As a closet perfectionist and an outright masochist, I would be lying if I told you I didn't find myself blaming myself for damn near everything on a pretty regular basis. I'm the one who says, "I'm sorry," way too frequently and I'm the one who can watch someone do something, than apologize to them that they did it. I know, it's a problem. Especially because there are parenting moments you should never blame yourself for, that I end up blaming myself for, anyway. In the end, I guess I think it's better to blame myself and say I had some control over a situation, than it is to admit that — whether I like it or not — there are some things I just can't control. Ever. To me, failure isn't as scary as a powerlessness.
However, constantly blaming myself for things I have no control over isn't very healthy, especially when those things have to do with my parenting. I'm not helping my son when I'm sitting in my own self-loathing, thinking about a particular situation over and over again instead of just moving on and chalking it up as one of many teaching moments I can learn from. The measure of a good mother isn't how often she feels like sh*t, contrary to cultural belief. With the unending judgment and shame and mom-blaming, I could see how self-loathing or self-depreciation could be considered an "admiral" quality in a mother, but it's not. You don't need to hate yourself to be a good mom. In fact, you're the best mom you can be when you love yourself through every trying, difficult situation. (Something I'm constantly trying to do.)
So, with all of that in mind, here are just a few of what I can only imagine to be many parenting moments you'll definitely want to blame yourself for, that you have no business being blamed for at all. The best thing you can do, as a parent, is be kind to yourself. After all, you'll be teaching your kid how to be kind to themselves, too.
When Someone Judges Your Parenting
It's inevitable and it's the worst and there's nothing you can do about it. Everyone is going to have an opinion about your parenting style because, well, everyone parents differently. I would like to tell you not to worry about it at all, but we're human and we crave human interaction and validation; it's completely normal to have someone's judgment bother you and even leave you looking inward and blaming yourself or doubting yourself.
However, the only person who knows how to parent your kid, is you. You're the best person for the job and you're the one who understand your kid and the intricacies of their life, your life and your family life. In other words, someone else's judgment isn't your problem.
When Your Kid Won't Stop Crying
When your kid is crying there's usually something you can do to remedy the situation. Usually there's a diaper you can change, a mouth you can feed or a hug you can give. Other times, however, your kid will cry just to cry and there won't be a damn thing you can do.
I will never forget the first time this happened to me. My son was just a few months old and he was crying for no discernible reason. I had changed him and breastfed him and held him and swayed him back and forth and nothing seemed to help. I started blaming myself — wondering if there was something I was missing or something I had done or maybe I just wasn't the best person to be his mom — but he eventually did stop crying and I realized that, hey, sometimes kid cry. As long as you're there to try and sooth them and do what you can do, the rest isn't on you. It's not your fault.
When You Feel Like You're Failing
The expectations society puts on mothers are brutal, and the pressure to be (or at least appear to be) perfect is palpable. As a result, it's difficult not to look at every mistake as a complete failure, instead of an inevitable reminder that, hey, you're a human being.
So, when you feel like you're failing, know that you're not. Know that perfection isn't possible and how close you get to that impossible standard isn't a representation of how great a mother you are. You're doing a wonderful job when all goes according to plan and you're doing a wonderful job when the plan explodes in your face in the worst of ways. You're not failing, you're just being a normal human being and a normal, loving mother.
When Your Kid Falls And Gets Hurt
You can be the most vigilant, most careful, most shameless helicopter parent on the entire planet, and your kid is still going to get hurt. I can almost guarantee it. Short of putting them in a bubble, your child will experience pain at some point in their life and it won't be your fault. In fact, it will be a necessity.
Pain is part of life, and it's part of the human condition to not only experience it, but learn how to push past it or use it to your benefit or simply endure it. My kid has so many scrapes and bruises from playing and falling, it's hard not to look at him and think, "You could probably do a better job at protecting your kid, lady." However, I know that falling down is part of life, so when my son falls I don't spend time blaming myself, I just help him get back up.
When You Feel So Overwhelmed You Don't React The Way You Want To
Parenting is hard, you guys. You're sleep deprived and you feel an intense amount of unending pressure and you're constantly being pushed in a number of directions simultaneously, taking care of not only a kid but yourself and maybe your job and maybe your partner and your home and every other responsibility an adult has.
So, it comes as no surprise that feeling so overwhelmed you either snap or yell or say something you don't mean or just react in a way you wouldn't normally react, is normal. It's not your fault. You're a human being and you have limits and I guarantee you, your kid will test them. Now, should we work to keep those reactions to a minimum and remove ourselves from certain situations before those reactions occur? Of course. I know I do and I've learned — through trial and error, mostly — that retreating to the bathroom for a few minutes is a better alliterative to yelling or lashing out irrationally.
When Your Kid Throws A Tantrum In Public
It'll happen, and there just won't be anything you can do about it.
I will never forget the most horrific tantrum my son has ever thrown, that just-so-happened to be in the middle of a bank. I had timed our outing perfectly — right after my son's nap, after he had something to eat and right after I changed a dirty diaper — and I was confident that we could make it in and out of the bank with no problems whatsoever. Yeah, I was wrong. He threw a horrible fit and screamed and cried and thrashed his little body around and I ended up leaving early, the checks I aimed to deposit still in my hand. Sometimes, tantrums just happen. The world is overwhelming and kids have feelings they can't pinpoint, let alone articulate or understand. It's not your fault when these tantrums happen, and I'd venture to guess there's not a whole lot you can do to avoid them.
When Your Kid Refuses To Listen To You
You're not a "bad parent" raising some "brat kid" just because your kid doesn't always listen to you. They're testing boundaries and being defiant and learning, and not doing absolutely everything you say is part of the process (for better or worse).
When Your Kid Watches More Television Than You Would Like
I'm sure people could easily say there are other activities you could do with your kid and you could just turn the television off entirely and you could be doing more to keep your kid engaged in other ways, but I say that you need to do what's best for you.
For example, I have endometriosis so for a couple days a month I am rendered relatively useless. The pain I experience during my periods is so severe, I find myself laying in the fetal position in bed as a way to at least get through the day without using narcotics. On those days, my kid will end up watching Toy Story 3 a few "too many" times, because it makes him happy and he can play and watch his movie while I can rest and take care of myself. Do I feel guilty that I wasn't able to take my kid outside or read more books with him or just turn the damn television off? Sure, but I need to remind myself that it's not my fault. Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do.
When You Order In Instead Of Make A Meal
Yeah, sorry, but I refuse to give myself too hard a time for going to my favorite Chinese take-out restaurant or ordering a pizza when I'm just exhausted from work and parenting and have other things I can do around the house (or with my son) instead of cooking.
There are only so many hours in the day and, honestly, some of those hours need to be (or should be, at least) reserved for you and only you. You need time to relax and time to focus on self-care and if that means dialing your meals in so you can sit on the couch and simply take a few moments to get back to neutral, do it. Order that pizza and don't apologize for it.
Literally Any Time You Make A Mistake
When you remove yourself from the situation — or even when you look at someone else's situation — it's pretty easy to say, "Yeah, mistakes will happen and they're normal and no one should beat themselves up about it." However, when you're the one making the mistake, it's not so easy.
Which is why it's important to remind yourself, dear reader, that you'll make far more parenting mistakes than you would like to admit, and it's not your fault. As long as you learn from them and make the necessary adjustment and you're kind to yourself, everything will be OK. You don't have to endlessly blame yourself for making a mistake, because that's like endlessly blaming yourself for being human.
When You Have No Idea What To Do
Motherhood isn't innate; you have to learn how to parent because you're constantly learning about your kid. Sure, you can have an idea of what you would like to do and how you would like to raise your child, but it's impossible to know what kind of a baby or toddler or kid or young-adult the human being you brought into the world, will inevitably be. You need to give yourself the space to learn and adjust, so you should never feel bad or blame yourself or apologize for not knowing how to handle every single situation you face.
You're not a mind reader. You're not a fortune teller. You're not someone who can see into the future and predict exactly what will happen. You're a human being and you're doing your best and, in the end, your best is exactly what your kid needs.