Jul 2016

When you feel like a bad mom (like I do right now)

It’s been a while! How are you?  I’ve spent the past few weeks getting the new Live More Weigh Less Mastery class oriented in the program and taking a much needed break from writing.  And on the home front, things have been a bit… well… let me tell you about it.

Last Sunday morning I found my 11 month old, Annabelle, eating toilet paper… out of the toilet (I know), and on Tuesday she fell off the changing table while my head was turned and broke her collarbone. Layer on Marshall’s seemingly relentless tantrums and refusal to go to sleep at night, and I’m feeling like a seriously bad mom.

Of course I can take a step back and see that accidents happen and toddlers will be toddlers but there’s no denying the emotional pain of that nagging voice inside your head that berates you for every little thing you’ve done wrong.

The truth is that I’m still in it and I’m sure I will have a lot to say on this in the future, but here’s the first three steps I’m taking:

  1. I’m owning that I don’t want to feel like a bad mom. This is not necessarily the same as being a “good mom”. I am dedicated to finding that mix of striving to do my best and honoring that f**king up is a big part of the ride. And I want this to go beyond intellectual understanding and really getting this in my core.
  1. I reached out to my peeps and was honest. I told them not only about what happened but how I was feeling. I outed myself. The more I heard myself say I felt like a bad mom, the louder the part of me that knows I’m great became. My friends told me stories about how they swore at their kid the night before or how their parents put them on the counter at a young age only to have them fall off (and they survived! and still love their mother!).  It’s funny how we can easily see other people’s foibles as understandable and yet we rarely extend the same compassion to ourselves.
  1. I’m learning from my kids. Annabelle was a mess right after she fell, not wanting to let go of me for a second.  Even though it was hard to tell what was wrong and part of me thought she was just rattled and not hurt, I took her into the ER later that morning to get her checked out.  Once we left the hospital in a little mesh tube top to keep her arm still (no cast needed), she was all smiles.  I of course, was a wreck and being hyper protective, but she kept squirming out of my arms wanting to get on with her life.  Without the use of one of her arms, crawling was nearly impossible so she got to work figuring out how to get around.  The next day she was scooting around on one knee and one foot.  Here’s a video of her getting around.

By Thursday she was teaching herself how to walk.  And now, just one week later, she is fully walking.  I’ve always been told that kids are resilient, but to watch it in action has been so humbling. I feel like I’m watching the raw magic of the human spirit: feel your feelings, let it go, and make life even better than it could have been before.  I’m taking serious notes.

So I’m here, loving myself through the ups and downs and wishing you the space and understanding to do the same.

And because we can never hear it enough, you’re a great Mom, and I hope you take pride that your kid didn’t eat toilet paper out of the toilet this week.

When was the last time you felt like a bad mom? What did you do to make yourself feel better?  Please tell us in the comments.

And if you know a mom who struggles with this, or needs a community of women who will take her exactly as she is, please forward her this email. I’d love to welcome her to the fold.



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  • Thank you sooo much for this beautiful blogpost Sarah!! There are still way too many tabus around motherhood and I love that you have the courage to speak so candidly about the struggles of being a mom! I’m so sorry your little girl got hurt but what an amazing way to bounce back(walking in a week- I mean, come on!!:)). Just like with eating and weight struggles, it is so easy as a mom to get wrapped up in the details when what we really need to do is take a step back and look at the big picture. Thank you for everything you are, say and do! Much love, Lin

    • Hi Lin- I’m so glad this resonated with you and that it helps you and so many others have the courage to speak aboout so many things- whether it’s being a mom, our bodies, being a woman, and more. Sending you a hug!

  • Susan

    Agh yes! I teared up reading this.
    My 11 month old won’t sleep through the night My three year old fight bedtime and morning time so hard.
    It feels like one battle and failure after another. Love the clarity here.

    • Hi Susan, sending you some hugs- I know it’s a challenge! I’m so glad this gave you some clarity. xo

  • I’m not a mom yet but articles like this are good for me to read I think just to keep myself in that mindset that I am entering a new part of my life where I had better get used to “messing up” because it won’t only be happening but it’s probably going to just be a mandatory part of the process and so better to just full on embrace it than to think that I’m going to be any different. I’m choosing “embracing”. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Your daughter looks like quite the little problem solver.

    • Hi Ryan- thank you for your support and for seeing how it can apply to you. I love you are choosing “embracing”- I am too! xo

  • sarah lynn

    i can absolutely relate to the “bad mom’ vibe. my husband and i are foster parents, in the process of adopting our little man we have fostered since he was 2 months old (he is now almost two and a half years old). because we are “only foster parents” by the view of the state, we are under what feels like a constant judgement. i am in hyperactive “OMG i am a terrible mom, how can i explain this?!?” mode. i have to document every bump and bruise “just in case”, we have state workers in our home at least twice a month or more. its exhausting. and there is nothing i can do. i started seeing a counselor who specializes with foster families so i could vent. it’s a very isolated “community” of foster parents who are in the process of adopting their children from foster care – a process that can take 2 years or more. i hope annabelle feels better quickly and that marshall’s toddler tantrums ease up. i so appreciate you sharing your heart.

    • Thank you for opening up and sharing your story, Sarah Lynn. I’m so glad this resonated with you and that you have an outlet for support. You’re an amazing mama, I’m sure. xo

  • I think that feeling bad as a mom is really common, especially when a child has a more serious injury, like a broken bone (for the record – both of my kids broke their arms last year!). What I have also struggled with is taking care of myself and putting myself first, because I think we get hammered by messages from society about what it means to be a “good mom,” and what it looks like to be a “bad mom.”

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I think the more we talk about it as moms and women, the better off we’ll be as a whole.

    • Yesssss, Joanne! I agree- we need to talk about it and totally change the idea of what a “good” mom is or looks like. Thank you! xo

  • Stefanie

    Girl, I so feel you! I have twin 2 year olds and 4 days after their second birthday (on my husband’s birthday!) one of my girls slammed their bedroom door on my other daughter’s thumb. I will never forget that moment of seeing her thumb almost completely amputated. After a traumatic evening in the ER I felt like a failure as a Mom. My Annabelle (great name! lol) amazed me and the next day she was a pro at keeping her wrapped up thumb out of the way and was in the best spirits. I decided then that I can’t be THAT terrible of a Mama if my daughter was handling it so well. Things happen and we have to remind ourselves that we are human and that we won’t be able to protect our kids from everything. (Also, I learned that door guards are good idea) I’m glad that your Annabelle is doing better and I raise my Mommy coffee cup up to you and all the other mom’s our there. Hardest job in the world but we are also the luckiest! I’m also happy to report that her thumb is fine and the nail grew back. Yippee!

    • Hi Stefanie- wow- what a story. I’m realizing we all have these and are all in this together. Thank you! xo

  • Jacquie

    That’s the sweetest video I have ever seen. Thank you for sharing!

  • Oh Sarah! I remember those days all too well. Hardest stage of my life for sure!

    I used to be thinking about my kids while I was at work, and thinking about work while I was with my kids, and beating myself up over all of it!! Kudos to you for being so kind and gentle with yourself and reaching out for the support you need. I didn’t do that and paid the price dearly.

    Now that my youngest is about to leave for college, I can look in the mirror and proudly say that I did the best I could and it was a damn good job!

    Best of luck and a big hug, Lisa

    • Thank you for the hugs and wise share, Lisa. You did an amazing job- how proud you must be. xo

  • Rebecca Magee

    I needed this! I’m not a mom but I’m
    Going through huge life changes and having such a hard time having self compassion. Just when I thought things couldn’t get harder, they would and by last Thursday, I finally had to take a step back and see that it wasn’t even me doing anything to invite these challenges. But the lesson learned for me (thanks to a friend who shared a great Full Moon reflection) was that all the difficulties I was experiencing, I was also surviving. Everything that I was experiencing, I was able to handle, regardless of whether i liked it or not! Thank you for sharing this! We are all in this together.

  • Caryn

    When was the last time I felt like a bad mom? Uhhhhm, yesterday? When I shrieked at my 4 year old in the backseat for having a dramatic hissy fit about her plastic bag flying out the open car window. This performance was downright Oscar worthy, & I played right into it. My ultimate bad Mom moment? Bringing my then 10 week old infant into the ER with a 104° unexplained fever, and being told by the admitting nurse that she had a UTI, “probably because you’re not wiping her very well”. Oh. Thanks. So, an overnight stay at the hospital on an IV, with a trip home to get the paperwork to ‘prove’ I was her terrible mother. The bonus, to this fun filled extravaganza? Her adoption hadn’t yet been finalized, and we had a social worker coming in 2 days.Even though it wasn’t rational, I was sure they would take her away. How did I get through it? Tears, talking & wine. But it still hurts, even 4 years later. I know I’m a good mom, I just don’t always believe it. But, my amazing daughter is learning that mistakes are okay, forgiveness is important, and empathy is beautiful. So I can’t be all bad….

    • Oh Karyn- thank you for sharing your journey of mamahood. Yes, tears, talking, and some wine. You are a good mom- believe it! xo

  • Melanie

    I feel like a bad mom at some point of everyday. I am a single mother of 4 and find it impossible to be my best for each of them every minute of day. Between the typical trials and tribulations of trying to raise kids with an ex husband, working 4 part time jobsand volunteering for several animal rescue groups and living pay check to pay check- I start most days already exhausted. Everyday is just spent getting through the motions and longing to get back in pjs and back in my bed. The hard part – I wasn’t always this way and I don’t know how to get back to Me and back to the mom I want to be.

    • Hi Melanie, I am sending you a huge hug right now- you are amazing and I am sure you are doing a wonderful job. Can you think of some ways to have some time for just you? Five minutes in the morning, before bed, or a chance to breathe?? I know that YOU are inside all that. Cheering you on. xo

  • Oh my gosh! Mama pride bubbles up inside me watching her creating a new way to explore and she’s not even my child! My kids are middle and high schoolers now and one of the most impactful things I discovered for myself is how important it is to teach our kids that parents are HUMAN. We’re learning right along with them, and we make mistakes. I’m always willing to admit to them and apologize when appropriate. I believe this is very important modeling for our kids, exhibiting strong character and humility. My kids are my greatest teachers because I learn so much about my self through this extraordinary role of Mama. You’re doing awesome, Sarah! Thank you for your honesty–we all need to see what real moms look like! xoxo

    • Aw- thank you so much for your kind and inspiring words, Cristin. It feels great to open up and be honest with you all. Yes, we are all HUMAN- thank you, thank you, thank you!. xo

  • Oh parenting is hard…the invite to talk about it is amazing. I have two year old twins. Two year olds who are currently embodying every part of being two. I was googling whether or not my daughter might need therapy 🙂 she doesn’t, but I do. This week she went to school with pink boots on in 80 degree weather because I didn’t want to fight with her about wearing sandals. The princess sandals went to school with her, maybe she will switch shoes there. She also fell off the changing table because I went to get new clothes because she hated the outfit I picked out for her. She smashed muffins into the couch and then climbed all over the cushions-smashing muffins into the carpet. Getting out of the house is often painful because she has epic melt downs. Her brother is mostly content, but gets overwhelmed with the screaming. I just want to cry.

    • Hi KT, I am so glad you can come here and be you. Thank you for telling me your story- I do get it. I invite you to think of some ways to soothe yourself on these moments- maybe letting yourself know- it’s ok, you are a great mom, and breathing! Let me know how it goes. Sending you a hug.

  • Kriss

    My heart was so touched by this story. My youngest son walked on a BROKEN foot for 2 WEEKS…..yep not 2 days but 2 weeks because he would be fine one day then would say it hurt the next. I never felt as small as I did in the moment I found out it was broken. I took him to the doctor thinking it was a sprain and brought him home with a cast up to his knee. To this day we have no idea how or when it happened. The doctor tried to reassure me that things like this happen but I cried and felt like the worst mother on the face of the earth. Fast forward 15 years…..my son is now almost 21 and an airman in the United States Air Force. No long lasting negative effects…..he loves to tease me about it “Hey mom remember when you made me walk on my broken foot??” It’s funny now even though I never would have thought it could be back then. What you have to know is that you would never do anything to intentionally hurt your children, life does happen, they will get hurt no matter how hard we try to protect them. Your baby girl who is now walking isn’t doing it just because it’s what was coming next but because she has the inner strength you helped instill in her from your love 🙂 Now as an empty nester….you and I talked during the LMWL telephone conference Tuesday (friendless in Pittsburgh girl 🙂 I saw in this post of yours how much time I probably spent as a mom feeling bad and questioning my mothering abilities while my boys were young. Now?? All I see is two great young men that are my proudest accomplishment. I don’t remember the broken foot, I see who they are from being raised with love even on days I wasn’t the best mom I thought I could be. Her broken collarbone turned into an open wing on the next path. Love to you from a mom who’s been there, survived, forgot most of the stuff that was big then but is small now & has happy well adjusted young adult men 😉

    • Hi Kriss, Thank you so much for sharing this story- it made me feel better! How proud you must be of your two men. I’m so glad we are all in this together. xo

  • Gina

    Thanks for this, I often question my mothering ability!!

  • Samantha

    Here’s the thing yesterday I was a brilliant MOM!!! Today I suck. How did I do so great at directing my two boys yesterday as they helped me unpack from vacation and get the house put back in order, pick carrots from the magic garden that grew with NO care??? And today they have watched two hours of TV and I am still screening at them inbetween?? UPS and DOWNS ladies, ups and downs! But I am breathing and regrouping because change is the only constant and I love my boys and will always want their best for them, and my best for them…so sometimes that may encompass some screen time!!!

    • Hi Samantha- yes- so true- ups and downs! Love your share and your tools- breathe and regroup. Sending you some hugs!

  • Mollie Duiguid

    My children (4) are grown. You always feel you could have done something better. Your blessing is your daughter is recovering and is still with you. You did nothing malicious. Forgive yourself and move forward with grace, peace, and blessings.

  • Mayra Xara

    I’m not a mom yet Sara, but I still shared this on my FB page because I got a heck of a lesson out of this. “I feel like I’m watching the raw magic of the human spirit: feel your feelings, let it go, and make life even better than it could have been before. I’m taking serious notes.
    So I’m here, loving myself through the ups and downs and wishing you the space and understanding to do the same.” Gawd, this is good! What a sweet reminder that I’m allowed to feel the feelings and I’m able to move on to an even better place. Thanks for sharing. You’re an awesome human being and your kids are lucky to have you as their mama.

    With love,

    • Mayra- thank you for your openness and vulnerability. We can transform so much by feeling our feelings.xo

  • Rivky

    Watching this short clip almost brought me to tears, and I watched it a few times, so so adorable how she just will keep going until she fiqured it out, what a lesson!!!
    Also right now I’m feeling like a bad mom, with grown up kids, they just know how to make me feel bad, my 24 year old son, his a charmer and I love him, he decides Tht I owe him a gift ,after give him so so much , and when I say let me think about it, I get a whole guilt trip, this is after I treated him and my other adult kids to a high wnd Resteraunt , and after helping him with paying bills for a while,

    • Hi Rivky- it’s so true that no matter how old they are- our children are our greatest teacher. You are an amazing mom! What are some ways you can speak to your son about not making you feel guilty? Keep me posted! Sending you a hug.

  • Tiffany

    Ah the power or a truth, well spoken! It’s so hard to be human and a parent some days isn’t it?
    For what it’s worth, as mama to a now 20 year old, here’s what I’ve learned…
    The days I was convinced I had cosmically scarred my daughter beyond repair, these are not the moments she remembers. The incidents I was sure she would be talking about in therapy because hell, I was talking about them in therapy, these are not the moments she tells me about. How is this possible?
    We see our mistakes through the prism of our own adulthood, not the view of the child. It can’t be helped. We ARE adults after all. Marshall no doubt thinks eating toilet paper out of the toilet was daring and fun. I doubt you will dissuade him from that view! Annabelle clearly thought exploring was more powerful than gravity. She now knows gravity always wins, although I don’t imagine it will be the last time she tries to circumvent that force of nature.
    Life is messy. Adult and child alike, we all experience life’s relentless ambiguity. Perhaps perfection is not the only path. Just as we should not wait on the weight to embrace ourselves and live life to the full, maybe we should not wait on perfection to embrace the value of our flawed, beautiful role to lovingly guide our children.
    Hang in there! There’s more hospital visits and toilet paper eating in your future my dear, but Marshall & Annabelle will still become amazing human beings – probably because of it, rather than in spite of it! 🙂

    • Hi Tiffany- I appreciate you sharing these beautiful thoughts on our points of view. I love “Just as we should not wait on the weight to embrace ourselves and live life to the full, maybe we should not wait on perfection to embrace the value of our flawed, beautiful role to lovingly guide our children.”. Thank you! xo

  • Samantha

    Sarah- Thank you so much for your stories and endless authenticity around life and motherhood! I read this and just immediately related and felt for you. Why is it that when something ‘happens” we automatically go to the place of “I’m a terrible mother!” I do it too, a lot! Most of the time it’s just an every day occurance, a slip up, a misjudged scenario, basically being human. A few weeks ago we returned from a long weekend with friends ( most without kids) We had a great time, but my 2yo wasn’t sleeping great and I spent most of the time worried he was “bothering” everyone ( again, all in my head)
    We were playing in the yard and looking at clouds While he layed less than 2 ft from me, our very loving and VERY energetic dog came over and in an effort to “play” pounced a bit on his head/eye/face.. I was 2 feet away, could reach him with my hands, but there was NOTHING I could do to avoid the big ol’ scratch our dog gave him on his face. Nothing.. thank goodness it missed his eye. I scooped him up and he stopped crying almost immediately, but I was shaking and so upset with MYSELF. I’m such a terrible mother! But really, I’m human, it was an accident, he’s fine.. and I’m a good mom doing the best I can, right?? Aren’t we all?? So hard to avoid the blame train when things just happen. Same for you and Annabelle.. it was a bad series of events/days.. but you came out on the other side, loved by your babies 🙂

  • Kate

    I’m a nanny and I’ve been feeling like I am so bad at my job recently because I know when I’m tired and my ego comes up I don’t take care of the kids the way I want to. When I am in the moment of awareness but still choose to fall back into default ego programming from MY childhood and MY unmet needs I feel like a total failure. I’ve learned that I need a lot of the same things the kids do – someone to hold me when I’m upset and not ignore me or refuse to engage when I’m acting out. I think the kids are also a lot better at forgiving me than I am though! I’ve recently discovered the conscious parenting movement by Shefali Tsabary and that has been really helpful for me to understand where I am coming from when I take care of the kids. I’ve also been reading playful parenting by Laurence? Cohen and that has really transformed some of my time with the kids. But I feel extra bad when I know a better way to respond to the kids and I still give in to the ego reaction. I know this will be good experience for when I have my own kids but I feel bad that someone else’s kids are the experiment! I am willing to get better every day though.

    • Hi Kate- I appreciate your perspective and it’s so true- we want the same things- connection and support. Thank you for sharing your experience. xo

  • Cathy

    When little ones are that age, they can be fast as lightning right? Please know how there will be these moments for every mother, and it’ll all be ok, for you and your little ones. They learn from us and we learn from them, and it’s all experiences of being a mom. If I were right there, I would pat you on the arm and say, it’s ok, be gentle with you too…. An experience from around the same age, over 10 years ago, my younger son and I were walking to his school (primary school, kindergarten, I think). He turned and looked at me, and said Mom, watch this! He ran about 3 feet to the metal Basketball pole and stuck his tongue on it — in the winter! He was on the snowdrift that had gathered around the basketball pole, tongue stuck to that pole, me holding him so he would stop sinking into the snowdrift. I was calling for help for all I was worth…. (I should have asked what he was going to do!!! Why did I let him run ahead? Where did he ever get the idea to even do that??? Oh my Heavens, what am I going to do? I can’t put him down in this snowdrift — It could tear his skin….All these thoughts are going through my head….) Thankfully someone with a backyard next to the basketball court heard me calling for help and ran out with a bowl of hot water — what exact temperature I don’t know — and poured it on my son’s tongue. That melted the spot where he was frozen to the pole. I had almost no energy left by then, looked over and said thank you, thank you…. A teacher was by then on the scene. I don’t remember at what moment Mr. K arrived. And brought my son right into the school — to soothe his frazzles, and the tongue. So, 10 years ago — these things happen — 10 years from now these things will still be happening to moms…. When I eventually have Grandchildren, I’ll remember that we are all teaching each other, and to be gentle with ourselves in the process…

    • Oh Cathy- thank you so much for your sweet words and advice. Your story is incredible and I’m so happy to hear of the outcome. Yes- we are all teaching one another. xo

      • Cathy

        This morning, after an interesting “remember when” conversation…
        (He would never tell me where he got the idea. So it was always a mystery.) He said — “oh mom, I was 6 years old. So Grade 1. It was “like a popculture thing” — I wanted to see if it really happens. But I had no idea it would hurt like that.” (Also, he said, he should have known that it would really happen like the tv, because wet mittens stick to poles…) I don’t know if it was part of a show at a friend’s house while he was playing there or where he saw it, but now the mystery is solved (Whatever “a popculture thing” means — I’m not altogether positive about that, but at least I know generally what he means)…. sigh

  • Mashela Bodin

    Hi Sara,Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us. What a strong girl Annabelle is. Wow! I have 3 beautiful kids at the age between 10, 6 and 3 years old. It’s really true kids are different and they do what other siblings didn’t do. I do relate with some of your experiences. My first daughter swallowed my wedding ring and pooped it out the following day. (It’s a long story). My second daughter was just very naughty. When my son was 11 month old tasted a gel block (the one you stick in a toilet) and after two days the saliva in a bubbels form went out of his mouth. Ohmygosh…what the kids will do to you hey….

  • Dorothy

    The last time I felt like a bad mom was this morning when my 20 year old daughter let me know that she hated her body because of her size. I had a very distorted view of my body and I have passed this on to my daughter. Teaching her (in my less wiser years) that somehow her size and shape is flawed or she must change to be a “whole” person. It got me thinking…why can’t we simply say “Live More”? When we add “weigh less” it seems we are still putting the emphasis on non-acceptance of our bodies. The intention is still set that the final outcome needs to be to weigh less; The living more is not for the purpose of simply enjoying this one precious life, but to get to an end result of weighing less. Acceptance for ourselves; all of our flaws, mistakes, achievements, and failures – let’s teach that to our sons and daughters. YES! LIVE MORE! LOVE MORE! Weigh less? Not necessary.

    • Hi Dorothy, thank you for sharing this story. It is all about living more. I add the weigh less part because it’s also about weighing less in all areas of your life. Taking the dead weight out of your career, taking the weight off your shoulders in your relationships- taking the whole of a person into account and not just an actual size in creating a lifestyle to love. I love the concept about LIVE MORE, LOVE MORE. xo

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