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

Every mom has felt like she was failing as a parent. Learn 4 ways to pull yourself through these dips, and why you’re NOT a failure.

Failing as a ParentIt’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.

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 and disrespect your kids display
  • You’re constantly yelling, no matter how much you try not to lose your temper, because that’s the only thing that seems to work
  • Your toddler’s constant tantrums and meltdowns 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 or building a strong bond with them
  • 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
  • The days feel frantic, like you’re rushing every minute, and lack any sort of routine

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 that you have no idea what you’re doing with your own children, 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 and point you in the right direction.

In fact, take a look at what one 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!!” -Cynthia

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 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 a great 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 the amazing accomplishments you’ve gone through. Remember what it was like when you were a first-time parent 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.

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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 (like 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 your best self, including preparing home-cooked meals most nights (if that suits you) and doing all you can not to yell.

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.

We’re human. 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.

The best part? 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 when you didn’t feel like reading yet another book with her, or when you couldn’t volunteer for school activities. She may not even see any of those as terrible.

In the long-term, she doesn’t need to see perfection—she needs to see you.

How to Be a Good Mom

3. Take your feelings as a sign that you care

The signs of a parent 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 or the worst thing that could’ve happened. 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’s behavior so you don’t get so angry. Or you let go of anxiety and negativity 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 and mental health. Perhaps it’s digging deep within yourself and 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 grow, and have to 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. Of finding forgiveness when you could’ve done better.

It isn’t enough to feel like you’re failing as a parent to expect that feeling of shame to go away. Often, you need to combine that with action and actually making the changes that can have a profound, positive impact.

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 mom friends about losing your patience with your toddler. Share with an online mom group 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.


Parenthood pushes us to grow for one simple reason: there’s no quitting in being a parent. Unlike hobbies, jobs, friends, and even marriages, some people quit when it gets hard instead of facing the possibility of failing.

But parenthood teaches us otherwise.

Remember how far you’ve come, especially when it feels like you haven’t done enough. Remind yourself that your kids need to see all of you, imperfections, failures, and everything.

Wee these feelings as a sign that you care, so that as difficult as it is to feel like you’re failing as a parent, at least you’re showing up and trying. And finally, change and do something instead of succumbing to a helpless mentality.

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