Every night, after I put my kids to bed, I reflect back on my day. What kind of mother was I? How often did I raise my voice or shut down a conversation because I was too "busy"? Most of the time, my answers are immediately followed by regret. There was more I should've done, more I should've said, and more hugs I should've given. In other words, more often than not I feel like I've fallen short. Thankfully, there are a few things anyone can say to the mom who feels like she's failing, and trust me when I say I need to hear them on a pretty consistent basis.
As a work-from-home mom who's completely responsible for nearly every aspect of my family's lives, I feel the pressure to get everything right every single day. Most of the time, though, I fail to meet that (unrealistic) expectation. My son has an accident in his pants. My daughter argues when I make a simple request. My husband is preoccupied with work outside of the home so he's blissfully unaware of the daily struggles I face and, as a result, I'm on my own. Very little of my time is spent celebrating my parental accomplishments because, at least in my mind, every win is followed by another mistake.
I've been told this these feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy are part of being a parent. And, honestly, I don't have any magical answers to relieve my own self-angst. But I do know that failure is also a necessary part of success and, as parents, we should be cutting ourselves more slack. So with that in mind, if you have a mom in your life that's feeling particularly disheartened, here are a few positive, supportive things you can say:
"Every Mom Feels This Way"
Sometimes it helps to know you're not alone. When I've had a day where nothing goes right and I'm so close to locking myself in the bathroom and crying in the tub, I don't want to be reminded of the "do it all" mom on social media, or the neighbor joyfully skipping down the sidewalk with her kids. I need empathy and understanding and someone to tell me "same." I need to remember that every mom goes through challenging times at some point during the day.
"Focus On The Big Picture"
One bad day doesn't define your abilities as a parent. Yes, I repeat this mantra often.
It's easy, as mothers, to tell ourselves that one mistake erases every good thing we've accomplished. I'm pretty good at convincing myself I'm a failure if my kids go to bed upset, but I rarely remember how happy they were the rest of the day. We all need perspective,from time to time, and it's kind to offer it up when a mom can't see the forest through the trees.
"Give Yourself A Break"
I never give myself a break, and when I do I feel guilty for giving myself a break. I mean, what kind of messed up emotional terrorism is that?
If life, work, and motherhood have you feeling down, hear me now: take a break. Recharge. If anyone deserves it, it's you. Not only will a break benefit you, it'll benefit your kids, too.
"Here Are All The Things You're Doing Right"
Yesterday I couldn't wait for my kids to go to bed because we had such a trying, exhausting, overwhelming day. I have a lot of days like that, actually, and I always end the day feeling like a failure.
The problem? I overlook all the great things I did! I mean, what about that awesome 30-second dance break with my son? Or the brief conversation highlighting how well my daughter is doing in school? What about the fact that my kids are well-rounded, funny, compassionate, and kind? Remind every mom of her parental accomplishments and you might change her perspective.
"Kids Are Forgiving & Resilient"
I'm so grateful that my kids are endlessly forgiving. And now that I'm a parent, when I think back to my own childhood I have so much more respect for what my single, working mother went through. I know why she was sometimes short with me, why she didn't always have time to play, and why she set the rules she set. I wasn't always happy as a kid, but I've grown into a pretty well-rounded adult.
In other words, kids are resilient. Hell, they're made that way for a very specific reason. Plus, if you're worried you're doing something to "mess up" your kids, you're doing great as a parent.
"Tomorrow Is A New Day"
It sounds cheesy, sure, but it's true. No matter what happens today, tomorrow is a fresh start. In fact, each moment is a new start. Remind us moms it's never too late to stop, evaluate a situation, make a few adjustments if necessary, and go about our day.
"Your Feelings Are Valid"
You are allowed to feel whatever it is you're feeling. Full stop. After all, moms aren't perfect. We're not superwomen by any means, and acknowledging that fact helps lift an unrealistic burden off our already tired shoulders. We're human, and flawed, and we're going to make mistakes.
Never miss the opportunity to remind us that we're doing OK, and how we feel is OK, too.
"I Am In Awe Of You"
When you're feeling at your worst, I guarantee you some mom is looking at your life and thinking, "Wow, I wish I was her." Even on our worst days, when we feel like we're the absolute worst parents on the planet, us moms get things done. In fact, we get more done by 9:00 a.m. than most people accomplish in an entire day.
When we're feeling down, remind us that we're awe-inspiring and capable and badass. Because, well, we are.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.