When I first started writing this blog, I struggled with the name Bad Parenting Moments. Not because I don’t believe that every parent who has ever felt the overwhelming and beautiful responsibility when first holding their child has never made a bad parenting decision or had a bad parenting moment, but, because I struggled with embracing the honesty of my own bad parenting moments. The fear I felt was palpable. I was branding myself a maker of mistakes, a loser of patience, a frequent wisher for early bedtimes and an imperfect parent struggling for balance and joy inside of my often difficult role as a mother. Would I be able to walk the walk of unflattering honesty? Would I be able to talk candidly about my failures, knowing the backlash would be swift and often? Would I be able to embrace my flaws? Would you? I was terrified.
Would honesty be freeing or would it become its own trap? Would speaking my truth become as heavy as the weight already shackled to my body, as big and as dark as the never discussed feeling in my soul and in the souls of all mothers; that there is something wrong with me if I am not in love with parenting every day and in every moment. That I am a failure if I am unhappy or sad or lose myself fully. If, at times, I have packed a bag in my mind while cutting crusts off of sandwiches or wiping away tears. That I don’t deserve my children if I say I need time and space and movement to replenish my core. That I don’t know what having it all means. That I am confused and often lonely. That I love my children so deeply that the mistakes I make, even the small, insignificant ones they do not notice, are worn like scarlett letters across my chest.
I decided I needed to live in my own truth. Pretending the picturesque shots in my sunny backyard were the entire picture weren’t doing me or my loved ones any favors. Perpetuating the myth that we were always smiling only made my failures more pronounced in my own mind. I finally admitted that even when I believed in pretending, it had never convinced me that everything was perfect. Because nothing is ever perfect.
I took a deep breath and jumped. Inside my truth, the strangest thing happened. That terrifying honesty became so freeing as mothers, young and old, in all stages of parenthood, were already waiting there to embrace and commiserate and laugh. We were the deep well of community that replenished each other. And then, I became a better mother.
I allowed myself to fail. Embracing my mistakes has made me a less fearful parent. A more patient parent. A more loving parent. A more present parent. Acknowledging that my best did not have to be match another mother’s standard of excellence, that we all functioned and succeeded and failed uniquely, as uniquely as every child we love and care for, is a beautiful thing.
I allowed myself to cut me some slack and more importanly, to respect the journey of other mothers. To laugh when I fell short instead of retreating into shame. To try and then try and then try again without the fear of failure, but, with a healthy respect for what it teaches. To look at Motherhood as a community of women sharing an experience but, never a path.
On my path, I am some days clearing the debris of personal storms out of my way. I can be found walking slowly and inhaling deeply. I can be found carrying children over uneven terrain or sideways under my arm. I can usually be found laughing.
I imagine the paths of other mothers and sometimes, I make the mistake of comparing the landscape. I wonder why nothing but dandelions grow on mine when I run across her tulips. I look at the curves wondering if her path is easier to walk.
I must always remind myself that the individual path of Motherhood is never easy to walk. The journey is long. The path is often rocky. The love is so deep that we continue to walk it with no end in sight and with no knowledge of what lay just around the next bend.
I can not begin to know the path of another mother just as I fully do not know my own. But, I do know that each path leads to a home where refrigerator art once hung sideways and fingerprints still decorate doorways and where love is given so freely that the mistakes made are as useless fretting over as is the guilt that you are failing them. You are not.
So, whatever your honesty, be it “bad” or “good”, when your path leads you up the walk, to your doorstep and into the rooms of your children at night, their voices, the only voices that really matter, tell you they love you.