Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bad Mother

Once, when I was a small child, I did something appalling and my mother said, "And how do you think that makes me feel?"

I looked her straight in the eye and said "I think it makes you feel like a failure as a mother."  

(She never asked that question again.)

There are some mornings where my children take turns shrieking - once, for a record four hours!  Of course, the more they scream, the less I want to interact with them.  Clearly, I am doing it all wrong.  If only I would come running / get out markers now now now/ read a long book/ wrestle on the floor this very moment, this wouldn't happen.

(Or they'd turn into the whiny, spoiled, rude, attention-seeking, no-respect-for-boundaries nine-year-old I met at the Arboretum, who managed to be completely intolerable for a full 45 minutes despite the fact that we were all OUTDOORS.)  

But what actually happens on bad days is: I say, "I need ten minutes to finish my work"; Bug pushes Tatoe; intervene; feed Tatoe; go back to the thing I was trying to do; Bug steals Tatoe's toy; Bug screams; carry Bug to timeout; feed Tatoe again; change Tatoe's diaper; let Bug out of timeout; Bug pushes Tatoe again; take Bug to timeout; clean up smashed cornflakes; give Tatoe water; let Bug out; try to finish the thing I was trying to do; intervene again; give Bug a snack; try to FINISH ONE THING SO HELP ME; sit on the couch ignoring the screaming; repeat from start.  Except I'm not conveying the part where at least one child is shrieking the whole time.

(And by work I mean unimportant things like MOVING and BILLS and things that must be done during business hours.)

Usually the day goes downhill from there.

I hope, as the children get older, there might be fewer days where I feel like a complete failure as a mother.


  1. Sometimes I think, as parents, we have this belief that we have to intervene in everything. And that we're horrible parents if we don't. So, there are times when I choose not to intervene. I choose to let them duke it out (so to say) by themselves. Because, I tell myself, it gives them opportunities to learn conflict management, creative solutions, and critical thinking. While I totally think it's true, I generally feel seriously guilty while I'm doing it. Why, WHY must motherhood be so fret with guilt???!!!!

    1. Seriously. There's a fair degree of ignoring too (I tossed mine plus one on the porch yesterday for three hours) but Tatoe is literally half Bug's size and so I feel the need to prevent him from getting seriously injured. When he's big enough to hit back you better bet I'll say "Work it out yourselves."

  2. Anonymous10:26 AM

    I hear that eventually the days of feeling like a failure are outweighed by the days of feeling like a success. I'm not sure if that's true unless they are counting the days where everyone makes it to bed alive each day. But, now that I think about it, that's a major success: "Hey, you sat on the couch instead of all the hundreds of other bad choices!" You are totally WINNING.

    1. If only my house were large enough that I could sit on the couch AND not hear them. This my dream. Then I would FEEL like I was winning.

  3. Hug!!!!!! Hang in there! You are a TERRIFIC mother and also, by the way, a terrific person, independent of motherhood.

  4. It gets much better! When Bug goes to kindergarten, everyone will comment on what a nicely behaved child he is, and you'll only occasionally want to sell him. By then, Tatoe will be old enough to hit Bug back, and perhaps Bug will learn a little more empathy. (Gee, getting hit really isn't fun...) I think, at Bug and Tatoe's ages with my two, I felt like a success when I did not slap anyone across the face. So, my standards were really low. Then again, I did wear earplugs during the marathon tantrum sessions of C1. We did baby signs, so C2 signed when he needed something.

    Even on the worst days, being home with the kids was better than graduate school. At least at home I accomplished something important: I kept children alive for another day!

    It's not that you're a failure as a mother, it's that these ages are Really Hard, and challenge the patience of a saint. (And really, how many saints were mothers taking care of two small children? I'm betting on Zero.)


Comments are moderated, so it may take a day or two to show up. Anonymous comments will be deleted.