Chances are, you’re not failing at all.
Review the expectations around you.
- By whose standards are you failing – yours, or someone else’s?
- If they are someone else’s, do those standards matter in the long run?
- Does that person have your best interest at heart?
If the expectations are yours, be ruthless. Are you being realistic? Are you taking on too much? Are you demanding more from yourself than is reasonable? What circumstances or scenarios can you cut?
Reinvent when you have had a misstep. What lessons can be learned from your mistakes? Take these challenges or struggles and use them as a step toward something greater.
Release the guilt. Hanging onto it and punishing yourself is a waste of your valuable energy. You’ll be better able to make changes when you let go of the self-deprecation. Your negative inner monologue won’t drop those extra volunteer duties off your calendar, but your heart will if you give it a chance.
Failure is never really a failure.
Rather, it’s an invention for growth. We owe it to ourselves and our children to let go of that millstone.
Mom – you aren’t a failure. It’s time you stopped feeling like one.
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