It says a lot about the state of modern parenting when it’s hard to get to the end of the day without feeling like you failed at something. And while we all laugh at mom-fail memes in the light of day, even the most minor mom fails have a way of feeling enormous and all-consuming in real life—especially in the dark, late at night, when we’re lying in bed.
But what if we started looking at it all a little differently? What if we realized that those mom fails are actually mom wins?
Perspective can be a wonderful thing, but I’m honestly not just trying to make us all feel better. (Though that couldn’t hurt after the week I just had.) This is something that I’m always trying to teach my kids: We can either let an uncomfortable situation defeat us or we can learn from it, grow from it and find some humor in it along the way. Life will never go according to those perfectly written scripts in our heads, and the sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll all be.
So, with that in mind, here are a few mom fails that aren’t as bad as they seem—and may even make things better in the long run.
Your child still crawls into bed with you in the middle of the night.
I know, I know—everyone else’s kids have slept through the night since forever. And then there’s your kid. The one who flails and wails and wakes the neighborhood if she’s not picked up. The one you tried to sleep train…and it somehow made things worse. The one who still wants a midnight milk fix. The one who needs middle-of-the-night snuggles to fall back asleep. Wait—stop right there. Middle-of-the-night snuggles. You will not be getting those for much longer, as I recently learned. I honestly never thought that my 3-year-old would sleep on her own, but sure enough, now she only crawls into bed with me in the morning…which, of course, is what I’d been hoping and praying for. But now? I really miss those extended nighttime snuggles. So enjoy them while they last, even if you’re occasionally getting kicked in the spleen in the process.
You never lost those final 5/10/15 pregnancy pounds.
For starters, you grew a human being in your body and that’s some serious Superwoman sh*t right there, so give yourself a break. And second, you’re showing your children that there are all types of bodies, all types of beauty—and that beauty isn’t just skin deep. Will you lose that weight eventually? Maybe. And that can lead to a whole other kind of lesson for your kids. One thing at a time…and all in good time.
You snapped at your kids.
No, this isn’t ideal, and it’s certainly not what you ever want to do. And man, do you feel guilty. But there are a few teachable moments for your kids while you try to figure out how to yell less and deal with minor (and major) annoyances in a more productive manner. First, you can apologize. That very act shows them that you’ve made a mistake, that you’re taking responsibility for your actions and, of course, that you’re sorry. It can also open up a dialogue about how you could have handled the situation better—and how they can handle a similarly frustrating situation when it happens to them. Plus, once everyone cools down, you can have a calm discussion about the behavior that set you off and why you shouldn’t scale the dining-room walls like Spider-Man after Mom told you to cut it out 10 times in a row.
You didn’t plan the best day ever—or, actually, anything at all.
Boredom is good. Boredom sparks imagination. Boredom leads to amazing things. If it sounds like I’m trying to convince myself of this little fact, that’s because I am. Don’t get me wrong—I wholeheartedly believe this, but it can be hard to remember when I’m having an off weekend (or a lazy or crazy day at home) and I see the amazing things that other parents took the time to plan for those same days. Thanks a lot, Facebook. Still, I firmly believe that it’s a good thing for kids to figure out how to entertain themselves and, in the process, be creative and find their passions, whether the boredom is intentionally planned or the result of an accidental mom fail.
You can’t afford something that your child really, really, really wants.
Kids are freaking expensive. Whether it’s yet another sports intensive, a must-have toy or a trip to Disney, it can feel like you’re taking a match to a huge wad of money every day. And the thing is, we would all happily do it if finances weren’t an issue. They’re our kids, after all, and we want to give them the world. But saying no is an opportunity to teach them to appreciate all that they do have, save up for something they truly want, and understand the difference between wants and needs. It might not alleviate the mom guilt, but it can certainly provide a jumping-off point for some good parenting as you help them understand the way the world works—and make sure that they don’t grow up into entitled adults.
You let your kids watch too much TV yesterday.
Wooden blocks and cardboard boxes that they turn into functional rocket ships are great and all, but a little TV will give them a whole other type of education. It can turn them onto new concepts that you hadn’t thought to mention, introduce them to new obsessions that they can then explore, and teach them about pop culture. I think that this applies to a variety of different kiddie favorites, but one proven example is Sesame Street, which studies show helps improve school performance and has lasting positive positive effects, in terms of employment and even higher wages. Apparently this is particularly true for boys, but let me just say that I learned how to count in Spanish from the Count back in the day, so I can personally attest to its amazing teaching abilities.
Critics will argue: But TV can’t create memories! Um, actually, it can. I have really fond memories of watching sci-fi shows with my parents, hanging out with my brother while watching Saturday-morning cartoons, and chatting up my friends over the latest episodes of a whole lot of TV shows that I won’t mention because they’ll make me sound really old. I turned out (relatively) OK and even made a living talking about TV for a really long time.
You said the completely wrong thing and made a bad situation worse.
You thought that telling your child to take more care with his work would do just that; instead, it made him deathly afraid to make a mistake. You hyped up the Easter Bunny because you thought your child would be excited; now she’s terrified that the evil bunny will hop through her bedroom window and eat her while she sleeps. We know, we know: It seemed like the right thing to say at the time, and for another kid, even one of your other kids, it might have been. You never know how a child will process an idea, so this mom fail really isn’t your fault. And remember this: A little adversity builds character, and hey, now your kid will have something to tell her therapist in 20 years.
You realize that your child doesn’t know something really basic that he really should know.
You know, like telling time on clock that isn’t digital, tying his shoelaces, or using money at, say, the book fair. (Um, yeah, guilty on all counts.) How did you miss these minor things that are pretty major in the grand scheme of things? Because other things like reading and writing seemed more important at the time, especially in the current school climate, and, um, you just kind of forgot. That’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK, because now your child is older and has more mental know-how, better motor skills and understands things in a different way. Learning those things won’t be as much of a struggle as they may have been when your child was younger, so you actually inadvertently saved yourself a boatload of frustration. Go, you!
You’re totally off schedule, you forgot your kid’s favorite toy, you didn’t pack a change of clothing, and you are generally the cause of the end of the world. (Or so it seems.)
Despite the screaming, crying and general tantruming you’re probably experiencing in the moment, I promise you that this is a good thing—or at least it will be. Why? Because you’re teaching your children to be flexible and resilient. If they learn that they can survive those tiny bumps in the road now, it can teach them to do the same in other aspects of their lives when they’re older. One caveat: This applies to everything except the paci. If you’ve lost or forgotten that, you’re screwed and there is no upside. Find the nearest drugstore and pray that it has the paci of your child’s choice. Sorry!
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