“Jack-Jack, it’s time to put our shoes on!” I yelp, zooming around the house to collect our things. Let’s see: coats, hats, gloves, masks, yoga pants, wallet… wait, where is my wallet? I glance at my son; his eyes inches from the screen, not budging.
I try again, voice rising: “Jack, honey, we have to go. We’re laaate for school.” There’s my wallet.
It’s Thursday, that cursed weekday when something always goes wrong—a meltdown over waffles, a poop-stastrophe, a power-struggle over a dirty t-shirt—and we end up running behind all morning. Sweat clings to my temple. We cannot be late today. Not again.
I wave my hand in front of the screen, and he looks up. “SHOES!” I repeat, towering over him. “I don’t wanna go to school,” he pouts. I see his face contorting into a scowl and the beginnings of crocodile tears in his eyes. Thinking fast, I try a bribe: ‘“If you put your shoes on with me, you can have fruit snacks in the car.” His eyes light up; he moves toward his sneakers.
Reader, in the span of a minute, I committed no less than three cardinal parenting sins: excess screen time, bribes and bartering, and a big one, shouting. This is not the norm in my household. Sadly, I’ve lived variations of this scenario more than once.
Perhaps you’re shaking your head in incredulity. Or maybe you counted more(!) mistakes than I did. Wherever you land, I want you to know this: on the aforementioned Thursday, I felt like a bad mom. No, a horrible one.
Have you ever had a day like that? You forget something important, snap at your family, keep stumbling, and when you finally crumple into the sheets, you lie awake worrying you’ve ruined your children’s lives and surely they will be in therapy for this—years of it—and there’s no way you could possibly measure up to the pressures of this motherhood gig.
You’re right about one thing: there’s no way any of us can measure up to the “perfect” mom. She’s pure fiction. Deep down, we know this.
Still, we try.
There’s no way any of us can measure up to the ‘perfect’ mom. She’s pure fiction. Deep down, we know this. Still, we try.
We aim to parent the way we were raised. We aim to redeem our childhood wounds by doing parenthood differently. We get it right. We fail. Sometimes, we post about it on social media—the highs and lows—in the hopes the response will satisfy our need for assurance.
There are some parenting flaws we keep to ourselves as a catalog of choices we make that ignite guilt and drain our joy.
In the interest of authenticity, I’m sharing a few of mine. If we were all a little more honest, I suspect we’d end up feeling less anxious and ashamed.
- As I write this story, picked over baskets of clean clothes sit in my son’s room and mine. It’s been five business days since I did those loads of laundry, and I suspect this batch may never make it into our drawers.
- I dislike party-planning, Pinterest crafts, and writing thank-you notes. I still plan parties and manage family correspondence (not the crafts, never the crafts) because I feel it’s my motherly duty, but I resent it.
- Screentime is a regular part of our routine. I worry it’s rotting my son’s brain, but I struggle to see how we could function without it.
- I’m terrified of the planet my son is inheriting. And I often feel helpless to influence positive change because the needs seem enormous. I want to teach him about caring for creation, but I know I could do more to shift my habits and stand up for the causes I believe in. He is watching; I can do better.
- Fast food chicken nuggets end up making their way on the menu at least once a week. Usually it’s Friday when I’m tired of cooking, tired of food wars, and tired, period.
- I threw my own Mom tantrum, complete with screaming, stomping, crying, the works. It was epic and ugly, and afterwards, I apologized profusely. Now I try to put myself in timeout when anger gets overwhelming.
- A few days a year, I keep my son in daycare and take a mental health day for myself. I know I’m immensely privileged to have this option, and I do not take it for granted. This has saved my sanity more than once.
- The bathroom is my secret hideout. I especially enjoy leisurely, hot showers. Often, I just sit on the toilet and scroll my phone or think in quiet until my son barges inside, breaking the spell of silence.
- My deepest, darkest fear is losing my son or leaving him too soon. This manifests itself in bad habits—hovering and irrational worry. I’m working on letting go.
I am, undoubtedly, a work in progress. I’m trying to improve what matters most to me and release what doesn’t. Your mom confessions may be similar or vastly different. There is no one right way to mother, we all do it differently. And that is just fine.
I believe in lots of impossible things: prayer, ghosts, world peace, and the fleeting hope that someday we’ll get to school on time one Thursday.
I don’t believe in the perfect mom. She’s as implausible as swamp thing, yet we often seek her out on Instagram and IRL. If there’s a “perfect” mom in your circle, I dare you to connect with her. Chances are, she has her own list of confessions.
This is the truth: I’m far from perfect, but I’m a good enough mom because I care. So are you.