I could feel my body tense up. I started speaking slowly, articulating each word through gritted teeth, “Can you please just finish your dinner so I can clean up?”
If you had witnessed me at this moment, you’d wonder why I was so irate. Why I was hurrying my kids from what was supposed to be a time to reconnect as a family over a shared meal.
But if you truly knew what was going on, you’d know that wasn’t the first thing that had happened in the day. That was just the final straw that broke the camel’s back—my back. A sick, cranky child home from school all week. An argument with the husband left unresolved. Siblings fighting with each other the moment they got off the school bus. A pile of dirty dishes threatening to teeter over. A looming project for work still needing attention.
Some days I can handle it. No matter what life throws at me I can tackle it head-on. But other days? I lose my cool. No longer do I care about being nice or setting an example. I unravel. I raise my voice, and before I know it, I’m yelling. Because being nice didn’t work the first 10 times, so I defeatedly throw in the towel for the day. It’s almost bedtime anyway, I justify to myself. We can start fresh again tomorrow.
You see, I never start a day with the intention of being mean. (No parent truly ever does.) But by the end of some days, that’s exactly what I end up being classified as. And while I never am delusional enough to see myself as being the fun mom, neither do I see myself as being the mean mom.
I don’t even know how it gets to this point. How my patience and tolerance for my own children dwindle away as the evening sun sets each day. I sometimes chalk it up to being introverted. That there is only so much stimulation my brain can take from multiple little people before it shuts down for the day. Add to that a never-ending to-do list, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
I often fear I am severing my connection with my children whenever these instances occur. (The Facebook ads on positive parenting further add to my guilt.)
And I wonder, am I the only one? It can’t only be me, can it? I often ask myself this question in a futile attempt to make myself feel less terrible for what has already transpired in the past few hours.
Of course, it’s not only me. I know that. But I just need someone else to reassure me too.
Rarely though, do people want to talk about how they let the unpleasant parts of themselves take over in their interaction with their kids. No one wants to talk about how they messed up over and over again as a parent—especially since there is an overload of articles that discuss the opposite: how to be a stellar parent.
But silence leads to that all too familiar feeling of guilt. The unsettling feeling of thinking I’m a bad parent—a bad mom—because I didn’t get it right. I didn’t handle the situation well. I lost my patience. I yelled. Again.
But deep down, I know I’m not a bad mom. Because a bad mom wouldn’t care if she was a bad mom. But a good mom would care. That’s the difference.
Perhaps then, we need to break the silence and normalize what it means to be human and a parent—some days you get it amazingly right (you’re a rockstar parent), and some days you get it terribly wrong (you lost your cool for the umpteenth time after you vowed you wouldn’t). But each day you get a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. So start over; tomorrow is a new day.