When You Feel Like You’re Failing at Parenting
It was 1am when my husband and I went to bed after wrapping up our Sunday. I was laying in bed and putting Nadae to sleep when he asked me the same question he asks every Sunday night, “So, how do you think everything went today?”
“Well,” I started. “I think everything went well except that I feel like...I’m...fail...ing...as…” I started to cry uncontrollably. You know that cry that comes from the depths of your heart when it’s broken and it makes you gasp for air because you can only get one syllable out at a time? Yup, that one! My husband put his phone away and propped up his pillow. He sighed because he knew it was about to be a long night.
“Fran, breathe,” he said. “You’re going to wake the baby crying like that.”
“I’m...sorry...I just...I just feel like...I’m failing...as a mother,” I tried to get the words out through the sobs. He stayed quiet for a long time while I regained my composure. And I started again, “I feel like I’m failing as a mother to KC.”
“Babe, you’re a great mother! Why do you feel that way?” he asked.
“Babe, today, I saw my daughter going around showing us her art project and no one paid attention! It was a simple cup she stuck flower stickers on and she just wanted someone to look at it! And we didn’t acknowledge her! I - ME - I didn’t pay attention!!! Who does that?!? It breaks my heart...” The ocean of tears started all over again and I couldn’t catch a breath…
“I’m available for everyone and everything else, but when it comes to her, I feel like I’m not doing enough! I listen to everyone, I make time for people, I make time to write, I’m working on ministry stuff all the time. And the few hours in the day I have with her during the week, I’m counting down the hours for her bedtime! That’s awful!!!” I started crying uncontrollably again. My husband stayed quiet the whole time. I heard him let out a deep sigh right before I started talking again.
“And to make it even worse, the one full day I have with her - a Saturday - I don’t enjoy because it’s too hard to keep her entertained long enough with anything. And the easiest thing to do is just turn on the TV or give her a phone to watch Youtube Kids! It’s like I just give up! My God!!! What’s wrong with me!?!” I slapped my forehead with my free hand and tried to wipe the ocean of tears and snot covering my face.
After a few, I finally calmed down and was breathing steadily again. I laid my head back against my pillow and sighed. “My heart is broken because I’m failing as a mother. I have a handle on everything else in my life, except this…”
I turned to him and saw him wiping the tears from his eyes. “What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned.
“Well, now I feel bad,” he replied. “Because I’m guilty of all that too. I find myself on my phone doing work, on social media, or responding to people instead of disconnecting and giving my full attention to KC...When I look back at this week, I did a horrible job!” He was silently crying.
“We have to do better, babe,” I said.
“We have to,” he agreed. “I know I can do better. It’s not fair to her. That’s my word, I’m going to do better and I’m going to be intentional about being present with her.”
“Me too,” I said.
That was the beginning of what turned out to be 2 hours of conversation that night. And while some people may think I’m crazy for staying up that late, the truth is that it was one of the most liberating moments I’ve had in a long while. Sometimes, you need to express how you’re truly feeling and let someone help you realize that while parenting is hard, you aren’t failing if you are doing the best you can.
It’s so hard when life begins to get in the way of what you envisioned parenting would be like. You start off by committing to spending as much time as you can with your children, being totally present and invested, not allowing your anger to get in the way when correcting them, never putting work before them because they are your priority, not introducing them to TV time or technology, reading more and letting them explore around the house even if they make a mess (because you’ll gladly clean it up).
Then your world begins to crumble when you realize you’re doing everything you said you wouldn’t do. You don’t always have the patience to clean up after their mess, or to deal with them on a cranky day. You don’t have the energy after a long day of meetings to read to them or take them to a park to explore. You find it easier to hand them a phone to play with when they are throwing a tantrum so you don’t have to deal with the “shameful eyes” from the public.
You see, everyone tells you parenting is going to be hard, but no one ever tells you that it’s hard EVERYDAY! At least when they are young. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean you won’t have good days. As a matter of fact, you’ll have some amazing days and create incredible memories, but those days require planning and for you to be intentional with your attitude, your responses, and your level of patience.
My husband and I realized that we both have room to improve. Kalea is our firstborn and she is teaching us how to be the parents she needs, which is a wonderful thing! When I start to think about how much I’ve grown as a woman because of her, my mind is in awe! And, yet, there is so much more growing to be done.
As a mother of two now, I have to be very smart about managing my time AND the attitude in which I approach motherhood everyday. After the conversation with my husband, I understand now that I need to mentally commit everyday to looking at motherhood in a positive light instead of focusing on the burdens it may bring or the sacrifices I’ll have to make. I’ve always said the greatest honor for me would be for my daughters to one day say, “Mom is the epitome of the woman I strive to be.” I don’t want my story to be one in which my children say, “Mom was always too busy to get to know me.” I chose to bring life into the world, and that choice brings its cross of responsibilities that I have to carry everyday. If I’m going to be an effective mother, for the sake of my children, I can’t pick and choose what day I want to carry that cross. When I look back at my mother’s example, I recall many times leaning my ear against her closed bedroom door only to hear her crying and praying about how much she was struggling. But the moment she walked out of her room, she pulled strength from deep within to carry out her responsibilities as a mother, no matter how hard the day was. I always admired her strength and courage, and still do to this day. It’s women like her whose footsteps I want to follow.
Parenting is a lifelong journey, and to think it somehow “ends” when your children are grown is a mistake. I’m 31 years old now and I feel that I need the support, counseling, and prayers of my mother now more than ever! I am beyond grateful to have a mother who understands that no matter how old I get, she never stops playing that role in my life.
Now, you probably were hoping this post would provide some suggestions to NOT feeling like you’re failing as a parent. The truth is, I don’t have an answer for you. The pressures of life will make you feel like you’re falling short more times than not in that area. But if I’ve learned one thing from that liberating conversation two nights ago is that we need to be gracious and kind to ourselves and each other. Parenting is hard, and it’s not fair when the outside world points fingers at us because we don’t have it all together. Balance is a standard and term that can no longer exist in our vocabulary as parents because it’s just impossible. Instead, we should focus on finding a rhythm, creating healthy habits to get us through each day, telling ourselves everyday to have a positive perspective on parenting no matter what the day brings, and remembering that this calling is one of the greatest gifts to mankind! You have the power to influence the course of a future generation. The child you are raising has purpose and you hold the key to helping them unlock their potential. That is no light task, but it is also one with great reward!
Let’s start a conversation on the topic! Drop a comment below and share your thoughts on parenting struggles! DM me or shoot me an email, too :) I want you to know you’re not alone!