Ever Googled “mom fails” just for kicks?
I’m sure we have all done this, either for a good laugh or to make ourselves feel better about our own parenting downfalls.
Despite the chuckles, however, facing the spiritual repercussions of failing as a parent is very real and causes emotional distress for many mothers.
With the advent of social media, we now have millions of other mothers to compare ourselves to.
Instead of looking at our children to gauge how we are doing as parents, we turn to those other mothers who are doing it “right”.
You know the ones I’m talking about – perfect smiley family, healthy meals on the table, immaculately organized playrooms. Where did we go so wrong?
The truth is, we didn’t, and we need to stop judging ourselves based on the so-called “reality” of other mothers.
Repeat this back to yourself:
This may make it sound like we all suck at parenting. However, the thing you need to realize is there is a huge difference between failing and being a failure.
If your children are adequately taken care of emotionally and physically, then you are not a failure.
The Difference Between Failure and Failing
Did you know that J.K. Rowling’s manuscript for Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before a small London publisher chose to publish it?
Or that Dr. Seuss submitted his first book to 27 different publishers before someone finally agreed to take it on?
Imagine if they had simply accepted themselves as failures and gave up. We wouldn’t have Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book or Rowling’s epic series.
Did they fail? Definitely – and that’s the difference right there. Failing is temporary while failure is permanent.
Once we internalize those failings and establish them as a mindset, we have given in to failure. If we only see failings as setbacks in our lives, we can easily move on from them.
Like I said, as long as you take care of your children, you cannot be a parenting failure. Can you fail as a parent? Absolutely, but the difference is viewing those mom fails as part of the journey and not simply the end.
Mom Fails ≠ Failure as a Mom
I’m going to tell you a story of a mom fail that I have not told many people.
When my daughter was an infant, only months old, I packed her up in the car for a trip out of town.
I would usually put her in her carrier while I got myself ready, snap the carrier into the car and take off.
I made it about 25 minutes down the highway before I realized her harness was not clipped. I hadn’t done up the belt before leaving the house.
As soon as I realized my mistake, I pulled over and strapped her in. At first, I laughed at my stupidity, but then I cried at the thought of what would have happened to her tiny body if I had of gotten into an accident.
Thankfully nothing happened and I realized what had I had forgotten to do sooner rather than later. I made sure from that day on, even now when she can do her own seat belt, that she is properly strapped before I even move the vehicle.
Am I a parenting failure? I certainly don’t feel like I am, but I definitely screwed up that day.
Social Media and the Pressure to Be a Perfect Mom
I read an article about a woman named Jen Flint who shared a story on Facebook about a mother and daughter she witnessed at the pool one day (you can read the whole article here).
She talks about a mom and her little girl arriving at the pool with matching bathing suits. The mother then proceeds to pose the daughter, taking numerous shots and selfies before allowing her daughter to play.
Her daughter pleads with her mother to join but she is busy playing on her phone. After about 10 minutes they leave.
Her anecdote summarizes the problem with the “reality” of social media. It’s likely that this mother edited the photos and threw them on Instagram with tags like, as Flint guesses, “Pool time with my girly! #Makingmemories.”
To everyone who views these types of images, they see a put-together mom out having the perfect day with her little one. What we don’t see is the reality behind the shots.
Whether or not this mother actually posted those images doesn’t matter. What matters is that, inarguably, what we see is not always what is real.
But we act like it is and then look at our own chaotic and messy lives and think, “Why can’t my life be like that? Why am I a failure?”.
Here’s a truth-bomb for you (you may want to write it down):
If you were to compare yourself to the realities other moms face on a regular basis, you would be on par.
Even if those Instagram moms have happy little families, healthy food on the tables and immaculately organized playrooms, they are not the majority. In fact, I would dare say they are some type of mythical mom-unicorn.
So stop using these other moms as the basis of comparison when categorizing your parenting efforts as “failures”.
Social Media and Mom Shaming
Not only do we have to wary of social media when it comes to the illusion of perfection, but we also face mom-shaming from those who feel the need to share their opinions about how we are raising our children – on a public platform.
It happened to me once but in a very mild way. I once posted a picture of my little girl building with blocks for the very first time. I was super pumped at her newfound skill.
Most of the comments went something like this: “Oh no! She’s W-sitting!”
(So I was a support worker for Autistic children for 7 years. One thing we were very stringent about is the way they sat on the floor. We always encouraged the ol’ “Criss-Cross Applesauce” but some kids liked to sit with their legs to the side and toes pointed backward – so their legs formed a sort of W. Most of these comments came from co-workers.)
Still, I was disappointed that instead of reveling in the fact that my wee babe was independently building structures out of blocks, I was being corrected on her sitting position.
And I did feel bad. I thought, “Oh no, I should have fixed her legs. I was caught not being a good mom. She is going to have displaced hips in later life.”
It didn’t matter in the end because she learned how to sit cross-legged and continued to build adorable little block towers. Perhaps allowing her to sit that way was a fail but, as I said, a fail is temporary. I didn’t compromise the future of her body structure.
Ultimately, these people weren’t wrong but they certainly didn’t make me feel very good about myself.
That’s the cost of posting our lives online, though. You really just have to let it roll off your shoulders.
Haters gonna hate.
Coping With Mom Fails
Hopefully, by now I’ve helped you realize that failing is okay and that you are not a failure. That’s great, but how are you going to cope when mom fails happen?
You Are Your Children’s Best Mom
Remember, first of all, that no one can parent your children better than you. You know what they like, what they don’t like, how to deal with their tantrums – and you know this reflexively.
Imagine a time when you watched someone else “deal” with your kid. How quickly did you jump in to help them out?
I’ve done this many times with family and friends. I don’t mind other people tackling my child’s behavior (break for me!) but they just don’t do it right.
So even if you feel like you’re failing, you’re doing it better than anyone else can.
Learn From Your Mistakes
However, there are going to be times when fails hit you right in the self-esteem and you’re going to feel like shit.
This is where you have to retrain your mind. You have to teach yourself that failing is not the end of the world – it’s a learning opportunity and a chance to move forward in your parenting journey.
The important thing is to acknowledge your mistake as I did with the car seat. I didn’t try to pretend it didn’t happen to avoid the guilt of what I had done. I owned it and became much more vigilant about seat belts.
To Laugh or Not To Laugh
When you make a mistake or fail, you should give some thought to whether or not it is the end of the world. It could have been for my daughter if I had gotten into an accident, so I took that fail seriously.
I have a friend who likes to share her mom fail story: Not long after the birth of her second child, she went shopping for groceries.
While perusing the produce section, she moved on to look at cheeses and then proceeded to continue her shopping journey. She didn’t make it too far before she realized that she had forgotten her newborn at the potatoes.
Once she realized her baby was safe and unharmed, she laughed and chalked it up to “Mom Brain”. It was no huge deal – she hadn’t made it far enough for her baby to be out of sight and her little one was never in danger.
When a mom fail happens, and it will, you need to decide how dire it is. If you can laugh it off, please laugh it off (and then post it on Twitter or Facebook with #momfail so other moms can feel less bad about their fails).
Truths About Failing
Failing is unavoidable so, unless you want to live like a Stepford wife or bubble wrap your children, you need to accept that one simple fact. And – brace yourself – it will happen a lot.
When it does, you will feel judged and guilty and you will doubt yourself as a parent. Sometimes you will be scared and other times you will have to smash whatever perfect vision you had about motherhood to pieces.
But, you know what? At the end of the day, one monumental truth remains: Your children are fine and they love you 3000.
I Want Your Mom Fails
Well, at least the ones you are willing to share with me!
Leave your mom fails in the comments below or let me know about a time you were mom-shamed on social media.