So many times throughout my mom career I have thought to myself, “You are a failure as a mom”. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment, most likely you have had this thought as well. Many of my friends and family members have said this, maybe not as a direct statement. But in some way, they have expressed their sense of failure as a parent. Let me say this right now, you are not a failure, and I’ll tell you why!
Here are a few questions I want you to ask yourself. Are your children fed? Are your children clothed? Have you provided them shelter? Do they know they are loved? Have you done everything in your power to make sure they make it to adulthood in reasonable health and happiness? If you answered yes to these questions then you are not a failure as a mom. Even if you answered no to a couple of these questions, you still might not be a failure, as long as you are trying to turn those “no’s” to a “yes”. It’s only when we stop trying to improve do we set ourselves up for failure.
First Time Mom
My own mother’s guilt stems from the environment my daughter was raised in from the age of three to 13. I was not always the perfect person you see before you today (massive amounts of sarcasm here). I was lost, I was selfish at times, and I was floundering for most of Moira’s childhood. Being not much more than a child myself when she was born. Let’s just say it, I was a hot mess.
It wasn’t like I didn’t have a great example of a mom. Thanks, mom for being so damn awesome, I can’t even use a bad childhood as a reason for my failings. What it really came down to for me was selfishness. Having a baby felt like the end of my youth, that I was no longer allowed to have fun. It didn’t help that this was also around the same time that Aaron discovered video games. I felt pretty alone. So in true Barbara fashion, I started spending a lot of time out with friends after Aaron got home from work, and trying to re-capture what I “thought” I had lost. The sad thing is it was always a temporary fix for the part that was broken inside of me.
Aaron and I got divorced when Moira was three, it was very difficult for all of us. Somehow Moira still managed to be a generally happy child and luckily she was also extremely resilient. Through all of the drama of our divorce, Aaron and I always tried to make sure to surround Moi with people who loved her. There was always a sense of consistency, despite some chaos, and we tried to maintain some semblance of routine in her life. She has always been fed, clothed, loved, and cared for.
After quite a few years, my marriage to Aaron restored, and with that our little family as well. I began to see the woman my daughter was becoming. She is bright, sweet, loving, intelligent, talented…I could go on. Some would say, well you’re her mom, you’re supposed to say that. But honestly, I’m not the only one who thinks it. It really makes you think, how much is nature, and how much is nurture? It’s true Moi has some of my traits, but she also has her own uniqueness as well.
I have begun to realize that constantly thinking of my self as a failure as a parent wasn’t just a reflection of my own insecurities, it was also an insult to Moira in a way. I came to this conclusion when I was lamenting to her about how I’ve screwed up as a parent, I should have protected her more from the drama of our early years. She told me, “Stop, mom, you’re not a failure”! “You’re a great mom, and I love you”. You see, Moira is an extremely well-adjusted child for some of the crap she’s been through, and to say I have failed, is to say there’s something wrong with her. Which, couldn’t be further from the truth.
What about the parents of kids who are messed up? Like the parents of a child who has committed a crime, or is on drugs, or is floundering at life. Well with that question, I will refer to the beginning of this article. If you have truly done the best you could with what you knew and had, then it’s time to get outside help. Whether it’s a counselor, rehabilitation, or other professionals. If the child is an adult and this is happening, you have exhausted all reasonable resources, or they refuse to accept help; I hate to say it but you have to step back. God gave us free will and unfortunately that sometimes means we have to watch our children struggle and just pray that they will get through it. I am not a doctor or therapist, so I can’t really say anything but suggest what I would do.
Stepping back for the sake of your own mental health does not mean you have given up, it just means you need to regroup. There is no shame in knowing your own limitations, and you are certainly not a failure because of it. I know for sure at one point my own parents had to do this with me.
Our Eternal Parent
Let’s put things in perspective. Would you say God is a failure as a parent? If you go by the standards we set for ourselves, he should be considered a failure. I know you’re thinking to yourself, “I would never think that”! Many of God’s children are lost, criminal, and generally bad people. But God is not a failure as a parent. Because he has given us free will, and even though we may stray, he still loves us. This is what we should emulate as parents. If you teach your children right from wrong, show them you love them unconditionally, and provide for their general well-being then you are a good parent.
By these standards, I can safely say that I am a good mother. I love my daughter with all my heart and soul, she is figuratively and literally my miracle baby. I won’t lie there have been a couple of times when she has tested my patience, but thank goodness the curse my mother tried to put on me didn’t work. When I was a kid my mom used to get extremely frustrated and yell, ” I hope you have a daughter just like you when you grow up”! Well, mom, I was blessed with a daughter who only has a few of my bad traits and so many good ones.
I am now proud to say that I try daily to be a good listener to Moi. I try to be there when she wants to share her struggles. We talk often about her dreams and I pray every day that she will give herself the grace that I have finally learned to give myself. That she will take my parenting and learn from my mistakes, and ultimately make new ones. That she will know that all our kids need is unconditional love and consistency. I also pray that she will never utter those words, “I am a failure as a parent”.
Please give yourself grace and know that we all have days where we want to throw our kids in the river, but we don’t because they’re so darn cute, and ultimately the love of a mother knows no bounds. You are not a failure.
Happy Mother’s Day!