My daughter encompasses all the traits I wish I had, but don't. As a smaller version of her father, she's outgoing, full of personality, kind, compassionate, and really just an all-around great kid. She's 10 years old and settled into the dreaded pre-puberty stage, so a lot of our time is spent battling over which clothes are school-appropriate and how to stand up for herself against bullies. I do my best, but I can't deny the times I just don't feel like I'm enough for my daughter. Actually, I feel like a giant failure most days, if I'm being completely honest.
I can't talk about my girl without mentioning how difficult our relationship has always been. After she was born, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD). Suddenly, my inability to to bond with her (among other symptoms) made sense. It took a long time to find some kind of normalcy though, both as a mother and a woman. That period of time stole parts of me that had to be rewritten completely; pieces that either evaporated or were restructured in the years since. I'm not the same person I was then. Even with treatment, our relationship had already been fractured. She's strong-willed and independent in all the ways that clash with my personality, and I can't remember a day it has felt "easy" to be her parent. I've tried really hard since to make it up to her but, still, I don't feel like I ever can.
Mostly, I feel guilty. Guilty for not bonding with her right away right away. Guilty for bonding with her brother immediately. Guilty for not understanding her more. Guilty for everything I'm doing wrong or everything I'm not doing right. Parenting is hard enough as it is, and sometimes it's simply too much. For someone like me, and the way I grew up, it's like navigating a corn maze while blindfolded. I have no idea what I'm doing or how to make sure my daughter (and son) leave the nest more than OK.
When I look at other mothers and daughters, I wonder how they do it. My thoughts definitely stem from my own turbulent childhood, where I often felt detached from and misunderstood by my own mother. If it weren't for my grandmother (who cared for me through the rough parts of life), I might not know what love and support are supposed to feel like. Even with it, I'm m not sure how to apply it to my own daughter. Some days I wake up wondering if it ever gets easier, or if maybe I shouldn't have been a mother at all. Everyday I'm learning, trying harder than the previous day, but there are still mistakes and failures I wish didn't happen. Here are some of the ways I don't feel I'm not enough. Hopefully someday, I can be.
When She Asks Me To Make Breakfast
I'm not exactly a morning person. Even after two kids who love to wake up early, I'm just not. I wish I were able to do the whole chef thing that early, but those mornings my daughter requests a full breakfast, I feel like a total fail.
When We Argue Over School Clothes
One of our biggest issues, by far, is what my daughter plans on wearing for school. She's already trying to hide belly shirts beneath a large sweatshirt —at 10 years old — to keep it hidden from me. I hate that it's even an issue because it's her body, her choice. However, as a minor, I'm responsible for teaching her what's appropriate for a school setting and what's not. Every morning we encounter the same issues, and every morning I'm in no way prepared enough to handle it properly. I want her to follow the rules but, at the same time, I don't mean to shame her in any way.
When Her Lunch Account At School Is Empty
A few times (when life gets busy), my daughter has come home with an "X" marked on her hand to show her lunch account is empty. I feel like this is something I should know before she's marked, so people don't have to see my failure on my child, and my child doesn't have to be humiliated.
When She Refuses To Brush, Or Wash, Her Hair
Another problem we run into on an almost daily basis, is hygiene. I think I'm doing my best at teaching her self-care, until we start arguing over minor things like washing her hair. Conversations usually end with her stomping off and me frustrated because I wasn't able to emphasize the importance of self-care properly.
When She Asks For Help With Homework
When my daughter brings home her homework and I see things I don't recognize (i.e. Common Core math), I just can't. I'm sorry. I mean, I wasn't all that great in school when I actually attended.
When She Talks About Her Friends
I'm learning, pretty quickly, that I can't win no matter what I do. If she's confiding in me about something her "friends" have done to make her feel bad, or about an argument she's currently having with her "friends" (this happens often at her age), and I give her advice, she's mad I don't understand what she's saying. If I don't offer advice, she thinks I don't care.
When Her Friends Make Her Cry
When she comes home in tears because of something those friends did or said to her? There's no hug, words, conversations, or advice that I can give her that makes her feel better. Trust me, I've tried.
When A Boy Makes Her Cry
There's only been one boy I've known about that she really liked, but I didn't know about him until I found her extremely upset that he was "breaking up with her." It broke my heart. She let me hug and comfort her, but even still, I wasn't enough for her in that moment because I couldn't put her heart back together again.
When She Cries About Anything
I've always been the isolated type. I keep my feelings to myself and I'm not sure how to be there for someone in need. It's not intentional, but when my daughter is upset, sometimes I don't know how to handle it. It reminds me of when she was a baby and we couldn't bond. I wasn't enough then, so it's hard to feel like I am now.
When She Asks To Play Outside
I have a lot of issues, I know. One of them is hearing a knock on the door. I can't tell you why it bothers me, I can only tell you that it does. When my daughter's friends come over asking to play, I tense up, unsure of what the answer should be. I wish I could be better for her.
When She Asks To Help With Dinner
I don't like my toddler helping with dinner and I don't prefer my daughter helping either. Again, I wish I did. Cooking and baking are things that bring me peace. When there are extra hands involved (and mess), it's not peaceful. I admire moms who enjoy letting their kids in the kitchen and wish I could let go and be more like them.
When I Ask Her To Play With Her Brother
I always feel like I'm failing when I have to ask my girl to play with her brother. I get that she's older and in a different phase of life (just as I was when I was asked to play with my little brother), but I always hope she'll do it on her own. Like maybe I'm raising someone so self-aware, she knows how to be there for her sibling without being asked.
When I'm Working
Because I work from home I have almost no boundaries. I work everyday in some way, mostly because I enjoy what I do. This can interfere with my relationship with both of my kids, especially when they need me and I'm busy.
When I Need To Get A Run In
I make self-care a priority because it helps my mental health stay level. Running is part of that priority and I do it five days a week. When I don't, I'm not myself. Some days, though, the last image I see is her face as I'm closing the door. Even though I know I'm doing something good for myself in order to be a better mother, it still pains me to take that time for myself.
When I Really Need Quiet Time
I'm an introvert and I thrive on quiet. I can't help that at the end of a day, my brain is ready it shut off at the exact moment my daughter wants to talk about things.
When I'm Trying To Sneak Off Somewhere Alone
Every Saturday I try to sneak away to the coffee shop by myself. It's a day I don't run, don't (usually) have scheduled work, and am free to linger through the morning. Almost always, my daughter catches me as I head out the door and asks to join. I've told her no before, and it broke her heart. Now, I tell her yes, and it breaks mine because I know I'm saying goodbye to alone time. Even when she joins, something almost always goes wrong. She cries over candy I won't buy, gets upset through a conversation, or something that sours the short trip. I wish it could all be different.
When She Refuses To Do Something
She's at that age where she's testing her independence and how much she can get away with, and I get it. However, having a partner who works a lot means I have to be both mom and dad when I don't always want to be. She's typically compliant, but when she's not I feel defeated.
When She's Insecure About Her Body
I'm the last person to educate anyone on body image. I grew up with women always on diets and still struggle with my own body image issues. When I see her cowering due to her changing body, I'm never quite sure what to say (and not make her uncomfortable in the process). I want her to be body positive, no matter what.
When She Asks A Hard Life Question
Life, death, mortality, or sex? Yeah, I'm not great at answering any questions related to those topics. Recently, I blurted out how babies are made and something about periods and screamed in my head the whole way through it. She hasn't asked me another question since.
When I Fail At Doing Something Nice
The times I bring my daughter a small gift or write a little note, she somehow finds the one thing that's wrong with it.
When She Asks To Spend Time With Me
If she has to ask for time, I'm doing something wrong.
When I Lose My Temper
I stuff a lot deep down until I explode over the smallest thing. Super healthy, right? I'm working on it. When I do lose my temper over, say, the contents of her backpack spilling all over the floor while she plays a video game (instead of picking things up), I always feel terrible when the storm has passed.
When She Questions Whether Or Not I Care
When either of my kids make a statement suggesting I don't care, it kills me. How do I get her, in particular, to always feel I do? I ask myself this very question every morning.
When I Notice My Attention Is Focused More On Her Brother
As I've said before, I have a different relationship with my son than my daughter. He and I bonded immediately and have always been close. It's not my daughter's fault one bit, and I feel terrible for it. When I notice how much attention my son is getting over her, I've already lost. She deserves more than that from me (and everyone else).
When She Slams Her Door
She has feelings and should be able to express them, but the slamming of the door makes me feel like I'm the worst.
When I Find Notebooks Full Of Confessions
Like me, my daughter writes. A lot. It's great hearing about stories she's written. That is, until I stumble upon pages where she scribbled her frustrations with me in there. I did this when I was young, too, and I want to have a better relationship with my girl than I had with my mom.
When She Wants To Do Something I Don't Approve Of
I can't choose her friends, how she dresses when she's older, what she wants to do with her life, or really anything else. I can teach her things and hope for the best but, ultimately, if she chooses something I don't care for — like this one group of friends who does nothing but hurt her — I'm in another losing situation.
When I'm Stressed And She Hugs Me
It says a lot that I have kids who notice when I'm stressed enough to need a hug (without saying so). I'm grateful for that. While I'm happy she's compassionate and empathetic, I wish I weren't stressed enough for her to notice. I really just want my daughter to be a care-free 10 year old.
When I See Her Frown In The Mirror
There have been times I've caught her studying her face and her hair in the mirror, almost as if she's thinking to herself she's not enough. They're the same thoughts I have when I look in the mirror at times, too. Even when I remind her that she's incredible and more than enough, it never feels like it's getting through. Like maybe she doesn't believe me because I don't feel it about myself. Yet another thing I'm working on.
When She Says "I Love You"
In no way do I deserve my children. They're so pure and beautiful, inside and out. I may not always feel like I'm good enough for them, but every day they tell me otherwise.