I had one of these moments the other day with my 13-year-old daughter as I was attempting to prepare something resembling dinner for my crew of four while my husband was away on business. I was struggling just to hold it together in my pregnant, 36-year-old body.
Honestly, I can’t even remember what the discussion topic was, but suddenly I found myself yelling at my eldest as she tried to retreat upstairs, away from our heated argument. It was such a strange experience because even while I was yelling, my mind was telling me to stop and take a breath. Yet I just kept on venting like a steaming hot kettle.
Every time I have a tough moment like this, I end up being more frustrated with myself than with my child who, in all honesty, is most likely behaving age appropriately. I should know this. I have a bachelor’s degree in family and human development.
I have been cruising on this motherhood ride for over 13 years now, all the while reading parenting books, analyzing my interactions, and seeking guidance from above. Yet I am continually amazed at the level of difficulty that parenting can sometimes bring, along with my moments of utter disregard for all that I have studied. Tired moments. Overwhelmed moments. Chaotic moments.
Years ago, before starting our family and choosing to stay home, before struggling with infertility and loss, before supporting my husband through a major career change and an unplanned master’s program, before uprooting our family to move cross country, before countless sleepless nights spent tending to these long prayed for blessings, I assured myself that I would be a calm and collected mother. One who is thoughtful and patient at all times. Little did I know that life and parenting are so much more complex than a promise spoken in the midst of naiveté.
Here I was, doing the very thing that I promised myself that I would never do. What was happening? I should be able to hold it together. I should be able to be reasonable and calm despite my surroundings. I should…I should…
However, I don’t always hold it together. I don’t always remain calm. And I am not always reasonable. Sometimes I lose it and have to recover myself and my children from these moments of chaos. I am human. I am flawed and I am wise. I am weak and I am strong. I am tired and I am passionate. I am lazy and I am ambitious. All of it.
A very wise mother once reminded me that I am succeeding because I show up, because I keep trying, and because I love my children unconditionally through it all. Even though there are times when all I want to do is lock myself in my room with a bag of chocolate chips and binge-watch my favorite BBC period drama, I try to be present with my children in the ways that each needs. I am often exasperated by behavior that I know is just part of developing into independent, free-thinking individuals. Still, I love these people through and through.
Because of this, I keep getting back up. I keep apologizing when I lose it, even if I may feel justified in my reaction. I keep reading and learning and discussing with other parents. I keep seeking to improve and learn from my mistakes as well as my successes.
To all the mothers out there who think you are somehow failing—you aren’t. You are showing up. You are succeeding because you are trying. Keep trying. Keep believing that even your weaknesses and crazy-mom moments are teaching your children that, just like they fall flat sometimes, so do you. And that is okay. You are still loved, you are still needed, and you are still strong.
Make your way upstairs to your child, apologize, and move on. Let it go. These moments do not define you as a person. They teach you and they remind you that just like your child is not perfect, neither are you. It’s important to be willing to admit that. This will allow your child to see that there is strength in being vulnerable and there is power even in your weakness.
QUESTION: What strategies do you use in those tough moments to recover, to forgive yourself, and to let it go?
CHALLENGE: Take a few minutes to write down the things that you feel you are good at as the mother of your children. If you have a few more minutes, write down some of the things that you have learned from your tough experiences (you know, the “When this comes up again, I will do this differently” moments).
Edited by Nollie Haws and Kimberly Price.
Family Image provided by the author.