Mom fails. Do we all have them? As I frantically try to juggle my family and work lives, I make mistakes, forget things on my never-ending to do list, and lose my patience. Is it just me? Social media is filled with posts from moms who seem to be doing it so much better than I am. Sometimes I pretend to have it all under control. Sometimes I even convince myself. It is ridiculous.
I decided to ask my friends if they have mom fail moments too and was relieved to learn I am not alone. Not even close. Many friends’ responses went something like this: “Which story will I choose? I have too many!”…”Give me a topic, I’ll find one.”…”Just scroll my (Facebook) feed till you reach 2006.”
Some friends shared more specific stories. Five detailed times a mix-up occurred picking up their child. One friend’s story really got to me. Her husband, in the U.S. Coast Guard, had been deployed. This left her to care for their three children without family support nearby. She was a full-time working mom, exhausted and running on fumes. When her brother-in-law volunteered to help out for a few days, my friend went into panic mode–frantically cooking and cleaning to make it look like she had it all under control. On the day of his visit, her brother-in-law arrived before my friend returned from work. He asked where her youngest child was. Here is my friend’s description of what happened next: “At that moment my heart sank, I panicked, I had FORGOTTEN to pick him up at daycare. Not just running late or anything like that, I went all the way home and forgot him. I called the daycare right away but the look on my boy’s face was something I’ll never forget when he asked me if I forgot him. My heart broke into a million pieces.”
One of my friends said she came close to giving her twins hypothermia. It was May and she had just opened her family’s pool. Despite the fact it was a cool day and the water wasn’t warm enough, her seven-year-old boys wanted to go swimming. At first my friend said no, but their begging and pleading became relentless. My friend told her boys they could go swimming. She wasn’t caving into their demands. She thought the boys would jump in the pool, feel the cold water, and jump right back out. It would be a lesson in natural consequences. Well, her boys jumped in the water, but didn’t jump back out. They continued to swim for some time. When she eventually insisted they come out of the water, the boys were shivering and purple in color. She dried them off and tried desperately to warm them up. She had them get into bed and piled blanket upon blanket on them. It didn’t work. They continued to shiver and couldn’t warm up. My friend panicked and had her boys lie on bathroom floor with blankets beneath them as she blew warm air from the hairdryer on their shivering bodies. She even ran a hot shower in the background to help warm the room. The boys finally stopped shivering and their body temperature returned to normal.
One of my friend’s has a son who was diagnosed with developmental disabilities and autism eight years ago. She considers the fact she thought she could “fix” him her mom fail. When she heard about possible cures and treatments, she tried all of them….special diets, social skills groups, speech, occupational therapy, Gymboree classes, etc. She hoped enough exposure would reverse her son’s disability somehow. It took her years to realize that playing with him, listening to him, and “being in the moment” were more valuable than any therapy. She says she will never forgive herself for not understanding her son well enough and trying to “fix” him so both of them wouldn’t be judged so harshly by society. She thought if she could just get her son to act normally, she would have a chance at “real motherhood.” Truth be told, her story broke my heart. She is the most conscientious, resilient mother I know. She did everything she could to help her son and somehow she still considered it a failure.
It got me wondering why moms, really good moms, are so hard on themselves. If we don’t live up to the ideal standards of motherhood, we think we are failing. We feel the pressure to be perfect mothers and feel judged when we can’t be. It’s not healthy for us and it’s not good for our children either. We are human. We make mistakes. We grow when we reflect on those mistakes and do things differently in the future. Isn’t that what we try to teach our children? Then maybe we should model that. And while we are at it, maybe we could model self-care because most of us run ourselves ragged too often.
After talking with my friends, I’ve decided mom fails aren’t really fails at all. They are opportunities to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on what we can do better next time. They are also an opportunity to remind ourselves what we already do well because, frankly, we are down-right AWESOME most of the time!