When I first became a mother, the whole concept seemed magical. Snuggling sweet-smelling babies and having a tiny human who would be hopelessly in love with you sounded pretty good to me. And I would come to learn that there are, without a doubt, plenty of lovely moments along the way that you will treasure always.
But there are also those times when parenthood just plain sucks.
I can say from experience that those days/weeks/months can be really hard on a parent’s self-esteem. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve gone to bed in tears, feeling like a complete failure. But I’ve come to realize that feelings don’t tell the whole story, and sometimes feelings flat out lie. So these are some truths that every parent (myself include) needs to hear on those days when it feels like we’ve failed at parenting.
1. One bad day does not a childhood make.
There are so many days in parenting that just aren’t filled with our finest moments. Maybe you yelled, maybe you didn’t handle that one situation with a calm attitude, maybe you were just a grumpy jerk all day long. On days like that, please know that one bad day doesn’t mean you’ve forever ruined your kid’s childhood. This is Just. One. Day. Which brings me to another important truth …
2. Your kids probably won’t remember this.
Most kids don’t remember a whole lot before the age of 2 or 3, so I always take a bit of solace in that. In addition, kids often are really skilled at forgetting the negatives. Often at bedtime, I’ll ask my daughter what her favorite and least favorite parts of the day were, and never once has she brought up a situation where I was a less-than-stellar parent. It’s usually something about a friend or how she didn’t like what we had for dinner. Phew!
3. Don’t get stuck comparing.
You are the most perfect parent for your kids. Don’t get stuck in the comparison cycle. Just because someone else looks like they have it all together, doesn’t mean they actually do. We all have days where we feel like failures.
4. No one is good at everything.
In the same vein of not comparing, remember that no one is good at everything. We live in a world that is saturated with media and where you can receive a play-by-play of friends (and strangers) lives. It’s easy to forget that the things you are seeing are a highlight reel. Some moms are awesome at making cool bento box lunches, but aren’t as good at sitting down to actually play with their kids. Some moms are great at creating fun memories with their kids, but their houses will never be tidy. No one is good at everything, so stop beating yourself up over your short-comings and focus on all the things you are great at as a parent.
5. Never underestimate the power of an apology.
Perhaps today was a pretty terrible day. Perhaps you said some things that you weren’t proud of and treated your kids in ways that were hurtful. Instead of wallowing in these failures, just apologize. I’ll admit that there is very little in this life quite so humbling as apologizing to a 3-year-old, but an apology really does go a long way, and it is a great thing to model for children.
6. Who you feel like in this moment is NOT who you truly are.
Remember, feelings can lie. Feelings come and go. Even though you might feel like a failure in this moment, you are not a failure.
7. Slow down.
A great many times, the root of those hard days lies in the fast pace of life. Our schedules are packed and we are often guilty of snapping at our kids as we try to get from on place to the next. When there is not enough margin in the day, things tend to get overwhelming. Often, simply slowing down and saying no to a few commitments to spend quality time with our children can make a world of difference.
8. Do something for you.
Parenting is an exhausting, never-ending job. But unlike a 9-5 gig, there are no breaks. There are no weekends to recuperate … unless you make them. Sure, it may be difficult to get away for an entire weekend or even a day, but a couple of hours spent alone doing something for yourself (or doing something with friends!) can make such a difference for your outlook. Sometimes you just need a break, so you can come back fresh and be a better parent.
9. It’s OK to cry about it and start over again tomorrow.
Some days just suck. It’s OK to cry about it, because it’s hard. But then remember that tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to be the parent that you weren’t today.
10. You are a good parent.
You are a good parent. You have your flaws, but so do the rest of us. We are all in this together, and we all have hard days as parents, and it’s OK.