How I’ve Failed as a Mother, and Why I Keep Going
There are so many things I said I’d never do when I was a mother.
- I knew I’d never let my daughter watch too much TV. I mean how hard could it be to keep it under an hour a day, or off altogether?
- I knew I’d plan her every meal and snack, and it’d always be nutritious.
- I knew I’d always be prepared – she’d never get sunburnt or a bug bite.
- I knew I’d always have playdates and stimulating activities lined up to keep her mind and body busy and growing.
- I knew I’d always speak politely and eloquently in front of her, never losing my temper or swearing.
- I knew I’d always be patient, and remember that her mind and understanding are smaller than mine and requires more understanding and tolerance.
I’ve failed in every single one of those aspects.
I quickly realized after she was born that having a child did not completely change who I was. I was still an impatient person when she was born. I still loved eating chips and ice cream and drinking soda. I was still forgetful and would leave things at home. I still wanted lazy days when I didn’t feel like leaving the house. I still let my tongue slip out a swear word every now and then.
As I came to terms with these failures and imperfections, I felt guilty and inadequate. I’m a mother, after all, shouldn’t my love for my child be enough for me to have an ounce of self-discipline and get over these selfish imperfections? Is there something wrong with me?
And then I realized my husband hadn’t changed either! He still left things out on the counter that could potentially hurt her. He’d still shut the door loudly when he got home, even though she was asleep. I was so confused. How could he NOT be thinking about her sleeping when he came home? How could he not consider that she could reach up and grab the scissors off the counter?
How could we possibly raise this child when we are so horribly flawed? Here we are, trying to teach her to eat healthy and take care of her body, but we eat junk food and sometimes go weeks without exercising. How could we teach her to be brave and strong and have integrity, when we so often lose our tempers and say hurtful things? How can we to teach her to value curiosity, and her mind, and learning, when we sometimes let her watch the same movie three times in a row?
But then it clicked: we love that little girl more than anything in this entire world. And our lives COMPLETELY changed when she was born. The thought of life without her makes us miserable. The way my husband looks at that little girl every single day, and reads, sings, dances, teaches and plays with her every single day is incredible. Never have I seen him so engaged and preoccupied than with his interest in his sweet daughter. That man was meant to be a father. And I was meant to be her mother. We knew when we spent those long nights talking about our dreams of raising children together that it was important to us both.
And that is why, despite all of our parenting mistakes, we will teach her all of those important life lessons. We ARE teaching her all of those things, simply by not quitting.
Oh, we will fail –
- We will lose our tempers and have less patience than we should, but we will always apologize and make amends.
- We will eat junk food and indulge, but we will always encourage her to eat healthy food, and emphasize how good certain foods are for our bodies when we eat them and praise her for making good choices.
- She will get a sunburn (again), and she will get (more) bug bites, and I will still feel so bad that my lack of preparation caused her pain. But I will apologize to her, and I will ask my husband to set goals with me to make sure we’re prepared before we go out.
- We will still and ALWAYS stay up late into the night discussing her needs and wants and future, and how we can be better parents to her and spouses to each other. We will continue to set goals together and lift each other up when we are feeling down about our setbacks.
In the end, I don’t believe she will remember specific movie days or specific foods she did or didn’t eat (although with her memory it wouldn’t surprise me). I don’t think she’ll remember every sunburn, and every day we meant to go to the park but stayed home instead. But I hope she remembers our apologies, our lessons, and our efforts, and most importantly that they never ceased.
In the end, I hope she learns that success doesn’t come through perfection; success comes through endurance. It would be easy to quit caring about our food choices or the amount of TV we watch, or how much time we spend outside. But we won’t because we love her. We will always care, and we will always strive for improvement.
Love isn’t a magical solution to all of our problems, but it is the motivation to keep us going even when we fail again and again. And when all is said and done, if our children always know that we love them more than anything in this world, then we will not be failures at all. We will have won the gold.
How have you overcome feelings of inadequacy as a parent? Share with me below!
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