My youngest daughter (Little H) is spirited. I spend my days listening to her talk non-stop, chasing her, dealing with meltdowns, and negotiating acceptable choices of activities to engage in. To make matters worse, she's up at 5:30 in the morning and is moving non-stop until her 7:45 bedtime. It's exhausting.
At times, I fret that she's experienced too many negative interactions with me. I feel like I've spent so much time redirecting and reprimanding her that I worry she may have a negative sense of self-worth. So I'm often looking for ways to positively engage and encourage her.
A while ago, I took my girls to the grocery store. Little H sat in the cart, and my oldest daughter (Big G) decided she wanted to "shop" for me. As we entered an aisle, I would tell Big G what we needed from that aisle, and she would have to hunt it down and bring it to the cart. She loves this activity, especially when I give her the added challenge of finding a specific brand or the lowest priced tomato sauce.
While she was doing these challenges, I pushed the cart and casually talked with my youngest daughter. Suddenly, Little H piped up and said, "Mommy, this store has Big G's banana bread!"
I told her I wasn't sure if they carried it. She insisted she saw it in someone else's cart. Before I knew it, she flagged down a store attendant and said, "Hey, do you have banana bread here?"
He smiled and said, "Yes! It's over there in the bakery department."
I called Big G over and together we looked for the banana bread.
Within a minute, we had found it.
"I knew it, Mommy," Little H proudly said, "I knew I saw it!"
I commended her for spotting the banana bread and for asking the store attendant.
"Good for you Little H! What a big help you are!"
I went heavy on the compliments because this child needs to hear how awesome she is. She needs praise. She needs to know what a big help she is.
We finished our shopping and started to walk toward the tills.
My oldest daughter dragged her feet. Her shoulders slumped forward, and her head hung down.
"What's up Big G?"
"Nothing," she wistfully responded.
"Something's wrong; you can tell me," I prodded.
She looked up at me. Her eyes shimmering with tears.
"I helped you so much and all Little H did was find a box of banana bread snacks, and you made such a big deal over it. Don't you care that I was helping too?"
I can say that in all my parenting moments, this was the first time I felt utterly remorseful over something I did. I've hurt my children's feelings before because I doled out a consequence or had to reprimand them for something they did, but this was different.
I had unintentionally placed more value on one child than another.
I immediately dropped to my knees and hugged her.
I grievously apologized and asked for my daughter's forgiveness.
Despite her generous and forgiving spirit, I could not let go of the mom guilt I felt.
I broke my daughter's heart.
I hurt my daughter's feelings.
I was disappointed in myself and disappointed in my parenting.
In all my years of parenting, I never felt the burden of "mom fail" as much as I did at this moment. While I realize I've had my fair share of mess ups, I never imagined hurting my daughter to this degree.
Guilt hung around my head. My mind started to run wild. I began to wonder if there were other things I had done that had brought my daughter to this breaking point. Perhaps I've been unintentionally showing favouritism. I wondered if my efforts to help my youngest daughter out of her challenging behaviours resulted in me neglecting to nurture my oldest daughter's need for praise.
I grieved this incident so much. I could not let go of the image of my daughter, standing before me, eyes brimming over with tears, her spirit crushed by her mom.
To make matters worse, that evening I went onto Facebook and saw pictures and status updates about "perfect" moms and their "perfect families" and the "perfect" things their children said and did that day. In fact, one status update included a photo of a note a child had written to his mom, saying, "You're the best mom in the whole world."
I'll never get a note like that ... especially after this episode in the grocery store.
Great, big, enormous #momfail.
I wanted to share. I wanted to tell others about this pain in my heart. I wanted to share about my ache to make things better. I craved advice from someone who could sympathize. Yet I couldn't bring myself to tell others about this incident because I felt like I would be judged ... harshly.
What to do when you're disappointed in your parenting
Avoid social media
When you're feeling at your lowest, avoid social media. You don't need to see everyone else's happy moments when you're feeling gloomy. Wait for this season of sadness to pass before logging onto social media.
By handing my sadness and grief over to God, I can often recover a lot faster from disappointing moments such as these.
Talk to someone
Arrange to meet up with someone you love and trust. Talk about your feelings and your struggles with parenting. If you don't have someone in your life who's a good listener, then perhaps you could see a counselor.
Sometimes we need to release all these feelings and emotions. Often writing everything out in a journal provides the freedom and clarity we require.
My mind is my worst enemy. It often drifts into negative thinking patterns. A few minutes alone in my thoughts can make me feel like I'm the biggest failure in the world. To help myself think positive, I write lists of everything I love about my life and myself as a mom. It makes a huge difference to think positive!
Let go of the #momfail culture
Whether it's the unfolded load of laundry, the sink overflowing with dishes, the burnt dinner, or the forgotten appointment, the #momfail culture is tearing us apart. Even though the pictures and momfail hashtag are meant as a joke, they stack up in our heads and are weighing us down.
So tell me, what do you do when you're disappointed in your parenting?
Editor's note: This article was originally published on The Deliberate Mom. It has been republished here with permission.