By all standards, I didn’t do my job today. I wasn’t patient. I yelled at my kids. I got frustrated. I didn’t play with them; instead, I let them watch TV. I was a bad mom today. And you know what? I don’t care.
Most days, I think I do pretty well. I’m patient. I read to my kids. We say prayers before meals and at night. I don’t yell too much… most of the time, anyway. But sometimes, I raise my voice. Sometimes, I spank my kids. Sometimes, I even hide in the closet while I stuff my face with chocolate because I’m just that stressed out. And those aren’t even the bad days. On the bad days, every little thing drives me crazy. They throw temper tantrums, and instead of being understanding, I yell. They talk back, and instead of being patient, I snap. I get so frustrated that I scream.
According to countless mom blogs, this means that I should spiral into shame and regret. I should be making silent promises to myself to do better. I should be vowing to play with them more, yell less, be more patient and understanding. I should be sad because my bad mom days are ruining my kids’ childhoods. And I’m sick of it.
We live in a culture that expects parenting perfection, especially for moms. We aren’t supposed to yell, or lose our tempers, or ever be anything less than hands-on, happy, loving, kind, gentle, and calm. No matter what our kids do, we’re supposed to be forgiving. It doesn’t matter how stressed out we might actually be, or how frustrated we are, or how bratty our kids might be. We’re supposed to keep all of that stuffed inside, because heaven forbid we raise our voices or lose our tempers! Heaven forbid we let our kids know that we’re human beings. There are all of these “rules”: how to feed your kids, how to parent them, how much TV you should let them watch, how to handle temper tantrums. If you break them, if you don’t do everything the “right” way, then your kids are pretty much destroyed. You only have one chance, moms! Better do everything right! As if parenting didn’t put enough pressure on us already.
I don’t like it when I yell at my kids. I do try to be a good mom – I really do. And when I lose my temper or raise my voice, I feel bad. So I apologize to them. I hug them tightly, tell them that I’m sorry and that mommy shouldn’t have acted like that. I kiss their little cheeks and tell them that I love them, that I always, always love them no matter what, and they hug me back and say I love you too. And then I move on with my life.
We moms have got to stop holding ourselves to impossible standards. Being a mom is hard enough as it is! We are never going to be perfect at it. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to have bad days. There will be times that we are angry, or sad, or tired, or frustrated… or heck, maybe even all of those things rolled into one really bad day. I refuse to make it harder on myself by feeling guilty for being human. And instead of telling each other that we should feel guilty when we mess up, we should be lifting our fellow moms up, reassuring each other that we’re good mothers and that we’re only human.
In addition to causing unnecessary stress, what kind of lesson does this send to our kids? I don’t want my children growing up expecting perfection in order to love someone. Yes, I make mistakes. But through my mistakes, my children learn forgiveness. They learn tolerance. They learn to love someone despite their flaws. They learn that everyone is going to stumble sometimes, but that you pick yourself up and keep trying anyway. Our children will learn so much more from our imperfections than they ever could from a perfect robot mom who suffers silently through the trials and tribulations of motherhood with nothing but a chagrined smile. Imagine what our kids would be learning if that’s how we were! Our sons would learn to expect their future wives to be perfect mothers; our daughters would learn to place themselves under the crippling stress that we’ve modeled for them. I refuse to do that.
So instead of being racked each night with self-doubt and regret, I’m going to live each day, just doing the best I can. I know that sometimes that means I’m a “bad mom.” I’m going to fail sometimes. I’m going to yell, and get frustrated, and cry. But that’s OK. Just as I love my kids no matter what they do, my kids love me without requiring me to be a perfect mom. And so do yours. We need to stop emotionally punishing ourselves – or worse, encouraging us to punish each other! Let go of the impossible expectations and the guilt. Let’s all stop holding ourselves to standards that we’re never going to live up to. It’s time to let go of the idea of being a perfect mom, and to accept the wonderfully flawed, perfectly human mother that you actually are.