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?

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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.