The reasoning for her question was the fact that I was slumped on the living room floor and ugly crying into my 5th cup of coffee. At seven thirty in the morning. There are a lot of people who are just starting their day and I… well, I had already thrown in the towel.
“Mommy’s just sad, baby,” I told her.
“Why sad, Mom?” she asked, patting my back with more maternal affection than I could have mustered in that moment.
“I’m sad because my coffee is all gone,” is what I told her.
What I was thinking was, “I’m sad because I’m done. Finished. I can’t do this motherhood thing anymore. I was, am, and always will be an awful parent. I can’t do it right. Everything I do is wrong. I don’t think I can do it for another day—let alone for the rest of my life. This sucks. I suck.”
True? Probably not.
In that moment, though, it felt true. It felt like I was an awful mom and I had a long list of reasons to back up my suspicions.
- I was ugly crying in front of my children. That can’t be good for the psyche.
- I had already yelled at my son approximately 81 times that morning because he has an obsessive compulsion to climb onto the dining room table.
- I wasn’t sure how many more times I could say, “Stop hitting your brother” before giving up and turning my home into Lord of the Flies.
- My kids eat the majority of their meals picnic-style in front of an episode of Curious George because there are days where I just can’t handle the battle which is getting them to eat and behave at the table.
- I lock myself in the bathroom for 5 minutes to breathe, pretend I’m alone, and click my heels three times in desperate hope that I will be whisked away to my real home because this place where I live now blows chunks.
- My kids don’t eat enough vegetables.
- My kids eat too much junk.
- My kids watch way too much T.V.
- I don’t know how to effectively discipline either of my children.
- I don’t know what to do with either of my children all day.
And the list goes on.
That morning I was convinced I was the world’s worst mother.
That night, though, while vacuuming up what seemed like an entire box of Cheerios, I had a rare moment of clarity.
I’m not an awful parent.
Once I stopped beating myself up with tears and fears and guilt, I began to remember blog posts I had seen, stories I had heard from friends, and books I read (back before my kids ripped out all the pages.) I remembered:
- Other mothers yell at their kids sometimes.
- Other mothers can’t sleep because their guilt keeps them awake.
- Other mothers give their daughter cereal for dinner and call it good.
- Other mothers have homes with dirty bathrooms and sticky kitchen floors.
- Other mothers hide in the closet for just a moment’s peace.
- Other mothers can’t come up with fun things to do with their toddlers.
- Other mothers pray their son will go back to sleep when he wakes up at 5am.
- Other mothers are positive they’re screwing up their children.
If all these women—friends and strangers—are having such a hard time… that means it’s not just me.
And if we’re all on the same page… if we’re all having the same struggles… then…
I’m not a bad parent.
I’m just normal.
So that’s a load off my mind.
© 2015 Toni Hammer, as first published on Scary Mommy