We all enter motherhood with a certain idea of who we are as people and who we will be as moms.
We read all the books, blogs, and news articles. We join or lurk dozens of online mommy groups, devour documentaries, and become the experts of our chosen parenting style.
However, real life doesn’t always match our plans.
Once you actually become a mom, many of the beliefs you previously held about motherhood may be challenged.
Even if your core values remain the same, you’ll likely realize that this motherhood gig is much harder than you expected and that implementing your ideals is not always as easy as writing them down.
This does not mean that you love your children any less or that you’ve somehow failed as a mom–but it is easy to still feel like a bad mom sometimes.
Anything can trigger the bad mom blues: feeling like you work too many hours or too few; thinking you don’t get out of the house with your kids for enough outside activities; feeling like they participate in too many activities; believing your family’s meals aren’t nutritious enough; worrying that you don’t spend enough time cleaning your house, or alternatively, worrying that you spend too much time cleaning your house; stressing over screen time; and on and on.
Unfortunately, scientists haven’t yet found the cure for mom guilt, but there are ways to help quiet the inner voices that make you doubt your abilities as a mom.
Below are the four questions you should ask yourself when you feel like a bad mom.
1. Do I care about the well-being of myself and my children?
Before you start second-guessing every decision you’ve ever made as a mom, ask yourself: do I care about the well-being of myself and my children?
Hopefully, the answer is a resounding yes. With that said, know that berating yourself does no good for you or your children.
Not everything will go according to plan in life, especially with kids.
You can’t control how many meltdowns your toddler has at the supermarket, or how many doors your teenager will slam today, but you can control how you react to these things.
If you are patient with your children 99 out of 100 times, and you lose it 1 time out of 100, don’t beat yourself up for that 1%.
Even if you’re only averaging 70/30 or 50/50, give yourself credit for all of the times you do hold it together. Forgive yourself, and move on.
2. Did we laugh today?
Sometimes the days don’t turn out as we expect.
Maybe you or someone in your family was sick or exhausted, and everyone spent a lot of time on the couch.
Perhaps the morning commute to school and work felt too rushed and chaotic, and you left your children for the day feeling like a failure.
Or maybe you had a great day with your family, but still felt like you could have done better.
Whatever it is, at the end of the day, ask yourself: did we laugh today?
Your kids won’t remember every little moment, event, or argument the way parents do, but they will remember the laughter.
3. Why do I think I’m doing a bad job?
This is a big one. When you’re feeling like a bad mom, ask yourself why.
Why do you feel this way? Are you assuming someone else’s expectations of you? Are you adopting them as your own?
Who said every day of parenthood had to be a Carnival Cruise?
Are you comparing yourself to another mom you know? If so, remember that comparison is the thief of joy.
Give yourself the love and patience you strive to show your kids. Don’t beat yourself up if the day, week, or month didn’t go according to plan.
As mothers, we exert so much mental, physical, and emotional energy caring for our families.
Keep trying to be the best mom you can be, but be kind to yourself as well.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to move on from them.
4. Am I human?
Finally, when you start thinking you’re a bad mom, ask yourself: am I human?
If the answer is yes, then congratulations–you’re not perfect.
You are as human as you were before you became a mom.
Even though it now feels like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders as a mother, you shouldn’t actually believe you’re omnipotent or invincible.
You’re human. You’re not perfect and you never will be. All you can be is thoughtful, determined, and loving.
And that’s all your children need.