Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

A Letter To Myself On My Worst Parenting Days

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You’re having one of those days. I know. You’ve been here before. The kids were up and whining before you even opened your eyes this morning and every last thing seems to be falling apart. You didn’t feed them a good breakfast. You didn’t get them out the door on time. You didn’t make it to the park or finish your to-do list. You didn’t do a lot of things. What you did do, however, was yell. You’re starting to feel like the worst parent in the world, even though you know that isn’t true. But you’re still at your personal worst, and that’s bad enough, right?

How long did you make it before you started crying today? 8:00 a.m.? 9:00 a.m.? Some moms don’t have these breakdowns, you tell yourself. Most moms could have handled this just fine. You should have been able to handle this just fine.

You’re wondering why the most trivial things set you off some days. Why can’t you deal with the most basic parenting dilemmas? Tantrums, whining, small disasters — you know these are all a part of the job. Why do you breeze through this stuff some days, while on other days you’re rattled to your core? You know how you want to react to your kids — with kindness and understanding and calm. Why then, do you keep doing the wrong thing? Why do you still yell and mess up over and over again?

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I don’t know. If I knew the answers to these questions we wouldn’t be where we are today, in the thick of one of your worst parenting days. All I can tell you is this: It’s going to get better. You’re going to get better. You always do.

I want you to trust that the kids will remember the good — that your love for them will always win out in the end. They’ll forgive you for your worst parenting days. You ought to forgive yourself, too.

The fact that you feel like the worst parent in the world right now? It sucks, but it also means that you care. The whole beating-yourself-up thing? It means that you want to do better. Yes, you could definitely use a bit more perspective, but the truth is that you feel this way because you want to give your kids the best of yourself, and nothing less. That’s why it hurts so bad when you mess up, because you are all in. Being a mother means something to you.

It means you love your kids. It means you want them to feel safe and secure. You want them to have every opportunity, feel supported at every turn. You want them to know how loved they are — always. But then you yell or shoo them away while you work or get impatient when they need you and you wonder if they’ll remember more good moments or bad.

I want you to trust that the kids will remember the good — that your love for them will always win out in the end. They’ll forgive you for your worst parenting days. You ought to forgive yourself, too.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley
This feeling you’re having right now? The feeling that you are the worst parent ever, that you're messing up your kids forever, that you’ll never be enough? Every mom has this feeling. Every mom falls short of her own expectations. Every mom has been where you are, right here, right now, on your worst parenting day.

I know you have this idea in your head that there are other moms out there who have it all together, who don’t have bad days like yours. Or worse yet, you know that there aren’t any moms who have it all together, but they’ve all got it more together than you. There are moms who don’t yell. There are moms who keep their houses clean. There are moms who do crafts regularly. There are moms who find time to workout every day, who get their kids to eat homemade food, whose kids sleep through the night and don’t watch so damn much TV. There are moms who would have handled a day like yours with ease.

That’s all true. But this feeling you’re having right now? The feeling that you are the worst parent ever, that you're messing up your kids forever, that you’ll never be enough? Every mom has this feeling. Every mom falls short of her own expectations. Every mom has been where you are, right here, right now, on your worst parenting day.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I know it feels like you’re failing, but you’re not. I know it feels like you can’t bounce back, but you will. The way you feel right now? It’s not reality. The reality is that you are going to try harder tomorrow, and the next day, and the next time the kids drive you crazy instead of giving up. You’re going to keep doing the hard work of parenting, even when you know that there will be more days like this. You’re going to keep showing your kids that your love for them is deeper than your desire to be perfect. I need you to trust that doing these things is enough — that you will always be enough for your kids.

Even when it feels impossible, you will persevere. You will come back. I know because I’ve watched you do it time and time again. That is not failure. That is strength. I know it may not feel this way today, but tomorrow you'll rise.