Dear Kerry: “I Feel Like a Bad Mom”

Dear Kerry,
 
I feel like such a bad mom! I wanted these kids. I love these kids. And still, I end up yelling at them and I feel so bad. I hate how mean I can be when I get frustrated. How do I stop?
 
From Bad Mom
Dear Bad Mom,
Oh honey, I’m sorry you feel so bad.  I’ll share an honest and personal story:
When my boys were 10 weeks, 4- and 7-years-old, I was at a family camp with Barry & Joyce Vissell (www.sharedheart.org). In a workshop for the adults, we were instructed to sit quietly and think about a part of ourselves that we keep tucked away and don’t share with anyone else. The leaders asked us to think about what we are ashamed of about ourselves. As I sat there with my eyes closed, my littlest baby in my arms, tears started pouring down my face. I knew what I was most ashamed of and I hated to admit it.
What was I most embarrassed about? I was ashamed that I could get so mad at my precious little boys. I wanted to have them. I wanted to stay home with them. I felt lucky to be a mom. And yet, sometimes when they fought or yelled or didn’t listen and I was tired and overwhelmed, I ended up yelling at them. To add to my guilt, I was teaching parenting classes by then which really made me think I should be the perfect mom who could always handle it. Wow, was that ever wrong.

When I tearfully shared the part of me that I hid from everyone, the leaders asked everyone else in the room who was a parent to raise their hand if they ever felt the same way. Do you know what happened? Every single parent in that room raised their hand. I looked around in awe. I was seriously dumbfounded. Everyone?  Even that family that looked perfect? Even the sweet mom who seemed to have her act so together?  Why hadn’t anyone told me??? It seemed so unfair that this was such a best-kept secret. I had felt so crazy and like a bad mom and here I was, finding out that every. single. other. parent. felt. the. same.

On that day, 16 years ago in July, I vowed to come out of the closet about my mom-shame. To this day, I think we moms could help the sanity of all parents if we just acknowledged to younger, newer moms that they are not alone when they feel this way.

If I were to start a club, I’d call it the “674 Things They Never Told Us About Parenting Club.” We would all share the things that have surprised us along the way about parenting. One of the first and biggest ones would be that it is utterly, completely normal to feel surprised about how much harder it is than we thought to be consistently kind, loving and patient with these precious little people who have so many needs.
So hang in there, “(Not)Bad Mom.” You might be doing everything humanly possible to be a great mom and STILL feel like you’re not doing it well enough. Now you know the best kept secret: we all feel that way.

Warm regards,
Kerry

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