Why we shouldn’t celebrate ‘mum-fails’.

I made my children cry today.  Actually, it was two days ago, but I still have an aching gut from the guilt of what I did.

I’ve apologised profusely to all three children, age 7 1/2, nearly 5 and 2.  I explained why I was in a terrible mood; ‘when Daddy’s away it’s sometimes a lot for mummy to cope with’, ‘I was cranky from having Baby’s toes digging in my ribs for most of the night – I clung to the edge of the bed like a rubbish mountain goat’, ‘no-none was doing anything I asked this morning…at all!’.  Their relief at my change of stance was palpable. Their forgiving faces and tea saucer wide eyes were drinking in and accepting my reasoning, but we all knew these were not valid excuses; I wouldn’t have accepted it from them.  I teach them that there are no valid excuses for losing patience, for raising our voices, for being dismissive or unkind.  And that if we do those things, then we are entirely accountable for our actions.  Being kind is all that matters.  And in that moment I was a hypocrite.  And in that moment, they knew it.

The issue was ‘resolved’ and we’re back to our normal cheery selves.  Moving on, we’ve since shared the best loving cuddles, belly laughs and sweet exchanges.   The metaphorical chalkboard tally of ‘Days mummy hasn’t shouted for’ has been restarted at ‘0’ (now at 2), it’s amazing what a deep breath and a clean slate can do to boost my mummy motivation.

Yesterday I was researching some other blogs and parenting websites for another project when, still guilt ridden, I was drawn to a number of articles and posts and authors whose appeal was built upon the notion that we’re all actually a bit crap at motherhood.  And we are at times.  Accepting this may be self effacing and heavily tongue in cheek, which is great, no-one likes an ego.  But article after article and blog after blog, whether it be a subtle undertone or not so subtle overtone, I felt overwhelmingly that, as a whole, there is a strong narrative of celebrating ‘epic fails’ in the mum blogosphere.  This is echoed in mum circles of our generation, who are so used to ‘sharing’ as a concept, and have found so much validation for bad parenting both close at hand with friends as well as at arms’ length through internet forums.

While we find comfort knowing we’re not alone in our shortcomings and faults, just because everyone else is doing it too, doesn’t make it right.

Our adult level of emotional intelligence is able to see the bigger picture as we try to sweep things under the carpet after a fall out with our kids.  But what we have to remember is how things are so much more black and white for them.  Children live so vitally in the moment that when we lose it with them, they question our love for them.  Simple.  However overdramatic it seems to us, it feels very real to them.

We communicate these episodes in our well accustomed sing-song chatty way, often laughing at ourselves; confessing, admitting we’re ‘terrible’, making it about us while we rest assured ‘they’ll be alright, kids are resilient’.  But when we do this, what becomes apparent is that we are forgetting about our priority, which is the welfare of our children and the bond we have with them.

We should bring back a little gravity with our remorse, while fighting their corner at all costs. We must not be disrespectful to their sensibilities, which are so raw and honest and needing of our support.  We do inevitably leave emotional scars on our children, which chip at their sense of security, we just need to be grown up enough to acknowledge it so that we don’t break them.  Kids are smart, they don’t forget.  Also, behaviour is learnt, so do we want them to become emotionally detached when feelings run high? Of course not.

We may not be perfect, but the least we can do is be constant by loving our children, respecting them at all times and perhaps not making light of our indiscretions.  I think it’s right I feel such awful guilt after shouting at my children.  It’s heartbreaking, and it ought to be.

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21 thoughts on “Why we shouldn’t celebrate ‘mum-fails’.”

  1. Great post. Not condemning but sober, as you say, about something that should be taken seriously. I am going to try that ‘days I haven’t shouted for’ tally. I heard someone say recently that regarding quitting smoking, it is statistically proven that you’re more likely to succeed with each new attempt to quit. So I apply it to shouting! I will keep trying to do better. And keep saying sorry.

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  2. I am always saying sorry or feeling guilty about something and always being told that it’s fine, that I’m only human, that we all fail as mothers sometimes. And whilst that is reassuring to know that I’m not alone, it doesn’t make me feel any better because the fact is, I don’t want to fail at motherhood, I don’t want to feel okay about shouting at my kids or letting them down because that isn’t the kind of mother I want to be. Obviously we ARE only human but still, I try and learn from my mistakes and my bad days whenever possible. Great post. #picknmix

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  3. Hear hear – I am always doing the same, saying sorry and apologising for feeling overwhelmed. We have to accept that we’re only human and cut ourselves a little slack from time to time, instead of labelling it as a failing. Fab post #picknmix

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  4. I feel awful when I lose it for a bit. Yes, we are all human but being a parent is about showing what that should be. I think on the whole most of the posts that are from a mum being ‘a bit crap’ highlights that really they’d like it to be different. Thanks for your post.

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  5. Thought provoking post. We all lose our patience, because this is HARD. We often ask kids to do what we find difficult to do ourselves. I think there are also lessons to be learned in having them see we are human and prone to error too. #stayclassy

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  6. This post has given me food for thought. Your so right in that we should be setting a fine example to our children, I wonder if it is also healthy for them to see that we are only human? That sometimes things don’t always go to plan and we need to vent, or we need help or even just to sit and cry. One person can only do so much at a time.

    #stayclassymama

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  7. I completely agree that sometimes in the blogging community you can feel like it’s okay to be rubbish at parenting because everyone else is too and we can all have a good laugh at it. But I do think sharing these feelings, even in a light hearted way, helps us, because it means we are not beating ourselves up for not being perfect parents. But as the old saying goes, nobody is perfect and parenting is hard work. You are right, as long as you are being loving you are getting it right. #StayClassyMama

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  8. I feel so much guilt so much of the time and constantly feel like I’m failing my children, for nothing major either. Its a stressful job and yes totally agree there are times when I have lost my temper and shouted out of pure frustration when I could have handled it better, I definitely don’t celebrate it when I do it and try to do things differently or stop the situation before it gets to that point in the future after reflection. We are all learning and most of us I think trying our best. Thanks for linking to #picknmix x

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  9. We all have those moments when we shout more than we should have or the week just seems to be hellish for one reason or another and yes it is normal and human etc. However I agree with you, it seems sometimes that people are trying to ‘out bad parent’ each other and some things that I read online, I find hard to read. Yes we all fail sometimes, but pretty much bragging about how big you fail is just a strange concept to me. I celebrate the wins in our family and my parenting, the bad parts yes I may discuss sometimes but not in any way other than regretfully personally.

    Thank you for linking up to #Picknmix

    Stevie x

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  10. Interesting read. I agree – I feel guilty if I have been wrongly impatient with the kids & it is right to feel guilty. I know what you mean about the bloggers and the social media. I’m not a big fan of either extreme. I don’t like the rose tinted, probably fake portrayals of perfection some people go for. But I also don’t like the things that really celebrate being rubbish. I have no issue with the things that laugh at the craziness of it all, and at the little failings and disasters (like the attempts to bake that go horribly wrong). I think that’s realistic & having some humour about things is good. & that tends to be (I think) where my writing & tone lies. But when it’s the celebrating and laughing about bigger failings, things that aren’t really acceptable, I’m not so keen. #PicknMix

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  11. Behavior is learned, and that is ever more apparent as we see the hate and racisim plaguing our world today. Spread the love, admit that we, as moms, fuck up too! Our kids understand and the apologies gain their love and trust. Bravo #stayclassymama

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  12. Really interesting post! Made me think a lot, I have a ‘ten parent fails post’ that I wrote in a comedic way, little things not significant events that I feel guilty about etc as I had a friend comment that the way I spoke about the different situations with my son made me sounds like I am perfect all the time and it made her feel crappy! So I guess its about creating balance, not holding up the image of a perfect mum but also not underselling ourselves, demonstrating achievements and our massive amounts of love, even on the grey days #stayclassymama

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  13. I totally get what you are saying- it’s great to acknowledge that we are only human and it’s hard and we’re all in the same boat BUT the part about things being very black and white for young kids is so true. My son is a very loving, empathetic child and as a result he struggles with negative behaviour if he sees it – someone shouting/ crying in real life or even on the television. For him in the moment is the be all and end all – and we as adults should be mindful of that #stayclassymama

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  14. This was a very thought provoking read and I completely agree, most of the time my children show negative behaviour will be when I am not up to scratch myself, it is easy to blame them for our own misgivings, a refreshing read with an original subject, thoroughly enjoyed the content. : )

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  15. You’re right, mutual respect is important. If we don’t teach our children to be respectful by showing it, then how can they learn. I notice my son repeating things others have said and I wouldn’t want him to repeat shouting or harsh words. We can all be stressed at times and lose our cool but it’s important to recognise it and make it right. Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Loosing it sometimes is certainly part of being human, but you are right it’s not an excuse. You have really made me think twice about the example it provides to kids, because I agree- how can we ask them to behave a certain way and not be the example for them? I love what you say about being accountable for actions, this is one of the most important things we can teach kids. Great post 🙂 #brillblogposts

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