Buck Up, Little Camper

I feel like I have been hearing a lot lately from my mom friends about the mistakes they make as parents, and how bad they feel about those mistakes. I feel like they are trying to own their mistakes and learn from them, and that’s good. We SHOULD learn from our mistakes. That’s one of the things I am always reminding The Boy–that it’s OK to make mistakes, because mistakes teach us something. But a lot of the things I have heard lately haven’t left me saying “Way to learn from your mistake!” Instead, they left me wanted to give the blogger a hug and tell her “You’re a better mom than you think you are.” Because they felt filled with a self-judgment with which I am all too familiar.

Wow, do I totally know that feeling. When The Boy was born early, I blamed myself for my water spontaneously breaking in the middle of an otherwise normal, healthy pregnancy. I felt like I should have known something was going wrong, somehow, like, I should have been more in touch with my body, or something? I mean, who else’s fault could it be? Not my doctor, who was monitoring my pregnancy exactly as thoroughly as she should have been. Not my husband, who was not carrying The Boy in his body. Not The Boy, who was the most innocent of all. Who did that leave for me to blame? Only myself, even though the reality was that I didn’t cause my water to break anymore than my doctor, The Hubs, or The Boy did. It took some therapy and some crying and a lot of time to get to the point where I didn’t judge myself for that, that I could accept that despite my best intentions, my body just couldn’t do what it needed to do.

Honestly? I think a lot of parenting guilt is like that. Nobody I know goes into this parenting thing saying “I want to be the shittiest parent ever. I really hope I fuck this kid up, but good.” We are all trying our best, and some days our best is better than other days, and sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes, despite our best intentions, bad things happen.

Let me put it another way. Think of the thing you are saying about yourself as a mom, the thing that makes you feel like a bad parent. And I want you to imagine that instead of you saying it, it’s your best friend saying it about herself. What would your reaction be? Would it be “Yeah, she’s a horrible mom, and she should feel awful”? If not, then sweetheart, you’re Judgy McJudersoning yourself. And Judgy McJudgersoning yourself is just the same as Judgy McJudgersoning someone else. You’re not helping.

Look, I get it, this is hard. It’s easy for me to say “Buck up, little camper” because what’s happening to you is not happening to me. Just remember while you beat yourself up that the rest of us out here believe in you, and we know you’re an awesome mom, no matter how much you aren’t feeling like you are right now. We’re here to lift you up when you feel like a failure, and help you get back on your feet again.

And I am sending you a giant hug!