Stop Criticizing Yourself, Mama

Being a mom is hard. We all know it. We are bombarded from all sides on what to buy for our kids, what to feed our kids, how to feed our kids, and what methods to use to get them to eat, sleep, and enhance their brain development. And this is all while they’re still in the womb.

Fifty different moms might make fifty completely different choices when it comes to the way they raise their kids. In the end, though, all moms want basically the same things. Happy, healthy, independent kids who grow into happy, healthy, independent adults, right? There are countless ways to reach the same end goal.

The tricky thing about parenting is that you don’t really know how it’s all going to turn out until your kids are adults. You don’t get any do-overs. Sure, we can try different tactics along the way. I can’t tell you how many different methods we’ve tried—and subsequently failed at—to get our kids to eat dinner without a fight. Some things stick and some don’t. Hopefully we get a sense of what motivates our particular type of child and proceed accordingly. And let’s not forget genetics. Every child is born with his or her own unique personality and temperament. No matter how many times you introduce peas, she still might fling them to the floor.

You know you’re doing OK when you get love notes from your kids.

So why do we make things harder on ourselves by criticizing our own parenting? Analyzing and stressing over every little thing? I know I’m guilty of feeling too much guilt. I ask myself if my child would have reacted differently if I had just said or done x, y, or z. Would my kids have more self-confidence if I just gave them more attention or said the right things? Am I doing enough to teach them how to be kind, decent people? Every day I look at my amazing kids and remind myself that I’m not doing such a bad job. In fact, I’m doing a pretty great job. And can I tell you something?

You are doing a great job.

Yes, you. You might not totally believe me. That mom-guilt has a pretty tight hold on us sometimes. But trust me. It’s time to stop feeling bad about all those so-called parenting mistakes you think you might be making and trust yourself. You are a great mom. Still don’t believe me? Try these five things to convince yourself that you (and your kids) are doing just fine.

  1. Listen when other people compliment your children. Restaurant server comments on what a good eater your kid is? Yeah, he is—because YOU encourage him to try new foods. Neighbors notice how polite your kids are when they see them outside? That’s all because of YOU, momma. Your kids are awesome and non-family members notice? Believe what they tell you. They have no reason to make it all up.
  2. Remember that you’re running a marathon, not a sprint. Overused cliché aside, there’s real truth to this. Don’t get hung up on the tiny things that happen each day. Did you snap because your daughter refused to put on her shoes? Did you overreact when dirt got tracked inside? No big deal. Shake it off. Apologize to your child if you deem it necessary, then focus on the good. Give more hugs. Share more laughs. Genuinely thank them and notice all the awesome things they do. All that good will outweigh all those not-so-great moments over time.
  3. Speak your truth. What is it that you most want to believe about yourself? That you’re patient? That you can stop yelling at your kids? That you are, in fact, a good mom? Develop a mantra that works for you, then repeat it often. First thing when you wake up, while you’re shampooing, waiting in the school pick-up line, or on your evening commute. “I am a good mom.” Repeat. “I am a good mom.” Eventually you will believe it.
  4. Surround yourself with the right people. Don’t spend time with people who bring you down. Got a moms group that is just a little too critical? Drop it. Family members who are never satisfied with your parenting style? Remember that their opinions aren’t everything, then stick to less controversial topics. Strangers judging your choice of baby-wearing device or what you let your kids wear? Walk away. You don’t need to listen to that nonsense. Only hang out with friends who build you up and love you and your kids just the way you are.
  5. Talk to a therapist. If you reach a point where you feel extremely anxious or overwhelmed, reach out to a therapist. These trained professionals are invaluable. They can help you see things from a totally new perspective, find the good in most situations, and help you find confidence, direction, happiness, or whatever else you are seeking. Parenting is really tough stuff, so finding someone to talk to before you start resenting your kids (or your spouse) is super important.

No matter what, don’t be too hard on yourself, momma. You got this.

Megan lives in Lenexa with her husband, Andrew, and their two amazing kids, Milo (9) and Olive (7). After nearly a decade working full-time as an editor and writer, Megan decided to leave the corporate world to stay home with her kids. Four years in, and she’s still getting used to driving a minivan and being perpetually late. Megan is a big-time coffee drinker, ice cream lover, and book reader. She loves solving crossword puzzles, camping with her family, and enjoying KC’s local beers with her husband on perfect-patio-weather date nights. Together with her family, Megan can be found exploring the fantastic local parks and trails (they’ll be the ones in sun hats, constantly applying sunscreen), hitting up the zoo or Union Station, or attending one of the many kid-friendly festivals in the area.