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If you went back in your mind throughout the week, how many times would you say you felt like a bad mom this week?
For me, probably at least 3 times. For you, it may be more or less. Either way, we are our worst critics in everything. I believe moms are not only critical of themselves and their parenting abilities, but the world is just as, if not more critical. When moms are given a message of convenience = laziness, or self-care = selfishness, or children playing independently = inattentive mothers, every decision makes you feel like a bad mom!
A national study done by Farm Rich surveyed 2,000 parents of school-aged children showed that parental guilt is incredibly common. 75% of parents feel the pressure to be “perfect” in front of family, friends, and on social media. 1 in 4 parents say they’ve had their parenting decisions questioned by other parents. 31% of millennial parents feel the need to compete with other parents on social media.
Those statistics show me that feeling like a bad mom is not uncommon, and it’s definitely not proof that you actually are a bad mom.
We all need these reminders when we feel like bad parents. My hope is that in remembering these things, we can put bad days into a healthy perspective, and remember our worth as parents.
Actual bad moms don’t care
The simple fact you actually care about being a good mom means you are one!
I know that sounds so simple, almost too simple. But it is fact!
When I think of a truly bad mom, here’s what comes to my mind:
- A mom who puts her children in direct harm to benefit themselves.
- A mom who knowingly and willingly abuses or neglects their kids, or allows others to abuse or neglect her kids
Even a mom who has committed those transgressions has the full capabilities of being redeemed, forgiven, and helped.
I think those moms who commit those transgressions against their own children are few and far between. It wouldn’t be too hard to prove that the vast majority of mothers are wonderful! The huge majority of mothers, including yourself, care about being a good mom! That alone makes you great!
Your desire to grow and do better shows you’re a good parent. Good parents want to do good for their children and themselves. That will show in all of the decisions you make in your life, and that alone makes you great!
Bad circumstances don’t make bad moms
As I write this, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and parents are being put in impossible situations. In my post, “Being a Pandemic Mom Is Hard, and That’s Ok“, I talk more in detail about the difficulties mothers are facing during this pandemic. We are in as bad of a situation as we can get at the moment, and that can make us feel like garbage over everything we choose to do. Moms feel like crap for giving cereal for dinner, or throwing away screen time rules, or being a little too helpful (or not helpful at all) with virtual schooling.
None of those things make you a bad parent. They make you a great parent in bad circumstances!
Circumstances are temporary, even when they feel like they’re eternal. Even though 2020 has made it feel like the pandemic will last forever, it won’t. Your tough financial situation may not last forever. Tantrums, meal refusals, and toddler antics are temporary. Your various stressors in life are more than likely temporary, and if they’re not, you will more than likely adjust to the stress.
Your crappy circumstances can easily feel like a direct comparison to your ability to parent, but remember that more than likely it’s not. Amazing parents aren’t ones who avoid the stresses of life, they’re ones who endure and grow from them. If you didn’t get put through a fire, you would never become gold.
Feeling like a bad mom doesn’t make you one
According to the same study done by Farm Rich I cited earlier, they found 10 things parents feel the most guilty over. Here’s what they found:
- Losing my temper
- Not playing enough with my children
- Not being home enough
- Letting my children have too much screen time
- When I don’t feel like I’m being a good role model
- Not being able to take my children on more vacations or outings
- When I don’t have time to make home-cooked meals
- Not reading enough to and with my children
- Letting my kids eat junk food
- Working too much
I have personally felt ALL of these things in my own life! But there’s a big difference between FEELING LIKE a bad mom and BEING a bad mom.
Earlier I stated what I think makes an actual bad mom. Why would those things be so bad? Because they have the potential to change the entire trajectory of a child’s life!
Those 10 things parents feel the most guilty about that I listed all have two things in common. They’re temporary, and can all be amended.
Feelings are temporary. Being is eternal. Yes, you will do things that will make you feel like a really crappy parent, but will that one thing be something that will ruin your child’s life for all eternity? If it’s something like eating junk food, probably not. Even if it is a more serious offense towards your children, can it be something you can amend?
Your feeling of being a bad parent could simply be a sign that you desire to improve in some area of your life. Or perhaps it is a sign you need to set some more realistic expectations for yourself. Feelings of being a bad parent don’t have to turn you into an actual bad parent, they could simply be stepping stones towards self growth.
There is no perfect mom
Social media has lied to you, Mama! There is no perfect mom, there’s just moms who know when to take a good picture.
The “perfect” social media moms probably feel like bad moms too, but they didn’t share it on their page. A social media influencer has one job, to share an ideal aesthetic. Most influencers aren’t going to show you each nitty-gritty detail of their life. They won’t show you every tantrum, missed bill, refused meal, or marital spat. They will show you what looks good on camera. Because that is their job.
I’m not blaming them, or faulting them, because everyone deserves privacy. But it’s important for us to remember the reality behind the Instagram filters. Those “perfect parents” probably have their own reasons for feeling like garbage, they just don’t share them.
The perfect mom is a farce, and that’s ok! Because if we were perfect at being parents, we would have no excuse to grow as people. If we were the perfect parent who cooked a beautiful home cooked meal every night, we wouldn’t get to experience the joy our children have when they see the McDonalds sign (or my son, who is almost 2 and learned how to say Chick-Fil-A). If you were the perfect parent who never lost their cool with their children, then maybe your children wouldn’t get a valuable opportunity to learn about big feelings and how to manage them, and perhaps about forgiveness and being gentle with yourself.
Imperfections in our parenting gives us, and our families, a chance to grow. Sometimes that growth may feel more like growing a bunion on your foot, and not so much like a flower, but it’s growth. Growth isn’t always Instagram perfect, but it’s necessary. Don’t hate yourself for being a growing person.
You were made for this
I don’t care what mistakes you have made or circumstances you’ve endured, I believe if God gave you a child, you were meant for it. That doesn’t mean you were meant to be the same mother as the mom down the road, or the Instagram star you follow, but it means you were meant to be the mom of your child(ren).
Moms are given impossible standards, and in turn, we feel like we’re broken if we can’t meet those standards. But what if we changed our mindset about the standards of motherhood.
What if it’s not moms who are broken, but the standards?
Frankly, the standards that society has set on mothers are mostly garbage. To boil it down to its simplest form, you as a mom have only a few simple jobs:
- Give them their basic needs (clothes, shelter, food, etc)
- Don’t abuse them
- Love your kids
At the end of the day, those three things may have been the ONLY things you did right. And guess what? THAT’S FINE!
You were still meant to be a mom, even if you only did the bare minimum.
Bottom Line: Have grace with yourself
Parenting is so freaking hard, and living in an internet/social media age doesn’t help. We are constantly judged for every little thing we do, and not given nearly enough credit for the things we do right. When we make mistakes, we easily go right to demonizing our entire beings and shaming ourselves, when in fact we’re simply people learning how to do this parenting job one day at a time.
When you make a mistake, or do something that disappoints yourself as a parent, remember you’re a human too. Just as you are quick to forgive your children for the mistakes they will make, forgive yourself.
I remember one time as a young woman starting off in my relationship with the Lord, I struggled a lot with shame. I grew up around a lot of verbal abuse, and learning how to reverse that negative self-talk has been difficult. In a moment of some deep shame, I prayed and asked God to forgive me. I remember the Lord speaking to me something that has stuck with me my entire life:
“Have as much grace for yourself as I have for you.”
You WILL mess something up, but always remember to have grace with yourself. God forgives you, your children will forgive you, and anyone else will forgive you. But you’re the one who has to live with yourself for eternity. Mama, give yourself grace. You deserve it.