My toddler flailed her arms majestically as an uncoordinated horde of Central Park pigeons, slipping on the water she’d dumped on the kitchen floor before landing on her back and letting out an ear-splitting wail. Moments like these may leave one feeling like a bad mom.
These thoughts creep up on us all from time to time, myself included. What if I’d dropped the dish in my hands and rushed over immediately to wipe up the spill? Or if only I’d performed some Olympian acrobatic feat and closed the physical gap between us in inhuman time.
After a child’s bump, bruise, or scrape, a mother’s mind races with what ifs and if onlys. We dwell on the things we didn’t do, the things we need to do, and the things we convince ourselves we MUST do. However, we can also be our harshest critics.
So I’m here to act as a foil to these thoughts since I’ve had my share of them. For those having periods of self-doubt or rehashing choices, read these tips to reframe your perspective and take stock of all you’re doing right.
If You’re Feeling Like a Bad Mom, keep reading!
Unrealistic Expectations Are Everywhere
Just because I can run a marathon while reading the Iliad and eating a pancake doesn’t mean I should. Ok, it would take A LOT of training to run a marathon in my current physical state, but you get the idea.
There’s a reason why role stress is considered a contributing factor for depression in women. We’re maintaining living spaces, raising children, working outside the home, and maybe even pursuing higher education. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like all this requires more than the 24 hours available in a single day.
There is some negotiation needed on our part to defy the unrealistic expectations set for us, as these are the same issues our children, particularly our daughters, will face in the future. Keep this in mind when negative thoughts pop up on your parenting journey.
Also, check out my post on 11 Ways to Make Life the Opposite of Stressful for ways to reduce stress!
Being the Go-To Caregiver is Exhausting
My husband can often lend a helping hand, so I am very fortunate. Even so, there are moments when he can help, but my daughter only wants me, and that’s it. The shrieks that come out of her mouth when he tries to hold her would make you think she was given to her worst enemy, which right now happens to be the whacky notion of keeping a clip in her hair. (This is an ongoing struggle. If you see my child and me out and about, I can guarantee her hair will look like she just lost a battle with an industrial air duct.)
Being the go-to caregiver is a great joy and a lot of work. There may be moments that leave you amazed that this little person is following you around while basking in the glory of having you as their mom. Then there may be moments when you just want to be on the toilet without them tugging your legs.
For those struggling with finding time for self-care, read my post Go from Procrastinator to Self Care Planner for some tips on making it a priority!
Motherhood Changes Thinking
Motherhood is like riding a unicycle on a high wire only to remember that you work at a bank and know nothing about circuses–except the one constantly running at your home. If you’re feeling scattered and overwhelmed, you’re not alone because motherhood changes our thinking.
Since thoughts and feelings go hand in hand, it only makes sense that feeling like a bad mom may stem from those changes. You are now responsible for a small person constantly getting into things, whether attempting to use their incredibly tiny fingers to pry those protective plastic caps off any outlet in sight or climbing all the furniture three times their height.
So let this be a reminder that thoughts and feelings are fleeting and received through our lens of experience or current stressors. In short, just because you think something, doesn’t make it true.
Highlights Areas for Growth
Few things bring out our vulnerabilities in the way becoming a parent does. For example, I am hyper-independent personality-wise. So it is only fitting that my daughter is obsessed with me.
Children naturally want to be with you most of the time, especially as toddlers, when they begin racing around, exploring, and realizing they can be away from you. So I have no complaints about having a daughter who thinks I’m her world because that’s nature’s design, plus all the cuddles.
But I have noticed a clear distinction between her and other children her age. She is a bit more shy, sensitive, and selective of those with whom she interacts. Not that this surprises me because I was all those things growing up.
Our children are both our students and teachers. Therefore, we have things to learn from each other.
If you’re feeling like a bad mom due to grappling with challenges your child throws your way, it may highlight a change required to handle them. That’s not to say you’re doing something wrong; the change may be to allow, take a step back, or reframe how you view the challenges.
For me, the growth highlighted is that it’s ok to take a step back from other roles/responsibilities to take care of this baby. As someone who is very professionally and educationally goal-oriented, this took work! But I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to do it.
Feeling Like a Bad Mom Doesn’t Make You One
Everyone has bad days and times of overgeneralization and catastrophic thinking, but thankfully, your baby is not a mind reader. Nor is anyone else. (Ok, not to say this isn’t in the realm of possibility as some people be straight-up vicious at reading body language, which is incredibly telling, but you get my point here).
This idea calls back to being our own worst critics. Sometimes it can be challenging to maintain perspective, especially with the emotional connection we share with our children.
Remember to check in with yourself. I mention this on the blog here and there, but an exercise that greatly helps me with situations is to envision it from the point of a friend. For example, what would I say if my friend had the same problem and asked for my input? Usually, that’s where the best answer lies.
Feeling Like a Bad Mom Shows How Much You Care
The fact that you’re being critical of your parenting shows the love and care you’re giving to your baby. It may seem strange, but this showcases that you’re making a great effort, trying to improve, and ultimately want the best for them.
It’s easier said than done, but don’t be so harsh on yourself. Parenthood is a long journey, requiring the mental stamina of a Buddhist monk most days.
But your feelings show who you are, which is a fantastic mom.
I hope this post shifted your perspective! But also, keep in mind this is not clinical advice. If you have these thoughts in excess, don’t hesitate to contact a therapist or trusted healthcare provider. You can also text/call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773. Or if you are in immediate crisis, text/call 988.
Are there any other ways you buffer the unrealistic expectations of being a parent? I’d love to know, so drop a comment or email me!