I’m a Bad Mom

What had started out as a typical day, was morphing into a crash- and-burn day. One of my kids had shared with me a struggle they were having. And in short order, I was having my own multi-level struggle that was interfering with my ability to empathically be there for my child.

In my spiraling state of mind, I maintained my wits about me enough to send out an SOS to my neighbor friends. “Can I come over later to cry? I’m feeling like an inadequate mom and need to reset with some tears.” I said “inadequate”… but in the constant sorting game that’s been programmed into my brain, “inadequate” falls squarely in the bad camp.

God bless my neighbors! We’ve formed a small sisterhood of support and my life has been bettered by them being in it. One of the “sisters” was available and we had a chat. I explained what was going on and how I’d responded. She failed to see where I was being inadequate or bad.

With more processing, I realized I’d based my opinion of myself not on anything that was going on that evening, but on several broad-based assumptions:

  • If I’ve been an adequate parent, my kids will successfully handle difficult situations and personal challenges without missing a beat.
  • I am responsible for this problem because I raised them.
  • I inadequately prepared them for life.
  • I am supposed to fix this problem.
  • I have failed and am failing.

I had grabbed what was squarely their struggle and made it mine.

Have you been there?


What’s interesting about all these assumptions is that they are based on a belief that I have the potential to be, and actually must be, omniscient and omnipresent. I must understand the inner workings of my child’s brain. I must understand how every interaction will impact them now and in the future and selectively control what those interactions are. I must have all the answers. I have the power to determine the outcome of their lives. And really this whole responsibility thing would also require me to be responsible for the chemical make-up and neurological wiring in my child’s brain. Wow! Really? Am I God?

After a visit with my neighbor I was able to return home to be a mom instead of a god, to listen instead of scramble to fix, to share life together instead of control, and to empathize with the situation instead of cast blame.

Breaking the cycle of self-blame and criticism is a long and slow process. But until compassion is found on the inside, for the fallible soul who inhabits the body you see in the mirror, freely giving compassion to others will be unattainable.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” starts with you.

More than a House

Dear Marilyn,

Thank you for the generous offer to use your home for our gathering.  It was such a treat to get together with friends for the evening. And it was such a treat to get to know you better.  I appreciated the tour of your home, inside and out.

As we were walking on the path and you were pointing out all the different types of vegetation, I realized I would never remember their names, how they arrived at your house, or when you put them in.  But I found there were lessons in your story of much greater meaning to me.  And I am so grateful for the opportunity to have heard you tell them without directly saying a word.

The things you have are meaningful to you because of the people and their stories that they remind you of. Despite the meaning of the things, they are still not too precious to hold, touch, and use.  People present in your life are more important than things.  That’s a good lesson.

You have been working on improving your place for years.  You have a plan and you work hard towards your goal. You plant small shrubs and trees knowing they will grow into something beautiful in time. You aren’t in a hurry.  You aren’t afraid you will run out of time.  You don’t allow circumstances to rush you.  You have great patience for the process of life.

You dream big.  You spend time thinking about where you are and where you want to go with things. You let your mind wander and imagine beautiful things.  You see potential where others see a dry patch of dirt.



You and Frank have respect for each other.  You have learned to present your ideas to Frank and then give him space to think and process. You appreciate the differences you each bring to your union.

You value your girlfriends.  You make an effort to do things that bind your hearts together.  You embrace what makes you feminine.

You treasure your heritage and the heritage of others.  You find worth in the struggle of life and the growth that it brings.

You are rejuvenated and refreshed by appreciating the things of nature.  They are a reflection of their Creator. You connect with Him while caring for the things He made.

Your house is beautiful and the things you have in it are beautiful.  But the greatest beauty of the place is the family who lives there.  I can’t tell you the names of your flowers and shrubs, but I learned a lot by spending the evening in your home. Thank you again for sharing of your home and yourself.