Bad Mom

Motherhood can be soul-crushing.

These tiny people, that were made in my body and whom I love the most in this life, can really push me to the brink of sanity sometimes.

Yesterday was a DAY.  In retrospect, nothing actually happened as much as I just had a hard time coping with the daily stress of life with little ones.  You know, the usual…  whining, arguing, a toddler who enacts a hunger strike unless he is sitting next to his brother in a big chair which I don’t want him to do because he throws his plate and food everywhere but he refuses to sit in his high chair so he goes a long time without eating and is then crazy and screaming with hunger but refuses to eat.  (We found a compromise, he sits strapped in his booster seat pushed-up to the big table, and apparently that’s good enough for him because he’s eating again.)

But when the chaos comes, if I’m going to be as honest as the title of my blog suggests, I don’t always rise to occasion.  Sometimes I just lose my shit.  And it hits the proverbial fan.  It’s very confusing to feel such anger at someone you love so dearly, especially someone who is only behaving age-appropriately and can’t understand why you’re so angry.  It’s confusing because I feel such a battle inside my head of wanting to lash-out and control them with how loud and authoritative my voice can get and the dialogue of reality that streams underneath my anger….

“You’re scaring him… he’s only 1 and can’t talk, this is how he knows to communicate. Your expectations are too high.”

“You just hurt her feelings.  It’s your job to nurture her heart, not damage it.”

“You are not acting in accordance to your beliefs about how you want to parent.  More gentleness, more grace, more patience.”

But then the voice of reality turns to a voice of shame…

“You’re doing this all wrong, and you’re screwing them up.  You are hurting them in their most impressionable years, and the damage is done.”

“Anyone else could do this better than you.  You simply can’t handle being a good mom.  You’re actually a pretty bad mom.”

“You can’t do this.  Can’t make the cut.  Motherhood is not for you.  Bad mom, bad mom, bad mom.”

The truth is, I have a pretty high standard of how I want to parent my kids.  It’s not ok to me when I lose my temper and yell.  Or when I respond sharply with the intent of controlling them.  When I don’t respect the image of God that their souls bear and treat them as fellow image-bearers… as human.

But I do all those things.  Sometimes I feel like I’m just treading water in this motherhood thing, doing my best to keep it together.  Feeling like I’m the only one struggling with my own brokenness and how it leaks-out all over my kids.  Because yesterday I was leaking rivers of anger and pools of shame all over my home.

The hardest thing about motherhood is this, that the sin and brokenness of my heart can’t stay hidden.  There are a hundred triggers a day, and what’s inside can’t always stay quietly in submission, it leaks.  And then I’m engulfed in a wave of shame that makes me feel even worse… and because I feel bad, I act worse.

I firmly believe that secrecy breeds shame.

That part of the shame I feel after I yell at my kids is because my inner voice tells me that I’m the only one.  Other moms, good moms, don’t lose their temper.  They’ve figured it out.  So part of the reason I’m writing this is because it’s good for my soul to release the desire for people to think I’m part of the Good Mom Club.  Truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever qualified for membership.  I also know that in reality, I’m not the only one.  I know I can’t be the only one who lies awake at night thinking of all the moments of the day that I regret, the words I wish I could take back, the missed opportunities of connection I want to redo.  So let’s be honest with each other, let’s let each other in the shameful places in order to release it.

The most important reason I’m writing this is to remind myself and any other “bad moms” out there that shame is not welcome.

  In our brokenness and mess, we are fully loved and known and accepted by Jesus.  He’s somehow using this refining process of motherhood to expose and heal the torn parts of our hearts, and shame has no part in that.  God never speaks to us through the voice of shame. He helps us examine our hearts and behavior, gives us clarity to call it what it is, and an offer of forgiveness and healing.  Because He sees what we are becoming, the beauty that He created in us, and I have to believe that He takes us on the journey of exposing our sin because he is recreating us.  Calling us into greater beauty and wholeness, revealing His image in us that is deeper than the sin.

So here is what I am preaching to myself this morning:

He has always known that I am the specific right mom for what He wants to do in my kids’ lives.  I will trust that He is doing a beautiful work in my family, despite my failures.  That He can and will bring His Spirit of restoration into my home and make possible forgiveness and new beginnings.

Add your voice… any other “bad moms” out there?  Anyone else dealing with mom shame?



9 responses to “Bad Mom

  1. Bad Mom, right here! Hello, I called my 18 month old a (insert completely inappropriate word here) two weeks ago because, truth is, she needed me more than I was wanting to give her at the time. Bad Mom! Thanks for sharing Emily.


  2. Geez Em! You have no idea how much I needed to read this! Every night I give myself a pep talk “Tomorrow I’m going to meet everything that comes at me with patience. I will handle the teenage attitude issues this way or resolve an argument b/w the little ones like this…” Then when I wake up & the chaos begins that pep talk is forgotten only to return that night as I check on my babies while they are adorably sleeping in their beds. That’s when the guilt resumes & I give myself a new pep talk.


    • Yep, Angie, that’s pretty much what I do. I kiss them before I go to bed and think of how in the world I could get so angry at such sweet little angels and how tomorrow will be so much better. It’s hard to give ourselves grace while at the same time trying to love better. I’m not sure how that should look, but it’s confusing.


  3. Isn’t that the truth? About how our sin and brokenness are so…out there and obvious when parenting? It’s painful to see it so plainly. I USED to think I had my act together but now I know that all my ugliness was just hiding out, waiting for me to be vulnerable and desperate! Good post.


  4. Hi, my name is Shelley and I’m a bad mom. Thanks for posting this, Em! You are not alone AT ALL. I have horns that grow out of my head, usually around the time I’m trying to make dinner and the whining is at a high volume. One thing God has said to me lately is that my boys benefit greatly from watching me APOLOGIZE for messing up and losing my temper or screaming at them because they were interrupting my attempt to send an email…they are learning the power of humility, forgiveness, and that even grown-ups struggle with sin. This is a lesson that a “perfect” mom could never teach!


    • I do feel like I’m always apologizing to them, and I totally agree that it is such a good learning experience for them to see their parents be humble and ask forgiveness and to give it… to see our failures and that we are always being renewed. At least we got that going for us. =)


  5. oh friend. oh friend. welcome to the Bad Mama club. or rather, the Mama-In-Desperate-Need-of-Grace-Every-Moment club. you are not the only mother who has ever spent days (months/years) more and more aware of her own sin and how much she is potentially screwing up her children. parenting is like a never ending mirror in your face pointing out your sin all day long. the most beautiful part of this club is that God shows you how much you need Him to be ever present in your life as you parent. and the grace that accompanies the confessions and apologies are so sweet.


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