What to Do When You Feel Like You’re Failing as a Parent

Are you struggling with your kids and feel like you’re failing as a parent? In this article, let’s discuss 5 ways to get through these challenging dips.

Failing as a Parent

It’s the one thing I hear over and over from parents 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. We’re frustrated and helpless, like we have no idea what we’re doing.

The reasons vary, too. Maybe you feel like you’re failing as a parent when…

  • You blame yourself for the attitude and disrespect your kids display
  • You’re constantly yelling, no matter how much you try not to lose your temper
  • Your toddler’s constant tantrums and meltdowns make you feel exhausted 
  • 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 you blame yourself for not doing enough
  • The days feel frantic and rushed

These scenarios are enough to make anyone feel lost and miserable in a role often depicted as joyous and fulfilling. But you can change how you feel no matter how hard it seems. It’s in these moments when you can make your biggest transformations. Breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs and point you in the right direction. As one parent 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 to get the encouragement you need:

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’re failing as a parent. All you see are kids who talk back, an over-scheduled calendar with zero downtime, and a fussy baby—not exactly what you picture as a great life.

But instead of comparing yourself to the ultimate supermom, what if you looked back to see all that you’ve done?

Remind yourself of all the amazing accomplishments you’ve gone through. Remember what it was like when you were a first-time parent and 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.

Remember 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.

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2. 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 never yelling or making mistakes. While the intentions are admirable, trying to be perfect is actually doing her a disservice.

Yup, she’s better off seeing all of you, including your imperfections.

Sure, you want to be a good mom and be your best self, including preparing home-cooked meals most nights (if that suits you) and doing all you can not to yell. But give yourself grace and compassion if you make a mistake, can’t make chicken cordon bleu (pizza works just fine!), or say something that you later regret.

It’s okay if she sees you fail because then she also sees how to get back up again. It’s that trying again and again, showing up even when it’s hard, and loving her no matter what that can serve her best.

All the times you feel like a terrible parent may not even cross her mind. The time you were late to pick her up or didn’t feel like reading yet another book with her or couldn’t volunteer for school activities. She may not even see any of those as terrible as you might. She doesn’t need to see perfection—she needs to see you.

3. Take your feelings as a sign that you care

You knwo a parent cares when she thinks 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 or the worst thing that might happen. Instead, realize that everything that has happened is here to help you grow and learn.

5. Vent… then find solutions

Bottling your emotions forces you to put on a facade and prevents you from feeling your true emotions.

So, get those feelings out. Vent to your friends about losing your patience with your toddler or share with an online forum how you feel overwhelmed with your to-do list. Someone else can relate to or may have gone through the same circumstances as you have.

Then, after you’ve vented, ask for help. What advice can they give to make your days feel less overwhelming? How can you rely on friends and family to lighten your load?

Where venting can help you release pent-up frustration, finding solutions makes sure they don’t happen too often.

5. Change something

As comforted as you should be that you aren’t 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 might mean being more mindful of how you respond to your child’s behavior so you don’t get so angry or letting go of anxiety and negativity and finding 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. Perhaps it’s digging deep into your past to uncover why you clash with your child so often or the scars that hold you back from showing affection.

The hardest part of parenthood is the demands it makes of us. Parenthood means we have to grow up—to be the parents our kids need us to be. This includes letting go of your old thoughts and ways of living that aren’t serving you well. Of finding forgiveness when you could’ve done better.

It isn’t enough to expect that feeling of guilt and failure to go away. Often, you need to combine that with action and make the changes that can have a profound, positive impact.

Final thoughts

Parenthood pushes us to grow for one simple reason: there’s no quitting being a parent. Unlike hobbies, jobs, friends, and even marriages, you can’t quit parenthood.

One thing is for sure: you are not alone, friend. Just when you feel like you’re the only one, rest assured that many more have felt exactly what you feel. And, more importantly, they have pulled themselves through.

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  1. I’m a SAHM to a 2-year-old toddler tornado. This article and the one one about overwhelm saved my sanity today. Thank you so much!!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Cynthia, I’m so glad these articles resonated with you today! Sometimes it’s just those reassuring words to remind us that we’re doing all right, and to go easy on ourselves 🙂 Thanks so much for letting me know the articles touched you—I appreciate it! xo, Nina

  2. The challenge I face is feeling like a bad parent when things seem out of control (three year old throwing during tantrums, hitting when mad, my one year old jumping on the couch for the umpteenth million time and me losing my patience, etc). When they don’t listen I take it too personally and then guilt sets in.

    I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the great work.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thanks so much for your supportive words, Tara!

      I know what you mean about putting it into practice when the moment hits. It’s one thing to “know” what to do but another to turn them into actual habits.

      That said, know that no one is perfect, and that the times when things get out of control or you lose your cool doesn’t make you a bad parent. It happens to the best of us, and the fact that you’re aware is good as it means you can actually change those habits for the better.

      Hang in there, mama! You’re not alone <3