It’s the one thing I hear over and over, from moms everywhere: “I feel like I’m failing as a parent.”
We’ve all felt overwhelmed with the weight of parenthood, at one time or another. Where we feel like a failure as a wife and mother. When we feel frustrated and helpless, like we have no idea what we’re doing.
Maybe it’s when we feel like we’re doing something wrong, especially when we can’t decide or don’t know which direction to take. Other times we’re scared how this is all going to turn out, at the rate we’re going.
And the reasons vary, too. Maybe you feel like you’re failing as a parent when…
- You blame yourself for the attitude your kids have (which are only rubbing off on the younger ones)
- Your toddler’s constant tantrums and tears make you feel exhausted by the end of the day
- The baby never seems happy, no matter how much you try to soothe her
- You feel guilty that you’re not engaging with your kids enough
- You have no idea what to do about your child always being so angry
- Your child isn’t meeting milestones, and deep down you blame yourself for not doing enough
- You’re constantly yelling, no matter how much you try not to, because that’s the only thing that seems to work
- The days feel frantic, like you’re rushing every minute
When you feel like you’re failing as a parent
I hear you, friend.
These scenarios are enough to make anyone feel lost and miserable, in a role often depicted as joyous and fulfilling. It almost seems taboo to even mention you have no idea what you’re doing, much less that you feel like you’re failing as a parent.
But I’m here to tell you that you can change how you feel, no matter how hard it seems at this moment. In fact, it’s precisely in these moments when you can make your biggest transformations. Breakdowns often lead to your biggest breakthroughs.
When you feel like you’re failing as a parent, take a look at these mental shifts and practical steps you can take:
1. Acknowledge all that you’ve done
Looking at where you are and comparing it to an ideal horizon is enough to make you feel like you haven’t done all that great. All you see are kids who talk back, an overscheduled calendar with zero down time, and a fussy baby—not exactly what you picture as your ideal self.
But instead of comparing yourself to the ultimate supermom, what if you looked back to see all that you’ve done?
Take a look at all the amazing accomplishments you’ve gone through. Remember what it was like when you were a first-time mom who didn’t even know how to hold the baby’s head. How you thought you were so “busy” with just one child to care for (and now you have four!).
Think of how strong you had to be when you took your child to urgent care, or how you pulled yourself together enough not to yell at your kids, even though you felt compelled to.
Remind yourself of just how much you’ve grown, no matter how short or long you’ve been a parent. You haven’t been failing as a parent—far from it. You’ve grown and done so much more than that.
2. Remember that your child needs to see all of you
Do you feel compelled to have it all together, especially in front of your child? Maybe it’s having home-cooked meals every night, or behaving exactly how a good mom should (aka never yelling or making mistakes).
While the intentions are admirable, trying to be perfect for your child is actually doing her a disservice.
Yup, she’s better seeing all of you, including your imperfections. Sure, you want to be your best self, including preparing home-cooked meals most nights (if that suits you) and doing all you can not to yell.
But don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake, fail terribly at preparing chicken cordon bleu (pizza works just fine!), or say something to your child you later regret.
We’re human, and your child needs to see you fail… so that she knows how to get back up again. It’s that trying again and again, showing up even when it’s hard, and loving her in the ways only you can, that will serve her best.
The best part? All the times you feel like a terrible mother don’t even cross her mind. The time you were late to pick her up, or when you didn’t feel like reading yet another book with her, or when you couldn’t volunteer for her school field trip. She doesn’t see any of those as terrible.
You see, she doesn’t need to see perfection—she needs to see you.
3. Take your feelings as a sign that you care
The signs of a mom who cares means thinking she can always do better. We can feel good, yes, but we won’t ever feel like “we’ve arrived,” that there’s nothing left to learn, or that we’re the ultimate supermom.
Instead, take your feelings as a sign that you are doing a good job, if for the very fact that you’re here.
Things may not be going the way you wanted or expected, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing as a parent. Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, realize that everything that has happened is here to help you grow and learn.
4. Change something
As comforted as you should be that you aren’t in fact a failure, take these feelings and put them to good use. The best way to do just that is to change.
Change can mean different things to every one of us. Maybe it’s being more mindful of how you respond to your child so you don’t get so angry. Or perhaps you let go of perfection and find joy and fulfillment in your messy, beautiful life.
Change can also mean bigger, scarier decisions, like leaving a job that’s making you miserable and finding one better suited for your family life. Maybe it’s about digging deep in yourself and your past to uncover why you clash with your child so often.
The hardest part of parenthood is the demands it makes of us. Parenthood demands that we grow, and grow up, to be the parent our kids need us to be. This includes letting go of your old thoughts and ways of living that aren’t serving you well.
It isn’t enough to feel like you’re failing as a parent to expect it go away. Often, we need to combine that with action and actually making the changes that will have a profound, positive impact on our parenting.
Parenthood pushes us to grow for one simple reason: there’s no quitting in being a parent. Unlike hobbies, jobs, even friends and marriages, people would sometimes rather quit when it gets hard than face the possibility of failing.
But parenthood teaches us otherwise.
And we overcome failure by remembering just how far we’ve come, especially when it feels like we haven’t done enough. We remind ourselves that kids need to see all of us, imperfections, failures and everything.
We also see these feelings as a sign that we care, so that as difficult as it is to feel like we’re failing as a parent, at least we’re showing up and trying. And finally, we change and do something instead of succumbing to a victim mentality of helplessness.
One thing is for sure: you are not alone, mama. Just as you feel like you’re the only one, rest assured that many more have felt exactly what you feel and, more important, pulled themselves through.
5-Day Parenting Challenge
Looking for actionable steps and quick wins in parenting? The Better Parenting 5-Day Challenge is for parents who know they want to improve but need that little nudge and supportive guidance to do so.
Over the course of 5 days, we’ll tackle one actionable tip per day you can implement right away that will drastically transform the way you raise your child in ways you never imagined. This is your chance to challenge yourself and make the changes you’ve been meaning to make.
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Get more tips:
- Mom Guilt: 7 Reasons We Shouldn’t Blame Ourselves for Everything
- 8 Warning Signs You Need to Be a More Patient Mom
- Dear Kids, Sometimes I’m a Horrible Mom to You
- Moms, Asking for Help Does NOT Mean You’re Failing
- How I Failed as a Mom… and Why It Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought
Tell me in the comments: When do you most feel like you’re failing as a parent? What has been the biggest help to pull you through?
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