Daily Tip: If something isn’t working, ask yourself why? Figuring out the reason it doesn’t work will give you a better sense of where to go next.
By Jennifer Hunt, Contributing Writer
I didn’t have a strong maternal influence during my formative years. My mother couldn’t be as present as she would have preferred; she worked the graveyard shift and suffered from debilitating health problems.
Because of these circumstances, I didn’t learn much by way of traditional mothering. I didn’t cook anything from scratch until well after I was married. I never deep cleaned a thing. I never learned to play with younger children. My friend taught me how to put on makeup the week before my wedding. I couldn’t even put my hair in a straight ponytail.
As I raise my own children, there is often an overwhelming feeling of incompetence. In difficult moments, I don’t have an answer to “What would my Mom do?” Instead, the dark part inside of me whispers untruths like:
- You don’t have a clue what you’re doing. You’re so far behind.
- You’re doing it wrong. You’ll never be a good mother.
- Your kids don’t stand a chance against the others who have competent mothers.
I usually don’t believe these insinuations. They are irrational and the work of the devil. But…sometimes I do believe them.
Just Ten Minutes
Once these thoughts take root, it is hard to combat them, especially when my daughter is slapping me in the face screaming, “No bath! I no like bath!”
In these moments, I think to myself: Just ten minutes. Hold off from self-loathing for just ten minutes.
Or five. Or one. Whatever I need to postpone the feelings of worthlessness rising into my throat and begging to be released.
When the ten minutes are over, I start again.
In the morning, instead of falling apart when my children don’t want to take their medicine: Just until they drink their meds. Believe I am a good mother until they drink their meds. Then I can reassess.
During cranky time (4:00): Just until I’m done making dinner. I can believe I’m a good mother until I’m done making dinner.
At bedtime: I can be a good mother until they fall asleep. That is all that is required.
Sometimes I don’t make it. But many times I do.
This doesn’t always work, but it helps me keep perspective during my worst moments. Taking a deep breath and postponing the dreadful confirmation that I am indeed a bad mother helps me see that I’m not actually a bad mother.
Being a good mother doesn’t hinge on whether or not my children take their medicine. When I am rational, I know this. I even scoff at measuring my ability by some finite, inconsequential-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things measure.
When i start to succumb to the dark feelings, that’s when I need baby steps. Simply holding out a few more minutes before belittling myself gives me the strength to hold out a few more minutes…and a few more…and a few more until the desire to judge my mothering abilities on a single (challenging) incident passes.
I’d like to think after 4 1/2 years, I’m getting better at this Mom thing. I don’t know if I am, but I’m judging myself less harshly and enjoying the moments ten minutes at a time.
What are some ways you combat feelings of worthlessness as a mother?
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