A few nights ago was the first time I REALLY had to discipline my toddler, and if I am being totally honest, it made me feel like utter garbage.
We got home late from a family outing, and Mia was up way passed her bedtime…and while we’re on the road to Truthville, Mia barely has a “bedtime” as it is. Every night we seem to get her to bed and asleep at a vastly different time than the last, especially over the last few weeks. The days leading up to this particular evening have been a Game of Thrones Season 8 style, torch of Kings Landing, where Mia is Dany, the Mad Queen, and Mike and I are the innocent villagers, army-less and being burned to death below. Don’t even get me started on poor Emma (our patient, patient dog). She is basically a war prisoner, forced to watch the villagers burn and cry. Okay, okay – I am being dramatic, but seriously, every single night has been a total sleep fight, and these parents are on the losing team.
However, of all the bedtime battles we’ve encountered, this one was top notch. Mia screamed for over an hour straight. Blood curdling, wall shaking screams. We tried rocking her, giving her warm milk, singing softly to her, letting her watch her favourite videos, rubbing her back, cuddling her in our bed, asking her questions to distract her, or even just plain old letting her cry it out in her crib. After an hour of the most persistent performance by Mia Muffin herself, I snapped. I went back into her room for the third time and yelled. I yelled so loud that I even startled myself. Shockingly Mia responded well to my bellowing demands, and slowly sniffled herself to sleep in my arms while I let my own tears roll down right along with hers.
I rarely lose my cool with her, but a part of me makes me wonder if it’s because I am a fairly patient mom or because she is a good kid. She’s never been a big cryer, she’s never been too fussy about naps, and up until lately she’s been a pretty decent sleeper. Is it possible that she just hasn’t tested me like some other kids may have up until this point? Is there a chance I am actually not the best mom when it comes to handling the harder things because I’ve never really had to?
These questions and many others flew through my head as I paddled deeply through the weeds of mom guilt I was experiencing. Guilt about getting her home so late that she was utterly exhausted. Guilt that she was so overtired she could no longer control her emotions, and guilt that even though her fit of exhaustion was all my fault I still couldn’t manage to control my own fit, and keep calm for her sake.
Although I am not new to mom guilt, lately the notion of being a “bad mom” has popped into my head lately more times than I care to admit. In reality I know I am not a terrible mother, but why is it that I can feel like the biggest failure ever when it comes to motherhood moments so darn often?
The more I internally bullied myself, the more I started thinking about who I consider to be a good mom and why, and when I really broke it down, almost every parent I have encountered in my own life I would consider to be good; if not great. Are they all perfect? No (but is anyone?). Do they care about their children more than anything else on the planet? Yes. Without a shadow of a doubt, yes.
Once I was able to take a step back and realize that as long as I try my best to create a positive, nurturing, and loving environment for my daughter every day, I am a good mom. As long as I care about her and for her in the best ways I know how, I am a good mom. As long as I just try to eliminate the self-doubt that I have and just allow myself to enjoy motherhood with all its lumps and bumps, I am a good mom.
Parenting is known to be one of the greatest and most challenging gifts in life. Although I know this won’t be the last time I disappoint myself in choosing the less desirable course of action as a mother, I am going to always try and remember this moment and the lessons that it taught me about who I am as a person, and about who I hope to be as a parent.
If I can pass along any words of wisdom from one mama to the next, it would be to be gentle with yourself. Navigating through the deep, murky waters of being a parent can be tricky, and I can safely assume, only gets more muddied over the years. You’re learning at the same speed as every other parent, so try to give yourself as much grace as you would to the struggling mom next to you. Next time you’re sitting at home, internally beating yourself up over all the strange details mom’s beat themselves up over, give yourself a pat on the back instead. Congratulate yourself on showing up for yourself and your kids every day. You’re a great mom, so keep it up!