I was at the park with a few mom friends the other day when disaster struck. We were convened by the swing set, pushing our kids and chatting, when all of a sudden the all too familiar cry of a child pierced the air. We all stopped pushing our kids to look and see which of our children were crying and why. As I looked, I saw my friend on the ground holding her 15 month old son. She looked at us apologetically and said, “UG. I’m such a bad mom. I was trying to swing while holding my son on my lap and he slipped out.”
We all looked sympathetically at her. As mothers, we had been there. I know there have been countless times where I’ve been trying to play with my son only to have him accidentally bump his head, or trip and fall. In that moment it feels like you have failed as a person and as a parent.
I watched my friend console her son and her face was riddled with guilt. Her son didn’t seem bothered very long and ended up running off to the next adventure. But the guilt and shame stayed on my friend’s face. I surveyed the scene. She had been swinging with him in a safe, fully seated, two-person seat (with a supported back!) that had an over the shoulder lap harness. Really, it had been a safe venture and there was no way to have anticipated an accident happening. Still, I didn’t think much of her words or the guilt on her face.
Before I knew it, a friend in our group was walking up to this distraught mom and wrapping her arms around her. “Can I just say something?” She asked. “You, are NOT a bad mom. You are a skilled, beautiful, competent woman and that child is blessed to be able to call you mommy.”
Immediately I felt a shiver run up my spine. I had given no thought to the words “I’m such a bad mom” my friend had uttered. I didn’t think anything of them because I think them myself ALL of the time. Looking back on the events, I now realized that my wonderful friend had simply been trying to engage her son in a fun activity and an ACCIDENT, beyond her control, had happened. And yet, hearing her blame herself felt normal to me. That blame, that guilt, that mantra “I’m a bad mom” are all subconscious clothes I wear day in and day out.
Watching the relief my friend experienced at a warm embrace and a reminder that she was, in fact, a wonderful mom, shook me.
There are many articles floating out there on the internet about “mom shaming”. It can be easy to sit and compare the way you parent to the way someone else does and feel like you’re failing. There’s always more, it seems, that you should be doing. There are more books to read, more forums to join, and it seems there’s always a “right” and “wrong” way to parent. (and usually those right and wrong articles can contradict each other) This is where the feeling of failing seeps in. It permeates mom’s thoughts, dripping into their actions, and spilling into the way they treat their children and themselves.
This idea of “being a bad mom” is so common that even when an accident happens we feel it is our fault. Here is the definition of accident: an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury. When did we start blaming ourselves for things that are beyond our control?
Ultimately, there is no formula for the perfect child, and there is no formula for the perfect mom. Stop walking in guilt and shame, and start walking in confidence knowing you are the right mom for your child.Movie Momma
My son is almost two. Ever since his first birthday he has had a variety of colds, virus’s, and ear infections beyond my control. And yet, the guilt has piled on top of me like a heavy weight.
“I must be a dirty person. If I were clean, or kept my home cleaner, my son wouldn’t get sick”
“I should have taught my infant son not to put things in his mouth. Then he wouldn’t be so prone to catching colds”
“If only I were more aware of my surroundings perhaps I’d be able to prevent my son from catching sickness”
These thoughts circulate every time my son catches something new. I feel defeated every time I see his nose running, or his temperature spikes. I’m such a bad mom. A good mom would have a healthy child. That’s right. Now I’m blaming myself for things happening IN MY SONS BIOLOGY. Sure, there are things I can be doing to prevent illness-which I do. He eats healthy, gets plenty of rest and exercise, and I frequently wash, bleach, and Lysol our apartment. When I asked my pediatrician why my son was getting sick all the time he replied, “toddlers get sick. It’s just part of the growing up process.”
If I’m blaming myself for things beyond my control as a mom, you can bet I’m blaming myself for the things I do feel I have control over. My son is amazing, and typically he’s very obedient and well behaved. However, I find no solace in this when he does throw a tantrum. That’s right. My TODDLER throws TANTRUMS. In the moments of crying and screaming I find no comfort in remembering that my son does not throw tantrums often. I find no relief in the fact that on the tantrum throwing scale of 1-10 my son is only at a level 3. None of this matters because I have convinced myself that “a good mom” wouldn’t be in this scenario at all.
It was beautiful to watch my friend comfort the mom who felt like she was failing. If there is one thing I can take away from the exchange it is this:
If you are a mom who loves her child, and genuinely seeks the best for them, you are a GOOD MOM.
Here’s what I want to say to other “bad” moms out there. STOP IT. Stop “being a bad mom”. Stop telling yourself you’re a bad mom. Stop comparing yourself (and your children) to those around you. Ultimately, there is no formula for the perfect child, and there is no formula for the perfect mom. Stop walking in guilt and shame, and start walking in confidence knowing you are the right mom for your child. Your life experience has equipped you for this role. Where you feel you lack, there is grace.
I am a Christian, and if I truly believe that my life is dependent on Christ, then I must apply that to my parenting as well. And ultimately I believe that no one knows me better, or my son better, than my Creator. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure God has this parenting thing mastered. My actions are accountable to Him, and knowing that the Bible is FULL of messages about grace, I feel it’s time I gave myself some as well.
While there aren’t always people there to wrap their arms around you and remind you of these truths, there are tiny arms that wrap around you and, in one way or another, tell you they love you. Your children have no idea if you are a good mom or a bad mom. To them, you are the best. Let that be enough.