Last week I wrote about feeling inadequate as a mother and I’ve been unsure how to follow it up. I don’t want to negate how I was feeling because when those times of pain and frustration pass, it’s easy to say “Oh, well that was a bad day. I don’t really mean that.” But we do mean it when we are in the thick of it and we are allowed to feel the way we do. By passing it off as irrational, we diminish the feelings of those people who are in the middle of feeling like they are failing. If we were only pretending to feel that way or only felt it for a couple of hours while they are feeling it day in and day out, we can make them feel worse.
Not that I’m saying that we are supposed to hate ourselves as we parent. If you are feeling like a failure every day, if you feel like your boat is sunk and all you have left to do is drown, please reach out to someone. I hope you know someone who is in a similar situation to you, who understands how you’re feeling. It’s so much easier to reach out to someone who’s arms are muscled from bailing herself rather than someone with smooth, skinny arms who has a boat with a single hole that is already being patched up by a well-oiled attractive person.
And that’s part of why I wrote the blog post that I did. I admit to failing daily. It doesn’t make me less of a mom, even though I feel like it all the time. My little one is functioning, seems pretty happy, gets his nutrition, and is becoming a kind, curious little monkey. And I get credit for that. Just like you.
We give our kids a lot of credit for who they are and what they do. Monkey is so good with shapes and he’s not a year old yet! Monkey has been so gentle with our dog! Monkey gives us no trouble when we try to feed him solid foods! We forget we have to teach them literally everything. Think back to when your little one was first born. What could she do? Monkey was healthy and full term so the features he was born with from the factory were: breathing, crying, sucking. I had to teach him to nurse (which didn’t end up working. A story for another day), to fall asleep, to focus on things. He got older and I taught him how to hold his head up, how to laugh, how to use his vocal chords to do something other than crying.
I forget that sometimes. That I get to take credit for the good things. Monkey is good with shapes because we play with shaped blocks together. He’s gentle with our dog because we have taught him gentleness. He gives us no trouble with solid foods because we let him try everything we eat and he gets great joy from mimicking us. It’s easy to take credit for the bad stuff. Monkey had a bad night last night because I tried to comfort him during a night terror when I should have let him be. Monkey hasn’t learned to walk yet because I don’t put enough time into teaching him (I’m dreading the chase a little bit). But you have to give yourself kudos for the good or else you’ll go crazy.
So I think that you’re doing it right today, even if it’s a monster of a day, even if nothing seems to be going right, even if someone in your life is criticising your parenting tactics. Go ahead and take responsibility for some of the bad habits your little one has picked up, but remember that he or she has learned the good stuff too. And while you may be bailing water, take heart in the fact that you’re still afloat. You have done great things today.