Guilt is a familiar friend to most of us mums.
I am no exception. I spent the first 8 years of my motherhood blaming myself for every little thing that went wrong with my little girl.
If she got a scratch while climbing a tree, I was a negligent mum. If she had a meltdown and threw a terrible tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, I was a failure as a mum. If she refused to share a toy in the playground, I was the insensitive mum. If she didn’t read every evening, I was an ineffective mum.
There was, in fact, not a single day that went by without making me feel as if I had been a bad mum. It came to a point that motherhood, at times, felt like a burden. I constantly felt that others were judging me and that I was always failing.
No matter how many cakes I bake, how may play dates I arrange, how many cuddles I give, how many nights I stay up with my sick babies – I always felt I was falling short; I was just not doing enough.
If my child got hurt, went hungry, cried for no reason, refused to smile and say hello on cue, or did not do what she was told to do when she was told to do it, I found myself wanting to crawl into a shell and hide from the world.
Surely motherhood was not meant to be this hard. Challenging yes, but heartbreaking, of course not.
On the next page, read about the day that changed it all for this mum.
After 8 years of feeling like a bad mum came the day that changed it all for me. My daughter and I went to the park for a stroll. Despite me telling her to wear closed shoes, she insisted on wearing her flip-flops, arguing that we were just going to walk for a bit and be back home.
Not wanting to set an unhappy tone just as we were setting out, I let her put on her blue and yellow striped flip-flops.
Ten minutes after we arrived at the park, my daughter spotted a friend a little distance away, and without saying anything to me, she suddenly charged off in her direction. As she ran, the sole of one of her flip-flops twisted and send her hurtling forward. She fell flat on the cemented footpath and scraped her right arm and leg terribly.
Seeing her lying there and crying uncontrollably, I just lost it and started yelling at her (yes in full view of everyone else) about how careless and irresponsible she was, and that it was her own fault that she had fallen down. While all the while in my head I was yelling at myself for having let her step out of the house in the flip flops and then not being able to stop her from running.
I was angry with myself for having been a terrible mum, but here I was taking it out on my daughter.
In the middle of my tirade, something clicked in my head and I realized I was looking at it all completely in the wrong way.
A bad day does not make a bad mum.
I realized that I was judging myself by my isolated and scattered “failures” rather than celebrating all the things that I was doing right and all the love and happiness I was sharing with my daughter.
It hit me, that just because one small thing went wrong with respect to my child in the day, it did not make the whole day a bad one, and it most certainly did not mean that I was a bad mum.
I had started to inflate the occasional moments of unhappiness, pain, or struggle of my child into complete and absolute failure as a mother.
If I looked at it completely objectively, I had many more moments of happiness and success as a mother than I did of struggles and failures, and yet I thought of myself as a bad mum.
I love my daughter, I spend significant parts of my day tending to her needs, playing with her, helping her get her work done, cooking for her, reading with her, laughing with her and cuddling her – so yes, overall I am a good mum. In fact I would go so far as to say, I am a pretty amazing mum.
Once I realized that just because I was having one of those days where everything seems to go wrong, it did not mean I was a bad mum – everything changed. I think, with less pressure on myself, I may even have become a better mum!
Mums take my advice: the next time you feel like you are a bad mum, take a paper and a pen and write 5 things you did well for your child. You will see, that it is just your day that has gone bad. Not you.
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