I have been a mother for not even two years, and I have already felt like I'm failing at the job a solid five thousand times. At least. I honestly can't help but think that constant self-doubt and motherhood go hand-in-hand, as I haven't spent a significant amount of time feeling completely confident in my abilities. There are simply an endless amount of moments that'll make you feel like you're failing as a mom, even when you're not. They're inescapable; They're inevitable; They'll leave you questioning your sanity and your choice to reproduce and whether or not you're really the right person for the job (hint: you are).
As my son continues to learn and grow, these moments of complete self-doubt have evolved. I used to think I was failing because I simply didn't know what I was doing. A newborn can stump even the most confident and well-researched of new mothers, and my little bundle of joy gave me countless moments where I felt like I was failing him. From the times I struggled breastfeeding to the times I couldn't get him to stop crying to the times I honestly didn't want to change a single diaper again for the remainder of my life, having a baby makes you look at your abilities (and your failures) in a way you probably never have before.
And now that my son is a toddler, we've crossed the threshold into tantrums and potty training and, well, feeling like a failure has become somewhat of a second nature. Rationally, I know I am not failing my son and that I'm a great mother who is doing her best, but emotionally and physically I feel like I'm constantly teetering between perfection and a total meltdown of epic proportions, of which this world has never seen.
So, in the name of complete solidarity for all the mothers who have ever felt like they're complete and total failures, here are a few moments when you'll feel like you're doing your worst when, really, you're doing your best. Hang in there, mom.
When Your Kid Is Crying And You Can't Get Them To Stop
This moment will happen more than you ever realized and more than you will ever care to admit. I can vividly remember the first time I held my crying baby and, no matter what I did, could not get him to stop. He wasn't hungry; His diaper wasn't dirty; He wasn't tired; He wasn't hurt. He just wanted (or needed) to cry, and all I could do was hold him and sway back and forth and cry myself. In that moment, I felt like a complete failure. I honestly was waiting for CPS to come through the door at any moment, and take my baby away from me. Of course, he did stop crying and I realized that, well, sometimes a baby just needs to cry (not unlike mothers, actually).
When They Refuse To Listen To You
Now that my darling son is a toddler, there have been plenty of times when he absolutely refuses to listen to me. No matter what I do (short of corporal punishment, because that's not something my family has decided to practice) my son will ignore me, almost defiantly. In these moments, along with absolute frustration, I feel like I'm doing something wrong. Maybe I am not giving enough guidance; Maybe I am not being a strong, disciplined enough mother; Maybe I am not providing enough structure. I mean, the self-doubt never ends.
When You're Feeling Utterly Frustrated
Yeah, sometimes the frustration leaves me walking towards the liquor cabinet at some inappropriate hour and feeling like being a mother is something I just wasn't made to do. Frustration and parenthood go hand-in-hand, of course, but the overwhelming levels of frustration you're actually exposed to can feel nothing short of detrimental and defeating.
When You're Too Exhausted To Do What You Wanted/Needed To Do
There have been so many days when exhaustion just wins out, and I have to say no to something I wanted and/or needed to do. Whether it was taking my kid to the park or starting on that impressive load of laundry that clearly exists to haunt my dreams, when I say "no" to something because I'm just too tired, I feel like I'm failing my son, my family, and myself.
In these moments, of course, it helps to remind myself that self-care is extremely important, and choosing to nap over choosing to do that one thing, is probably a good call. I deserve rest and relaxation and some time alone, just as much as the next person.
When Your Kid Hurts Themselves In A Way You Could Have Prevented
Look, kids are going to get hurt. It's like, science. However, when my kid hurts himself and I know it was something I could have prevented, I can't help but feel like a horrific mother. For example, my biggest parenting mistake to date involved my son falling off of our counter and a subsequent (and expensive) trip to the Emergency Room. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, I felt so horrible. Thankfully, I had a kind doctor, who also happened to be a mother, remind me that I felt horrible because I cared so much about my son. I was a good mother who had made a mistake, and more mistakes were bound to happen.
When You Don't Spend As Much Time With Them As You'd Like
I recently transitioned from working at home to working in an office, and wow, talk about guilt. I don't spend nearly as much time with my son as I used to when I worked out of our home, and that has left me feeling like a bad mom. It's strange; I can completely overlook the fact that I am providing for my family financially, and showing my son that women can procreate and be productive, working members of society while simultaneously pursuing their dreams and feeling fulfilled, and just skip to, "Well, I'm not around as much so he must forget who I am and that makes me a total failure." Of course, that isn't true and no, it's not rational, but my brain clearly thinks whatever it wants to think.
When They Don't Reach A Milestone As Quickly As Another Kid Has
Every child develops differently, so pitting one kid against another in an attempt to try and figure out if one is developing at a "normal" rate, is not a good idea. However, parents (myself included) are constantly looking for ways to validate their efforts, and ensure that they are doing what they need to do for their kid. This can, sometimes, look like a complete and total freak out when you realize that your kid isn't saying as many words as someone else's, or isn't using the potty as successfully as someone else's, or isn't rolling over with the same confidence as someone else's. It's insanity, you guys. Motherhood is insanity.
When You Cut Corners Because You're Overwhelmed
When I am so tired or overwhelmed that I heat up something for dinner in the microwave, instead of make an all-organic meal from scratch, I feel like a failure. When I let my kid do something that may or may not come back to bite me in the ass (like play with markers or get into a cabinet of tupperware) but it keeps him happy and frees up some time for me, I feel like a failure. I realize that (probably) every mother has these moments, but it doesn't mean that I don't hold myself to unrealistic expectations, and chastise myself when I don't meet them.
When You Have To Tell Them "No" Because Of Money/Time/Little-To-No Help
If my son wants something (these days, an Elmo toy) but I can't get it because I either don't have the time or don't want to spend the money, I feel like I'm failing. It's not about spoiling my kid, but I do want to be able to provide him with the things he wants and needs. I know that we are privileged more than most, and that is something I do not take for granted and spend my time being thankful for, but still: we're not millionaires and we don't have endless pockets and when finances keep us from doing something for our kid, I feel like I'm a bad parent.
When You Resent Your Kid, Even For A Second...
There have been plenty of exhaustion-fueled, frustrated moments when I resent my son and his presence in my life. I mean, we can all be honest: having a child is difficult, and some things would be much easier if they weren't around. I also realize that I am lucky to have a healthy son and, because I also know what it is like to lose a baby, I feel unbelievably guilty when this inevitable thought crosses my mind.
...And You're So Overwhelmed You Just Want To Quit
There isn't a mother in the world who hasn't thought, at least once, about packing up her bags, walking out the door and never mothering another human ever again. I honestly think it is the one thing that every mother thinks, but doesn't want to say out loud. I, for one, have eyed my vehicle and the open road a time or two, only to feel incredibly guilty for even contemplating leaving my family. Those thoughts aren't serious ones, to be sure, but they sure do feel real in the moment, and in that moment, I feel like a complete failure for not being able to enjoy absolutely every moment of motherhood. Even the shitty ones.
When You Realize Motherhood Is Harder Than You Thought It Would Be
Honestly, when the reality of parenthood hits you in the face and you are left to sulk in your overwhelming frustration, you feel like a failure. These moments happen all the damn time, but it definitely doesn't make them any less real.
The most important thing to remember (the thing I try and remind myself every damn day) is that it's okay to feel like you're failing at motherhood. In fact, when you do, it's probably a sign that you're really not. If you care this much about your kid and the kind of parent you are to them, you're doing a hell of a job.