Some days I feel like I could win a Bad Mom contest. I’m not talking the recent cinematic “Bad Moms” where “bad” means your kid eats lots of processed food or smells like chlorine all summer long because you “swimming pool” bathe them. I’m talking real bad; things that make you wonder if you’re completely incompetent at the world’s most important job of raising up decent, kind, respectful humans. Most days – or at least often enough – I pat myself on the back for what I perceive to be a job well done. But then some days are truly horrible. My girls will incessantly bicker with each other or they’ll talk to me with intense and reckless disrespect. Just yesterday my three year old threw a doll at me and called me the “baddest mama in the world” when I told her it was time to leave our friend’s house (my friend’s angel children looked on slack-jawed in disbelief at my toddler’s tantrum). Humbling. The day continues and I don’t really stop to reflect until, after playing an exhausting round of bedtime whack-a-mole, I am left to silence and my thoughts. And the waves of self-doubt crash over me.
“Am I just totally lying to myself on the days I think I’m doing a decent job mothering?”
“How could I be a good mother if some days I feel like I have zero control of my children?”
“Where did I go wrong? Do I do too much of this and not enough of that?”
“Am I too much? Am I not enough?”
“Will this ever get easier?”
I make plenty of mistakes as a mom. I think of the saying, “Does it hold water?” and picture my parenting as a boat. I load my kids up and paddle them out with me to the middle of the parenting lake, thinking they are safe inside my vessel. Then my weaknesses really start showing as I begin taking on water that sneaks in through my splinters and cracks. I feel not so sea-worthy anymore. Having kids exposes my every single imperfection, every single day. I question if I’m too imperfect to get them safely across the lake. Things like patience, gentleness, wisdom, endurance, self-control. I find myself lacking when the pressure is on. I can so plainly see my own short-comings in moments of my kids’ bad behavior; it’s difficult to resist pointing a finger straight back at myself. I take it personally and am left feeling disheartened about my ability as a mother.
It seems to be a common struggle for women – to feel balanced in our relationships; it’s certainly a challenge for me. Some days in motherhood I feel like I was too much – too overbearing or mean. Other days I feel like I was not enough – a pushover or lazy. It’s so hard to feel like I got it just right. But, generally, I am the same woman – the same mother – each day. That said, I’m trying really hard. I do my very best. This is exactly why, when I know I am trying my very best, I cannot let my children’s behavior dictate how I perceive myself as a mom. I have to choose to be satisfied with the love, effort, and concern I applied to my kids regardless of how they acted that day. After all, they are imperfect little humans figuring it out through their own weaknesses and struggles – innate weaknesses for which I cannot and should not take responsibility. In my heart, I know that no one loves them more than me and my husband; and I know that while we don’t always get it right, the thing we consistently do get right is giving it our all.
Of course, I hope that all of your children always treat you with the honor you deserve. At the same time, if there are any other moms out there who will admit to sometimes asking themselves, “Am I a bad mom?”, maybe we’ll all let ourselves off the hook a little bit. We’ll find encouragement in knowing that our journeys are not so dissimilar. And other moms who have struggled over this question have grown kids that turned out to be kind, brave, and wonderful. I also pray that you’ll have more awesome days than awful ones. The same three year old who balled up her little fists and called me the “baddest mama in the world” yesterday took my face in her hands tonight and whispered life-giving words. “Mama, I love you more than anything. You are my best thing in the world and I will follow you wherever you go.” I’ll choose to hold on to that moment and keep rowing.