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. When we’re 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 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 you can change how you feel, no matter how hard it seems at this moment. In fact, it’s in these moments when you can make your biggest transformations. Breakdowns often lead to your biggest breakthroughs. In fact, take a look at what SSBE reader Cynthia said after reading the article:
“I’m a SAHM to a 2-year-old toddler tornado. This article saved my sanity today. Thank you so much!!”
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 over-scheduled calendar with zero down time, and a fussy baby—not exactly what you picture as your ideal life.
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 the kids, even though you felt compelled to.
Remind yourself of 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.
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2. Remember that your child needs to see all of you
Do you feel pressured 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 her 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, can’t make chicken cordon bleu (pizza works just fine!), or say something to her that you later regret.
We’re human, and she 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 school activities. She doesn’t see any of those as terrible.
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.
As I say in my book, You Are Enough:
“What if we stopped feeling guilty and instead saw these failures as opportunities? Yup, as a positive thing. After all, these failures can reveal what we still need to work on or do better next time. Or we can see these failures as simply the season we’re in—that the burp rags and piled dishes aren’t signs of incompetence, but a telltale sign of the newborn stage.”
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 miserable job 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, friends and even marriages, people would rather quit when it gets hard than face the possibility of failing.
But parenthood teaches us otherwise.
And we overcome failure by remembering 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 when you feel like you’re the only one, rest assured that many more have felt exactly what you feel. And, more importantly, pulled themselves through.
Get more tips:
- Anger Management for Moms: 7 Patterns That Keep You Feeling Angry
- 8 Warning Signs You Need to Be a More Patient Mom
- Dear Kids, Sometimes I’m a Horrible Mom to You
- To the Overwhelmed Mom Who Feels Like a Parenting Failure
- 6 Surefire Ways to Stop Feeling Like an Overwhelmed Mom
Don’t forget: Sign up for the Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge: