Before I had kids, I was obsessed with reruns of Supernanny. Jo Frost, in all her authoritative British majesty, would enter the chaotic home, assess what was wrong, and implement a plan to help frazzled parents assert authority. I used to watch in eye-rolling judgment and say things like, "Those dumb parents! What did they think was going to happen when they did x, y, z?" I still love Supernanny reruns, but now I watch them with much more sympathy. Because, yes, the mothers who call upon goddess Jo Frost are certainly making mistakes, but making mistakes doesn't make you a bad mom.
Think back on your life, literally any aspect of it: childhood, school, career, friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, driving, artistic endeavors, you name it. Can you think of even one situation where you haven't made a mistake? I certainly can't. Motherhood is no different, yet our perception of motherhood (and the need to become seemingly perfect parents) can hurt us in ways that, well, most other things can't. We want to be the absolute best, flaw-free versions of ourselves for our children; We don't want them to suffer for what we perceive to be our own screw-ups; We want them to see us as steadfast decisions makers who are always correct and, in turn, reliable and trustworthy. We think back to what an amazing job our own mothers did when raising us (subconsciously eliminating any of their mistakes from our memories) and mourn the idea that we will never provide our own children with a "perfect mommy like I had." Or, maybe we think back to the horrible, perhaps even damaging mistakes of our mothers and how much they affected us, then spiral down a cycle of fear that convinces us that we'll never be able to rise above our own troubled pasts (subconsciously eliminating all the things we've done well).
The truth of the matter is that mistakes are going to happen, but in the big picture, they usually aren't as detrimental as we believe them to be. Actually, we can learn and grow from the mistakes we make so, really, mistakes make us better parents. Most importantly, mistakes don't define us or our roles as mothers or our journey through motherhood. So, if you find yourself making the following mistakes, take a deep breath and trust me; these mistakes are in no way indicitive of your ability to be a great mother. These mistakes just mean you're human.
You Put Baby Somewhere Only To Watch Or Hear Them Fall
I don't know if this happens to a majority of people, but it definitely happens to enough that I have to assume it happens to a majority of people. It's a simple mistake, a potentially really dangerous mistake, but ultimately a common mistake. You set the baby down somewhere, you turn around for a second, and that is the precise moment when they will learn to roll over, at which point they will roll off the bed, couch, changing table, whatever. Generally speaking, it's not a big deal and you are left far more wounded and traumatized than your child. Remember, do not leave your child unattended or unsecured on an elevated surface. If your child takes a fall, monitor their behavior for 24 hours and then move on as best you can. At this point, your baby will almost certainly have already forgotten about it.
You Misuse A Car Seat In Some Way
Car seats sound pretty straightforward to the casual observer (which most of us are before we actually purchase one), but there are a helluva lot of components to these things (not to mention a bunch of different varieties) so user error is not uncommon. Car seat safety rules are usually learned over time or after someone points out an error (often on Facebook). Yes, every parent should thoroughly research these rules ahead of time, but let's face it: you don't know what you don't know, so it's understandable that many of these rules fly under the radar, especially when you're in those early days and have 9,000,000 new things to learn.
You Misread Your Baby's Cries/Signals/Cues
Even if you can sometimes tell what a baby's different cries mean, in the addlepated, sleep deprived days of early infancy (and really any time before they're non-verbal), all cries begin to sound the same. You'll think, "This is a hungry cry," and you'll try to feed them and it turns out, well, they're not hungry. This doesn't make you a bad mom. This means you're mom to a child who is crying and may or may not even have any idea what they, themselves, want.
You Forget A School Event
It happens. Maybe your kid didn't bring the reminder home or you got swept up in a morning meaning and completely forgot to set an alarm to leave on your phone. Whatever. Point is, they had a Halloween parade at noon or some other thing that is so important to them (that they'll probably forget about in a week) and you missed it. Seriously, don't worry. (This scenario may or may not be based on my own kindergarten experience that my mom still hasn't quite forgiven herself for. Mom, seriously, I didn't even care. Don't worry about it.)
You Scream At Your Child
What mom hasn't, at some point, completely lost her shit on her kids? It happens. You're never proud after you've hit that Mommie Dearest level of yelling, but it happens. In fact, even though you thought letting it out would make you feel better, you often feel way, way worse about it afterwards. My suggestion? Apologize to your kid, think back about the situation and try to pinpoint your triggers, explore better coping skills for next time, and move on. Simultaneously, succumb to the undeniable fact that, at some point, this will probably happen again.
You Let Your Child Make A Stupid Choice
Sometimes, in our desire to let our kids spread their wings and explore their independence, they do something spectacularly stupid. Perhaps you will let them explore the jungle gym on their own and they will slide down a rope and wind up with horrible rope burn on their hands. Maybe, with your blessing, they get a questionable haircut and instantly regret it. Sure, you might feel bad for allowing them to screw up so wonderfully, but mistakes are important to a child's development. It hurts to see them hurt, emotionally, physically, or otherwise, and of course we don't want them to be put in a dangerous situation, but failures and missteps build resilience and arm our children with first-hand experience for future endeavors.
You Find Yourself Taking Too Much Control
And then there are other times when we make ourselves sick to try to get our kids to conform to a particular set of behaviors, even when it's absolutely not important and is serving our own needs, wants, and egos, way more than theirs. For example, I once literally wrestled my son into a Halloween costume. Why? I have absolutely no idea to this day, except that I wanted him to wear it. Like, if the kid doesn't want to wear the costume, what's the point, right? No. I still look back on that with a mix of guilt, embarrassment, and regret, but, hey, live and learn.
You Encourage Your Kid To Do Something That Winds Up Going Poorly
I once watched a mother encourage her timid son to "be brave" and hold a hermit crab. No doubt she wanted this little one to overcome his fears and open himself up to a fun, new experience. After much cajoling and encouragement, the little boy accepted the be-shelled creature onto his open palm with a weak, cautious smile., and it immediately pinched him and would no let go. This sort of phenomenon takes many forms: encouraging the child to take a dance class only to learn they really actually do hate it and also have terrible stage fright. Convincing them to go on a roller coaster only to get to the loop-de-loop and watch them vomit in terror. The list goes on. You may feel like a terrible parent but, hey, that's life. Things aren't always going to go well and even mothers don't know how things will work out.
You Find Yourself Caught Up In The Mommy Wars
Guys, it's one thing to say, " I would never shame another mother!" or "Getting bent out of shape about how someone else parents their child is ridiculous!" and another thing to actually live those beautiful sentiments. It is so easy to stumble into these battlefields unwittingly, and before you know it you're getting into fights on message boards about CIO and BF vs FF. The Mommy Wars are often born from a very real deep-seated insecurity. Mothers, searching for validation, direction, and community, become fixated on certain aspects of parenthood (being a working mom, being a stay-at-home mom, breastfeeding, formula feeding, etc) and, in latching onto the things that work for them or make them comfortable, alienate the moms who choose differently. In a perfect world we will never do this, but in a more realistic world we'll slip up occasionally and (hopefully) quickly remind ourselves that this isn't helping anyone, least of all our children.
You Panic Over Everything
Yeah, that's pretty much the dictionary definition of being a mother, so go ahead and don't feel bad about that one. Seriously, not even for an instant.
You Fail To Meet All Your Parenting Goals
Yeah, it can be a bummer when breastfeeding doesn't work out for you, or you let your kid eat sugar before they turn one, or you never got to teach them sign language, or whatever other beautiful ideas you had before you actually became a mother. The upside of these mistakes is that you gain membership in a pretty cool parenting club. It's called everyone. While some people pretend they're not members, I can assure you that every single parent on the planet has a membership badge.
Look, no mom is perfect. Fortunately, our kids usually love us and know, deep down, that we're trying to be as perfect as we can be.