Sometimes Trying to be a Good Mom Can Lead to Feeling Like a Bad Mom
It was about 4 years into my motherhood journey when I finally gave up the idea that I could do it all, and I have been intentionally working on that mindset ever since.
That is a long time to work towards an unattainable goal and I wish I had more guidance on this topic earlier.
The mental battles I would go through day-to-day were killing me and my lack of reality checking as to what any normal human being can do in a day meant that no matter what I did or where my priorities were, it never felt enough.
In this blog you will find:
- Some of my personal struggles with feeling like a good enough mom
- Encouragement to stop comparing and start looking inwards
- A FREE printable “The Good Mom Project” a journaling exercise for moms struggling to believe it
What’s A “Good Mom?”
Clean, cook, shop, play, organize, plan, be present, practise self-care, read, relax, research…the list goes on.
When I would make a mistake or not live up to my own expectations my inner voice was quick to judge:
“You’re an idiot.”
“You are not cut out for this.”
“You can’t do this.”
“Why do you always do this?”
“You are a bad mom.”
I would never say or even think these things about other moms. But for me? It was easy.
Naturally, I looked to other moms in my life or to social media to see what they were doing.
It started off as a desire to learn, to expand my knowledge on different ways to do things, to get ideas for how to run my household and what kind of parent I wanted to be.
The beauty of community, of relationships and even social media is that we can lean on one another and draw from one another’s perspectives and expertise. But the problem is that we have no context, no understanding of the full picture and therefore no realistic measuring stick to our own circumstances- not that we should be comparing anyway.
My love for my children made me want to learn how to be a good mom to them, but it also led me to making unrealistic comparisons with moms who had vastly different value systems, support systems, circumstances and vastly different children. And that caused me to have unrealistic expectations of nearly everything in my life, particularly my motherhood.
Facing My Own Realities As a Mom
A peek into my circumstances at that time in my life.
My children were 4 and 2.
The youngest had faced many challenges ever since he was an infant and every time I thought things would get easier, they didn’t.
- I was worn down from multiple years of not enough sleep.
- I was parenting two children around the schedule of my partner who worked a continental 12 hour day/night shift pattern.
- I was parenting a toddler who was highly sensitive, struggled with eating, sleeping and was showing signs of a communications disorder. I spent a great deal of time in his therapies and researching how best to support him.
- My in-laws lived in another country, and my own parents were reliant on me for support. I was parenting with little family or support
- I became a part of the sandwich generation but with young children at home.
- I was trying to reparent and heal my traumas from my own childhood in therapy including my perfectionist tendencies and people-pleasing patterns.
- I was overwhelmed and overstimulated nearly all the time and dealing with triggers that came from it.
- I was in the midst of overcoming postpartum depression and unknowingly had ADHD.
- I was working part-time and volunteering nearly full-time.
Some supports & resources:
- I had an active partner who took on many parenting responsibilities with me and who shared in the domestic load at home.
- We had enough money to get by and had access to healthcare.
- I had the time and opportunity to work on myself.
- My four year-old was very independent and always willing to help.
- I has good friends to support me
- I was actively trying to maintain my mental health and seeking growth.
The combination of the kids I was parenting, the struggles I was facing and the values I was not acknowledging made me feel like no matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn’t measure up. I never felt good about who I was or what I did when I laid my head down at the end of the day.
Something had to change.
Knowing You Are Good Mom Comes from Looking Inward Instead of Comparing Outward
When I dug deep and did the work to look inwards I realized that I instinctively trusted other people’s priorities, knowledge and values, more than my own. I assumed others knew better than I did. But they didn’t have the same challenges OR privileges. They also didn’t have the same values. I finally realized that’s okay. I had to trust myself and my own awareness of my life.
For example: my best friend had an immaculately clean house all the time. And for years I shamed myself for not being able to keep up. When I finally accepted that I just didn’t care that deeply about the baseboards or the fashion in which towels are folded. I saved myself an incredible amount of time AND heartache.
I eventually saw that other moms weren’t parenting my kids. They didn’t have my trauma. They didn’t have my husband. They had different types of support and knowledge. They had different amounts of time to do things. They had different challenges.
Most importantly, they prioritized and valued different things. Not better things, different things.
Getting Honest With Ourselves About What Being a Good Mom Means To Us
When we are truly aware of and honour the challenges we are facing, we can get a realistic idea of what we can get done in a day, how much time we can give to certain tasks and how we can prepare ourselves for what will inevitably go wrong. It also helps us to fight mom guilt and give ourselves grace for the not-so-perfect moments. It is important to do this instead of berating ourselves.
Also, when we are truly aware of the supports and resources we have- we are better able to use them!
It helps us to have perspective and gratitude for the things we have going for us. It also helps us to have them at the forefront of our minds so that when we are riding the struggle bus, we see opportunities for support. Whether it is remembering the mom friend you met at the park, or remembering your mom is close by and can offer support, or remembering you have enough money to hire a cleaner, seeing the good helps us to help ourselves when things are hard.
We don’t all have everything. We just don’t. Even when it looks like someone else does.
If you want to believe you are a good mom you’ve got to stop berating yourself for things out of your control, for not measuring up to the people around you, for not being perfect, for not being good at things you were never taught, for being human. You can’t do that without honouring your circumstances, your lived reality and your values.
Being a Good Mom Involves Taking Time to Think About Your Circumstances, Your Capacity and Your Values
I am going to give you a list of things to get honest about when trying to become more aware. At the end you will find the free Good Mom Project printable journaling exercise. It’s an awareness journal that I created to help moms who struggle to believe they are good moms. This list is non exhaustive:
- Support people/ village
- Mental health
- Access to community resources
- Physical health
- Number of children
- Children’s abilities or disabilities
- Partner status (partnered or not)
- Level of support from partner
- Other responsibilities (volunteering or supporting parents)
- Work status (part-time, WFH, SAHM, full time)
Our circumstances, our capacity and even our values will change. Sometimes these circumstances change with life stages. Other times, circumstances change day to day. This is why our awareness needs to be constant. This awareness is beneficial too because it means you might be in a stage with multiple circumstances:
- your house is a disaster more than you’d like
- you have 3 kids under 4
- everything else going on lets you say to yourself “this is fine, it’s not a reflection on me as a mom.”
But it also means that years down the road, you can reassess and focus on the tidiness and design more. It doesn’t mean you are then a better mom than the mom of littles, it means your circumstances and priorities change. That is normal.
Take this list and use it when you fill out the FREE printable I created called The Good Mom Project: a journal exercise for moms struggling to believe it. I believe that after doing it for 30 days you will see your mindset and inner critic change to something more grace giving and positive.
Does this resonate with you?
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