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"I Feel Like a Bad Mom": Encouragement for the Struggling Mother

No one ever said being a mom was easy. Or if they did, they shouldn't have. Being a mom is no walk in the park! If you're a struggling mom or you feel like a bad mom, you're not alone.

It's common for moms to struggle with feeling like they're failing in their role as a mother. It's easy to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders as you work to take care of your children. And in the current situation we're facing due to Covid, it can feel even more challenging. Parents everywhere are wondering if they're making the best decisions for keeping their children safe and protected physically and mentally.

If you find yourself feeling like you're a bad mom or feeling like a failure, trying the following strategies can help.

1. Stop striving for social media "perfection"

Social media has added to the pressure that moms feel to be "perfect". See if you can relate to these examples:

The Pinterest comparison

Think about the simple example of planning a birthday party for your child (pre-pandemic). You hit up Pinterest for ideas to make the party great. Instead of finding inspiration, you find pages of ideas and images that you know you can't compete with. You do the best you can, but the day of the party arrives and you feel bad because you know the decorations, food, and party games aren't "as good" as the ones you saw as examples. You end up overlooking how much fun your child is having because you feel like you didn't measure up to an invisible standard you set for yourself without realizing it.

The Instagram comparison:

Or, what about birth pictures. All throughout your pregnancy, you saw loads of adorable pictures of women cuddling their newborns after just giving birth. Their hair is perfect. They're glowing. It's beautiful. And you create this idea in your head of how your delivery is going to go and how cute you're going to look in the pictures. But after giving birth, you scroll through the photos that were taken and realize in your pictures you were swollen-faced, sweaty, with hair all over the place. Not quite what you had in mind or what you want to share with the rest of the picture-perfect social media world.

Why do we do it to ourselves?

Those are just a few common examples of how social media can leave moms feeling "not good enough". Scrolling through social media can leave you feeling like everyone else has their life together while your's is a hot mess no matter how you try to spin it.

You may have heard before that comparing yourself to what you see on social media is like comparing the worst parts of your life to the highlight reel of someone else's. Remember, they're controlling what you see and what you don't. You see the entire picture of your own life. It's never going to be a fair comparison, so give yourself a break.

Can social media be a good thing? Yes. Is it a good thing for everyone, all the time? Absolutely not.

Action Step: Pay attention to how you feel while you're on social media. If you notice you're starting to feel bad about yourself, put your phone down. If you find that there are certain people or accounts you follow that constantly leave you feeling like that, unfollow them. Follow the people and accounts that leave you feeling happy. You get to control what you see on your social media feed.

2. Make time to connect with other moms

There is something so encouraging and relieving about hearing another mom share that she feels the exact same way that you do. It's easy when you're crying in your closet or hiding out in the bathroom to get just a minute alone, to feel like you must be the only one feeling like that. You feel like a bad mom.

But the truth is, most moms are trying to work through the same challenges you are. All those Instagram pictures may not show it, but if you start diving into real conversations with other moms, you'll likely find that they're going through the same things as you. See if you can relate to any of these feelings or thoughts:

  • I just wish I could have a weekend alone.

  • I miss my old life when I could stay out late and sleep in late.

  • This kid is driving me crazy.

  • I hate being a stay-at-home mom. At least working moms get to leave home and talk to adults for most of the day.

  • I'm a horrible mom because I work outside of the home and put my kid in daycare.

  • I wish I could put my kid in daycare... and go home and take a nap.

  • I don't remember the last time I made my 2-year-old take a bath. Was it 2 days ago? 3 or 4 days ago? I hate bath time.

And those are just examples of the basic thoughts and struggles that many moms experience. There are also more challenging and negative ones like:

  • I'm failing my child.

  • I'm not good enough as a mom. Or a wife. Or even just a person.

  • What if I'm doing this "parenting thing" all wrong and I screw my kid up for life?

  • I'm a terrible example for my kid. I hope they don't end up like me.

  • I had such a bad mom, I don't even know what I should be doing. Am I repeating her mistakes?

We all have that inner voice that tries to feed us negative thoughts and lies. It's easy to start to believe those thoughts or feel like you're the only one having them. Or to think that you're the only mom that has fed her kid cereal for dinner because you were just too tired to put in the effort by 5:00 pm.

But a beautiful thing tends to happen when you start talking with other moms. And not just talking with other moms, but being honest and getting real with them. You all start to see that you have more in common than you thought. As soon as one person shares something that feels a little vulnerable and another person says, "Oh my gosh, me too!" all the walls start to fall down.

There is something so freeing and comforting about connecting with other moms that get what you're going through.

Action step: Find a group of moms that you can get together with on somewhat of a regular basis. Put together a play-date group. While the kids play, the moms can sit around, snack, and unload your struggles for the week. Or have a monthly moms' night out so you can all get out of the house and get back in touch with yourselves and each other.

3. Rest in knowing that you DO care

If you didn't care about your children and being a great mom, you wouldn't be reading this right now. That alone can help you rest at ease that you are not a bad mom even if you feel like it sometimes.

Not one single person is ever going to be perfect, moms included. We're going to get it wrong sometimes. We're going to lose our tempers from time to time. There are going to be days when we lay our heads on the pillow at night and feel regret for something we did or didn't do. It's normal. You're only human.

But you are trying your best and things will get better. Sometimes we have to lower our expectations of ourselves a little.

Action Step: Make a list of 10 things you've done or are doing right as a mom. Keep this list somewhere where you can see it on those days when you feel like you're failing as a mom.

4. Take care of yourself

There's a lot of talk around "self-care" this year and with good reason. It's an important part of taking care of ourselves. But, as a mom, it's easy to push taking care of yourself to the back burner. You've got a lot going on and everyone seems to need something from you all the time!

Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mama. Mom. Mommy. Mom.

You may feel like that's the soundtrack to your life right now. It doesn't matter if you're in the shower, going to the bathroom, on a call for work, or in the middle of cooking dinner, someone needs something. It's exhausting at times.

But as the mom, you may feel like it's all your responsibility so you need to take it all on. So you push your own things aside to take care of your family. How many moms have waited to eat a meal in order to get all their kids fed first? How many moms have skipped a shower because they ran out of time while trying to get everyone out the door? And how many moms cancel lunch with a friend when a child needed to be at practice during that time?

It's important for your mental health and wellness to make sure you're taking care of yourself. This will mean different things to different people.

Try to get 8 hours of sleep a night. If you have young children, this might not be possible right now. But do what you can to get enough rest each night. If you have a baby that's still waking during the night, take advantage of chances during the day to nap if you can. Instead of staying up to binge your favorite show at night, turn in a little earlier and take advantage of the time to get rest.

Make healthy food choices. This doesn't mean you can't treat yourself or hit the fast-food line on a busy day, just try to keep things in moderation. Making healthy food choices helps give your body the energy it needs for the day.

Do some moving. Making time to exercise can be hard as a mom. Look for ways to get some physical activity in a few times a week. It will help boost your endorphins which can boost your mood as well.

Do something you enjoy. Just because you're a mom doesn't mean you need to give up all your hobbies and the things you enjoyed before becoming a mom. If you can't do the hobbies you used to do then work on finding new ones to try.

Action Step: Choose one self-care habit to start building in your life. Remember, it's not about "perfection". Just focus on doing the best you can.

5. Focus on positive thinking

There are studies that indicate around 80% or more of the things we think about each day are negative. This may be surprising to you or you may be thinking this lines right up with how your thought life is.

It's hard to be a positive person when you're thinking negative thoughts. If you're constantly thinking "I feel like a bad mom." then it's more likely that you'll focus on the things that are going wrong.

There is a lot of power in positive thinking. You have the power to choose what you think about.

Action Step: Start by paying attention to the things that you're thinking about. Then, work on replacing the negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts.

Meet with a therapist

If you're struggling with feeling like a failure as a mom or in general, speaking with a therapist can help. Whether you're dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety, another mental health disorder, or just life in general, therapy can help you create meaningful change in life. Schedule an appointment today to get started.

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