What do you do when you feel like you’re failing as a mother? Do you sink into self-loathing or throw a pity party for yourself? Do you fight off the doubt with prayer and good memories? Or do you force yourself to focus on accomplishing one little task at a time, fighting to keep your mind clear?
Defeating Mom Guilt by Rethinking What it Means to Fail
Every mother has a season of failure that they travel through. Most of us have anymore. It seems impossible to escape on the days when you seem unable to do anything and your to-do list tasks are piling up around you. And it seems reasonable to place all the blame on ourselves with three little words:
I am failing.
I understand this. I’ve been there (and revisit frequently).
Since I’m a natural morning person, once the sun is up it’s hard for me to break my morning routine. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I still wake up. Only I wake up feeling sick-to-my-stomach like I’ve caught a virus. It’s understandable that I can’t get stuff done. Still, the self-doubt begins to creep in, and I begin to view myself as a failure at everything just because I couldn’t do a few measly tasks.
Which brings us to the main point of this post: why do we judge ourselves on such a wide variety of tasks and abilities? I doubt even a company who supported cross-training their employees would expect as much as we do of ourselves.
Dear Mom, you are not failing if…
…the house isn’t clean
Did you clean up before you were “Mom”? The only thing that relates cleaning to being a Mom is that you’re dealing with more toys and snack wrapper than you are paper clutter. The house may not be clean, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing as a mother. In fact, that might even mean that you are succeeding.
…the food is burnt
Again, didn’t you cook before you were a mother? So what if you were halfway through cooking the meal when something happened to distract you. It may not taste great, but it’s still edible.
Even if you completely ruined the dish, life goes on. You’ll find something else to eat (even if you have to scavenge to the back of the cupboards). In the meantime, you still love and care for your family.
…the favorite shirt is dirty
Yes, you may be your child’s hero. You may have to deal with tears and disappointment. Maybe you “should have remembered”, but you also need to cut yourself some slack. It’s a shirt; it’s just a bad day. Meanwhile, your child is still clothed and is still loved.
…the child misbehaves
Everybody was born with free will. You cannot control your child any more than you could stop a stampede of elephants. At the end of the day, you can only control your own actions. You can teach a thousand lessons on godliness, but your child is going to disobey you one day. That doesn’t mean you weren’t a good enough teacher. It simply means that your child has free will.
…your child is hurt
Watching your child be in physical pain is bad enough. It’s even worse when your child has been emotionally wounded by a callous comment or intentional attack. You want to protect them. You don’t want to see them hurting. I understand, but I also know that it’s not your fault. You can’t constantly walk through life with your child, just like you can’t control other people’s actions. Your child is going to get hurt by others. That doesn’t mean you are a bad mother.
You’re Not Failing; You’re Practicing
Seriously, it’s time to cut ourselves a break. Even natural talents have to be cultivated by practice. So why are we so quick to feel like we’re failing when we’re struggling with one aspect of our lives? Do we seriously expect to be masters of such a wide variety of tasks that we attempt?
“Homemaking” is a quaint little term. Want to know why it’s so popular? Because there’s no way to describe all of the roles that we play as mothers: cook, maid, nurse, teacher, mentor, chauffer, financial expert, etc. Comanuteamenchaufinect is just not as catchy as “homemaking” (and that’s not even considering if you’re balancing a full-time job with your family).
You would never expect your child to be able to sprint while dribbling the soccer ball during their first season. You wouldn’t expect your child to be able to accurately pitch a curveball the first time they went to pitch. And if your child was disappointed by not being able to do these things, you would tell them three little words, “Practice makes perfect.”
There’s one thing about practice that we often neglect to talk about. When we are still learning a skill, we have to take time away from other things so we can actually learn the skill.
This means that we’ll struggle to handle even the things that we’ve mastered because we’re still trying to do everything while learning something new. Of course our whole schedule will be thrown off balance!
And as mothers, we’re always going to be learning something new. That’s just how crazy chaotic lives work.
How to Actually Fail as a Mother
The only way to fail at being a mother is to not be available when your child needs you.
I’m not telling you to always rush to your child’s aid or to hover over their activities. I’m talking about the moments when your child feels lost inside a mountain of a problem, or feels like she’s being swallowed up by emotion. I’m talking about the things that only a mother can fix by showing love.
This is the only way to fail.
So let the dishes pile high. Let a mountain of clothes build up. (It doubles as a fun toy!) So what if you haven’t vacuumed in a month? You are a great – not just a good mother – because you love your child.