When I was pregnant I had so many plans to be such a great mom. I was going to do all the right things. Give him healthy food, limit his tv, play with him, and teach him everything that he needed to know.
Within a few months of giving birth to my son, I realized that there was no way I was going to live up to my own expectations of what kind of mom I should be.
My son was colic, and he would cry for hours on end, leaving me frustrated. Even though his colic ended at the age of 1, it was only to be replaced by tantrums and fits.
I definitely wasn’t the mom I wanted to be
To cope with how challenging he was I started giving him lots of TVs so that I could get a break. Sometimes I would sit on the sofa for an hour just staring at my phone.
Then when he had been watching tv for too long I would try and get him to do something else, only for him to throw a tantrum, which I blamed myself for.
After all, if I had been able to keep him away from watching so much tv in the first place that tantrum wouldn’t have happened.
The shame spiral
The shame spiral is a never-ending cycle of self-judgment and guilt that can be incredibly difficult to break free from.
When I’m feeling down about myself, the shame spiral always seems to find a way to drag me down even further.
I berate myself for not being a good mom, for not being able to make my kids happy, for not being able to do anything right.
And the more I berate myself, the worse of a mom I actually become. Because feeling like I wasn’t a good mom made me feel depressed and down on myself. It made me feel like I wasn’t capable of doing anything right.
The shame spiral bought about my mom’s guilt which is a never-ending cycle of pain and suffering, and sometimes it felt like I’ll never be able to break free.
But I was doing the best I could
Even though I felt like a bad mom, I also felt like I was doing the best I could at that point. I did not have the energy or the capability to do more at that point in my life.
However, I still made an effort to spend time with my son. I made sure that he was safe, well-fed, and healthy. If he needed hugs, I gave them to him. He was safe and secure with me.
I just knew that I needed to do something different because my mom’s guilt was making me depressed, and incapable of being the mom that I wanted to be.
What I did to become a better mom
After a particularly difficult day, with my son throwing multiple tantrums I decided that I was going to change. Either I had going to accept myself for the type of mom I was, or I was going to become a better mom.
After hours of research, I found 5 things that helped me become the type of mom that I wanted to be
Forgive yourself and love yourself
The first step to becoming a better mom is to love yourself for who you are and forgive yourself for your mistakes. And for me personally forgiving myself and loving myself, was what really turned things around for me.
I started simple. I engaged in what is called positive thought replacement. Every time I had a thought about how I was a bad mom, I replaced it with the thought “I’m being as good of a mom I can be right now, and my son is being the best baby he can be.”
This way I wasn’t constantly going down the shame spiral or focusing on the fact that I was a bad mom. Every time I made a mistake, I tried to let it go and forgive myself.
I spent several months working towards loving myself more. I focused on all the things I was doing right. As a mother, and in my life in general.
Research has found that shame and guilt don’t make you a better mom. Instead, it makes you want to seek instant gratification. And based on my experience with it, I agree.
Become a mindful parent
Mindful parenting is when you are fully present and aware while parenting. Often as parents, we react to situations based on our preconceptions, emotions, experiences, and childhood hurts/insecurities.
With mindful parenting, you learn to regulate your own emotions so that you are able to make conscious parenting decisions, as opposed to simply reacting.
For me becoming a mindful parent meant that I worked through my personal triggers that were still impacting my parenting.
For instance, every time my son dropped something on the floor I would feel triggered. The action itself wasn’t a big deal. But growing up I had been told I was clumsy and careless. And I didn’t want my son having to deal with that.
I learned to regulate my emotions so that I reacted calmly and patiently. Even when I disciplined, I never did it out of anger.
Connect with your child
Working through my feelings of shame and guilt, making it easier for me to connect with my child. Instead of feeling angry, or wanting to withdraw, I found myself enjoying the time I was spending with him.
I made a simple commitment. Every single day, no matter what, I would spend 20 minutes uninterrupted with him. During this time I would put away my phone, and focus only on him and what we were doing.
Before this, I would spend time with my son, but I would often be distracted. Giving him uninterrupted time was a game-changer. It was sometimes hard for him once the time was over, but using a timer, and planned activity for him to do alone right after seemed to help.
A big part of why I found parenting hard was because I was a stay-at-home mom and expected to do SO MUCH all by myself. I rarely got breaks, and when I did all I had the energy to do was stare at my phone. I never got time to unwind with my friends, because I would only hang out with them with my son. So I still had to take care of him.
When my spouse realized how difficult things were for me, he finally stepped up. He started to give me time to unwind so that I could finally be the mom I wanted to be.
I started doing things that made me feel good about myself again. For example, I went to get my hair done. I went for adult dinners with my friends. Also focussed on whatever self-care I needed.
Once I started to feel like the old me again, I began to read books and articles about becoming a good mom. I learned techniques that would make it easier to take care of my son. Here are some which I found really useful
- “Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident KidsHunter Clarke-Fields MSAE
- “How to talk so little kids can listen, and listen so kids can talk” by Adele Faber
- Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Laura Markham
- ‘How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results’ by Esther Wojcicki
- ‘Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves and Our Society Thrive’ By Marc Brackett
You are doing the best you can
If you are on this website feeling guilty about being a bad mom, you’re probably doing the best you can right now. Only less than 1% of moms are actually bad.
If your child is safe and healthy, that’s where you start. We are all capable of doing better, and being better. But the only way we can actually change, and become better moms is by forgiving ourselves for all the mistakes we have made and will continue to make. And to love and accept ourselves for who we are.