When You Feel Like a Failure as a Parent
When You Feel Like a Failure as a Parent by Jennifer Maggio
I became pregnant with my son, when I was 17 years old. Fear wreaked havoc on me, as I contemplated how I would learn to take care of a newborn, when I couldn’t remember having ever even held a baby! Shame did a number on me, too, as I navigated the raging waters of exhaustion, overwhelm, judgmental stares, humiliation, and embarrassment. How could an unmarried, young mom ever be fit to raise a baby? Then, I had another child only 17 months later. Shame couldn’t begin to describe how this church girl felt. I had done it again. I now had two children as a young single mom. I had invited the weight of the world onto my shoulders and with each passing day I was closer and closer to buckling under the heaviness of it all. The anticipation of failure approached before I even gave birth to those babies, and it loomed for many years after. I always felt that I didn’t measure up as a mom. I always felt my children deserved better. I always felt like a failure. Every mistake left me wrought with guilt, as I was certain I was not doing this whole parenting thing well.
And then….the unthinkable happened.
I gave the babies too much formula or not enough.
I fed them table food too early.
I plopped toddlers in front of the television for far too many hours, when I was too exhausted to do anything more.
I used profanity.
I spanked in anger.
I was too strict.
I was too lenient.
I did my teen’s homework and projects, when he was failing.
I rescued more than I should have.
I said the wrong things, thought the wrong things, and did the wrong things.
And guess what? You have too. But, do you know what else I did? I got it right sometimes. I prayed without ceasing. I loved in a way that only a mother would know. I offered wise counsel. I played games. I invited friends over for dance and karaoke parties. I sat in literally hundreds of games of baseball, volleyball, basketball, and football. I cheered at track and swim meets. I watched plays and choir rehearsals. I wiped tears and dirty bottoms. I washed more loads of clothes than I care to count. I picked up dirty underwear and socks. I kissed boo-boos and sang songs. I hurt, when they hurt. I dragged them to church, when they didn’t want to go. I told them the truth, even when it was painful. Yes, some days I failed and Satan certainly was masterful at trying to convince me that that one failure made me a failure as a mom.
But thank God for the loving grace of Jesus that showed me that I was a slave to nothing – not fear, not perfection, not my past, not their futures, not shame, not pride, and not my mistakes or theirs. I got it right.
Today, those children are in their twenties. We made it. They survived and so did I. They are college graduates, working full-time jobs, and serving the Lord. They laugh more than they cry. They hug me and actually like me, I think! And my twenty-something son recently surprised me and blessed my soul with a speech he dedicated to me at an event, sharing what I had meant to his life. That made all the days that I had felt like a failure seem worth it.
Mom, today, you may fail, but you are not a failure. You may be wiping babies’ bottoms or chasing mischievous toddlers. You may be screaming at teenagers filled with angst. You won’t get it right every time. You’ll speak in anger or cry in exhaustion. But you are not a failure. I’m here to tell you that one day your children will rise and call you blessed. One day, the successes will far outweigh the failures. One day, you will no longer carry the endless demands of day-to-day mothering. Instead, you will carry the crown of gratitude bestowed upon you by children who recognize the sacrifices you made on your hardest days. They’ll fully recognize the time it took to raise you well. Yes, it will take time and there will be hard days to come, but you will make it.
Be encouraged today that you can do it another day. Again and again. You’ll rise and do it another day.
Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 71,000 single mothers annually. She is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She also hosts the podcast Single Mom 101, which you can find at LifeAudio.com. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com or check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.