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It's Time Motherhood Got a Reality Check

I’m just going to get really real here for a minute.

I'm always flattered when someone tells me that I’m “such a good mom.”

But behind my humble “thank you,” I'm usually thinking, “You have no idea how frequently I most certainly do not feel like a 'good mom'.”

I say it’s time we change the conversation about what being a good mom really means.

I  appreciate it when people see photos of activities I do with my kids or witness a positive parenting moment and recognize my efforts as a mom.  But those times are only the highlight reel of our journey. Reality is not nearly as glamorous. I change loads of diapers, make snacks, get them dressed, clean up puke messes, wipe noses...

I don't post those things on Instagram and I receive no recognition for them. 

In photo after photo we are smiling, happy, and active. But, I have days where I just can't shake being grumpy. I get frustrated at every little thing. I forget to take care of myself, feel rundown, and take it out on other people. I frown, complain, and disapprove. I have days when I just don't feel like doing anything.

So, what about those times? Am I only a “good mom” when I'm happy, energetic, peaceful, positive, and encouraging?

What about the times when I snap at my 4-year-old to 'just go play'?

or

When I can't reign in my frustration and slam a door instead of taking a deep breath? 

or

When everything is just too much and my family feels helpless to stop my tears of overwhelm? 

Those are the things that happen more often than I think we’d like to admit. And, I’m sure they happen to every cheery, smiling “good mom.”

I say it's time we turn the "good mom" status on its head and show our children what it means to be a good person instead. I'll sit with my vulnerability for a moment and share an example of how we do that. 

The other night, triggered by normal, difficult preschooler behavior, lack of sleep, and too much caffeine throughout the day, I had a relapse of postpartum anxiety-fueled rage. This doesn’t happen often. But, when it does, it comes out of nowhere and I feel powerless to stop it.

There was yelling, crying, and door-slamming that frightened the entire family, including me.

After the storm subsided I just wanted to give up. My mind was swirling with self-loathing thoughts of the irrevocable emotional damage my mental illness, which is usually kept wrangled quietly within me, has caused my family.

I convinced myself I couldn’t quit.

I dried my tear-streaked face, managed a few deep breaths, and went to talk with my son. I gently rubbed his back and stroked his hair away from his face.

I found my courage. 

I could choose to stay guilty and ashamed which wouldn't help anyone. Or I could be courageous enough to show that I am human, feelings are difficult to manage, and we all make mistakes. I needed to turn this scary situation into a valuable emotional intelligence lesson. I used my courage to tell my shame and guilt to shut up. 

I kept my apology short and simple.  "I'm so sorry I yelled. I was feeling really tired and angry. Sometimes when I'm angry I yell. I shouldn't do that. When I'm tired and angry it feels like my yelling button is broken and I can't turn it off. Next time I'll remember to take a break and a breath instead. I'm very sorry. I love you." 

He seemed to understand, accepted that explanation, laid his head on his pillow, and settled into bed. I breathed a much-needed sigh of relief. I still felt terrible. But I was blessed with the reassurance that I was forgiven, so I was able to forgive myself. I rested in the hope that the positive actions I took would prevail in my son's mind over the negative situation by remembering this quote, 

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the voice at the end of the day that whispers, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’”
— Mary Ann Radmacher

Do you have a 'keeping it real' motherhood moment? Share it in the #motherhoodunfiltered campaign courageously led by reproductive psychiatrists Dr. Alexandra Sacks and Dr. Catherine Birndorf